Plea for Arab democracy as women accept Nobels

THREE women who fought injustice, dictatorship and sexual violence in Liberia and Yemen have received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 73, her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, 39, and Tawakkul Karman, 32, of Yemen collected Nobel diplomas and medals to applause at Oslo’s City Hall yesterday.

Prize committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland said the three women represent the struggle for “human rights in general and of women for equality and peace in particular.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Awarding the prize, Jagland forecast that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad would succumb to a “wind of history” blowing through the Arab world and be forced to accept democratic change.

Presenting the prize in Oslo, Jagland said: “No dictator can in the long run find shelter from this wind of history. It was this wind which led people to crawl up onto the Berlin Wall and tear it down. It is the wind that is now blowing in the Arab world.”

Jagland said women’s rights must be a key focus in the aftermath of change in North Africa and the Middle East, where Islamists have taken advantage of freer elections this year.

Accepting the 2011 award, Yemeni activist Karman – whose Arab spring protests helped undermine her country’s veteran leader – called on the western world to support the revolutions that swept the Arab world this year and keep faith with democratic change that, she said, was both difficult and inevitable.

She said: “The democratic world, which has told us a lot about the virtues of democracy and good governance, should not be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen and Syria.”

The laureates, receiving the prize on the 115th anniversary of the death of benefactor Alfred Nobel, will share a total award worth £1.2 million.

Related topics: