First Muslim woman to win Nobel Prize speaks in Dearborn

Photo by Daniel Heraty

Nobel laureate calls for ouster in Yemen
Tawakkul Karmen (second from left), the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, called for the removal of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office during a Nov. 13 lecture at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center. She was welcomed by Wayne Mayor Abdul Hadous (left), University of Michigan-Dearborn student Rebecca Hershock and Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – During a speech in Dearborn Nov. 13, a Nobel Prize Laureate called for the removal of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salehm saying “all he does is kill.”

Tawakkul Karmen, a human rights activist from Yemen who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, gave a lecture at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center on the ongoing political upheaval in Yemen and the rest of the Middle East. She also spoke at the University of Michigan Nov. 14.

“I came here to call on the international community to carry out its obligations,” she said through a translator. “Justice calls them to stop Saleh from killing people.”

Karmen, 32, was taken from her car Jan. 23 and imprisoned for leading protests against Saleh in Yemen. Following her arrest, demonstrations eventually including over 20,000 people calling for her release began in the streets of Sanaa and other cities in the country.

She was freed the next day, and continued her outcries against Saleh’s rule.

Saleh declared a 30-day state of emergency in March after snipers killed 52 protesters during a Friday sit-in at Sanaa University.

Karmen was skeptical of reports that Saleh plans to step down within three months of an agreement with the Gulf Co-operation Council, and said she hopes he is tried before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

“We know that Ali Saleh is a liar,” she said, “and we warned people from the GCC initiative because (the initiative) gives him … room to kill civilians.”

She said the revolution against Saleh’s regime, and similar revolutions in Egypt and Syria, are aimed at changing the countries’ morals and values. More than 21,000 people have been killed or injured in the uprisings.

“We … paid with our blood,” she said. “We will not chose any other path than the freedom path. We will get there.”

She said should Saleh step down, a plan is in place to implement a transitional council, equal to a parliament, that is ready to lead the country. The people overseeing the country following the election of a new government would lead Yemen until a new constitution is created.

“(The new constitution) will ensure political opportunity, equal citizenship and democracy,” she said, “and ensure a new country that we are struggling for.”

Not everyone is on her side, however. The Salafi cleric Mohammad Al Emmam described Karmen in the press as a criminal for going against Allah’s wishes and said her actions are blasphemous against Islam. Karmen deflected such comments, saying it is wrong to be afraid of any radical group.

Those in attendance said they were proud to have an individual of her stature visit the area.

Paul Draus, UM-D associate professor of Sociology said while he did not know much about Karmen, having a person of her standing deliver a speech is a great opportunity to learn more about an area most don’t know much about.

Wayne Mayor Abdul Haidous said he was honored to be invited to the event and hopes other similar events bring people together.

“People like that have the respect of the world,” he said. “She’s going to enjoy being here and see firsthand the appreciation of the Arab-American community for her contribution to the world.”

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at