Yemen Protests

Tawakul Carmen started the protests in Yemen.

That’s significant because Tawakul Carmen is a woman, and Yemen is a very conservative Muslim society. Women were strongly involved in the protests in Egypt (and were abused for their trouble), but Egypt is a different society than Yemen, more educated, with a bigger middle class, and women were involved in previous protests and the 1919 revolution.

I heard Dexter Filkins interviewed at length on Fresh Air recently. He spent several weeks in Yemen recently, and he has experience in the region, having won literary awards for reporting and an upcoming book on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He was able to talk with Tawakul Carmen, and his story about her was inspiring.

He said that she told him that they would protest for a journalist to be released from prison or for more press freedom and other things over the past few years. He describes meeting her and going to her home and seeing four framed pictures on her mantel: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Hillary Clinton and Martin Luther King. Then he says:

And she said: You know, and then I saw the president of Tunisia fall, and it hit me like a lightning bolt, you know, the whole regime has to go. And so she headed for the square.

And she’s been there ever since. She went to the square to protest with 10 people in mid-January and is still there with a million or more. She’s been arrested and threatened with death. There are very very few women among the protesters there; Filkin says that women are rare even on the streets and Yemen is a country where women are uniformly covered head to toe with the chador and only the eyes are seen. But Carmen jumps up on the stage, in one anecdote he tells, at a protest and starts calling for the regime to fall, and for whatever reason is accepted by the men in the audience.

Tawakul Carmen is a modern day hero.


    • firebird says

      What I thought was most interesting about it is that the indepth interview on Fresh Air was the first time I heard anything about her. If you go to the Wikipedia article on the Yemen protests, she’s not in it, and they don’t have the date they started, although the reporter Terry Gross interviewed on Fresh Air pinned down when it started (the night the Tunisian president resigned – “fell”). I listen to a lot of news and I never heard anything about the personalities in the Yemeni revolt – not at all like the Egyptian profiles, or Libya.

  1. Attackfish says

    Wow! Wowowow!

    (One technical question, I could have sworn I saw this article a couple of days ago, beneath the “Who’s more embarrassing” one before it disappeared. Any idea what happened?)

  2. Sally says

    Yes, she is — but once the fight for ‘freedom’ is won, she and her sisters will be sent right back to the prisons they now occupy, unless they can break the stranglehold of shar’ia as the basis for Yemen’s laws.

    (And lest I be accused of ‘islamophobia,’ please rest assured that I have no tiime for *any* religious laws constituting the basis of a legal code.)

    • firebird says

      One thing the reporter mentioned was that there were very very few women in the protests. He said although Ms. Carmen was a leader and the men listened to her, that did not allow or bring out women to the protests (he gave a figure of 1% women at the protests).

      As a white person from the midwest raised in a very christian area, I find it difficult to comment on a very different culture. It seems wrong to me, but I don’t want to be blind to cultural/religious differences that may be just different.

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