Role of women in protests in Yemen

Women in Yemen are fighting on two fronts. They are on the frontlines speaking up against torture, rampant poverty, corruption and lack of freedom; but they also fight on a different front. Women must fight gender-based discrimination in social arenas such as education and employment.

In 2007 when activists and journalists started being harassed and intimidated, the Women Journalists Without Chains started organizing sit-ins every Tuesday. Later on the sit-ins took on a wider scope, allowing anyone with a human rights concern to participate.

Yemeni activist Tawakel Karman (Photo Gamal Noman/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the organizers was Tawakkol Karman, president of Women Journalist Without Chains. She and others later joined wider protests in Sana’a asking for President Ali Saleh to step down. Tawakkol among others was arrested on January 23rd 2011 for participating in “unlicensed protest”. She was released a day later. Two days later her brother received a phone call implying that she would be killed if he did not ensure that she stay at home. This threat did not stop her.

She told Amnesty International that “I shall continue; I chose this road and at the end of the day it is a matter of sacrifice. People are peacefully protesting and they are facing repression.” Tawakkol is a member of the Shoura council of the Islah party.