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Yemen’s Nobel Laureate Faces Questions about Muslim Brotherhood

What does Tawakkol Karman’s membership in Islah say about her commitment to freedom?

by
Jane Novak

Bio

October 21, 2011 - 12:09 am
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As Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman arrived in New York Tuesday, twelve protesters lay dead in Yemen’s capital Sana’a. Medics reported 70 more were shot by roof top snipers. The Saleh regime’s latest bloody rampage began Saturday when the UN Security Council’s toothless draft resolution became public.

Ms. Karman had learned of her Nobel Peace Prize in a tent. Since February she and millions  lived in protest squares across the nation demanding democracy. The Nobel was a grand moment for Yemen and Yemeni women.

For them, the award recognized the Yemeni Youth Revolution’s commitment to peace. The movement seeks to depose the Sana’a regime and establish a civil state and parliamentary system to empower minorities, independents, and small parties.

Month after month, unarmed protesters marched in 17 of 21 provinces. State security forces killed hundreds and shot nearly 20,000.

On Swedish radio, one ecstatic Yemeni blogger responded to the Nobel announcement with, “In your face, Saleh!”

Coming days after a U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda operative Anwar al Awlaki, Yemenis felt vindicated that the dignified nation was finally recognized as more than a terrorist safe haven.

However the Nobel Committee’s political agenda soon became clear. Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland highlighted Karman’s membership in the Islah party, which contains Muslim Brotherhood members. Jagland asserted the Muslim Brotherhood, which condones terrorist violence, is “an important part” of the Arab Spring.

Islah, the Islamic Congregation for Reform, encompasses tribal elements, political and Islamic reformists, progressive students, anti-regime activists, Muslim Brotherhood and more fundamentalist Salafis.

Jagland’s remarks set off alarm bells in western conservative circles. Some commentators noted that Sheik Abdelmajid al Zindani was a founding member of Islah in 1990. Al Zindani is a UN designated terrorist financier, a charge he rejects. He publicly advocates jihadist violence. But al Zindani should be hung around President Ali Saleh’s neck, not Tawakkol Karman’s.

In 2004, Islah joined with the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Ba’athists, Nasserites, and two small Shia parties to form the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP). In 2006, when the JMP’s presidential candidate was Faisal bin Shamlan, al Zindani campaigned for Saleh, who announced his candidacy from al Zindani’s hard-line al Iman University. Saleh never froze al Zindani’s banks accounts as mandated by the UN.

Observers noted the Muslim Brotherhood tweeted that its member, Ms. Karman, had won the Nobel. But remarks by Mohammed al Zindani, son of Abdelmajid, were less well publicized. He said the Nobel Peace Prize is given to “Jews and their collaborators,” who undermine Muslims, promote mixing of the genders, and hatch plots against female modesty.

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