Tawakul Karman was born in the Mikhlaf district of Ta'iz province on 7th February 1979. Her father, Abd al-Salam Khalid Karman, is a lawyer and politician, who served as Minister of Legal Affairs in the early 1990s, before finding himself in political opposition. She is happily married to Muhammad Isma’il al-Nihmi, and has two daughters and a young son.
After schooling in Ta’iz and Sana’a, she went up to the University of Science and Technology in Sana’a where she read Commerce for her undergraduate degree, and then took a Master’s degree in Political Science from Sana’a University.
She began her career in journalism, but before long began to organise and protest against the injustice of the patronage system which had perverted the tribal support system. She has been agitating for press freedom, women’s rights and economic opportunity ever since.
Tawakul Karman is a member of the Islamic Congregation for Reform (usually known by its Arabic name, Islah), the largest and least ineffective of Yemen’s Opposition parties. Despite being one of 13 women members of its Shura Council, she campaigns for democratic principles and women’s rights within Islah. She continues to advocate for democracy and women’s rights in Yemen as a whole, as well as the wider Middle East.
Despite her membership of an Islamist organisation, Tawakul Karman’s politics are secular: "After Saleh, civil society and human rights must be given priority. Although I belong to an Islamic party, no way am I for a religious government. I am for a secular system, where the rights of all are protected."
She is also – despite the misuse of the counter-terrorist support the US has provided to the Saleh Regime – not anti-American. Indeed, she feels that by supporting the Youth Revolution “the U.S. will regain the influence it has lost in the Arab world."
Tawakul Karman has been nominated for other international awards of probity: in 2009 she was cited by Reporters Without Borders as one of the top seven women who have led change in the world, and she was nominated for a US Department of State Woman of Courage Award in 2010, although she didn't win.
Karman became the first Arab woman, the youngest person ever to become a Nobel Peace Laureate and the category's second Muslim woman.
She is also very clear as to whom the Nobel Prize really belongs: "I'm so happy with the news of this prize and I dedicate it to all the martyrs and wounded of the Arab Spring… in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria and to all the free people who are fighting for their rights and freedoms.”
Organiser of “Tunisia Protests” against AAS at Sana’a Uni; detained by police (23 Jan 11) for unlawfully organising demonstrations; released 24 Jan 11 http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/4680/World/Region/Yemen-activists-arrested,-students-protest.aspx
Told by Saleh via her brother Tariq that she must obey or be killed; published on-line articles against Yemen's rampant graft; lobbied for press freedoms by staging sit-ins outside the Ministry of Social Affairs, and secured release of several journalists
Only woman on 21-member leadership committee; considered its leader (National DoI 18 Apr 11 http://www.thenational.ae/news/worldwide/protesting-yemini-women-angered-by-salehs-criticism )
Chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Chains, which campaigns for freedom of the press in Yemen, & against human rights violations; chosen by Reporters Without Borders in 2009 as 1 of the top 7 women who have led change in the world. 1 of activists who launched the “Phase of Protests and Sit-ins” (2007), holding sit-ins in Tahrir Sq to demand democratic reforms and an end to human rights violations
Prominent female activist; after chaos of 27 Apr 11 march, advocated a march on Presidential Palace (CSM DoI 28 Apr 11 http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0428/Yemen-protesters-jeopardize-deal-on-Saleh-s-exit )
Accused Saleh of trying to weaken JMP by making it chase him; predicted Saleh would not sign; wants Saleh to stand trial (CNN 22 May 11 http://www.4029tv.com/news/27980973/detail.html )
Announced (with Khalid al-Ansi) the establishment and make-up of the TPC (NYT DoI 17 Jul 11 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/world/middleeast/18yemen.html?_r=1)
No 13 of 142 members of the National Council of the Peaceful Revolution announced 17 Aug 11 (Saphsaf DoI 17 Aug 11 http://saphsaf.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/the-names-of-the-members-of-the-national-council-of-the-peaceful-revolution/)
Leader of the Supreme Council for the Youth Revolution (Gdn CiF 23 Sep 11 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/23/yemen-young-people-youth-movement )