A Facebook Downfall for Yemen’s Tawakkol Karman
By: Jamal Jubran
Published Thursday, January 3, 2013
Sanaa – Tawakkol Karman, born 1979, seems to have lost her grip on reality. When the Yemeni activist won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, she was the focus of massive media attention, but she does not seem to understand that she is now a global figure.
She employs a parochial mentality when dealing with her Facebook page, exhibiting no restraint in her discussion of Yemeni issues. Her views are influenced by her party, the fundamentalist Yemeni Congregation for Reform, known as Islah.
A few days ago, a debate erupted surrounding a comment she made on her Facebook page. With curious levity, Karman wrote: “Most of the martyrs of Yemen’s Youth Revolution belong to the Yemeni Congregation for Reform.” This off comment about the political party affiliations of the young martyrs of the revolution against Ali Abdallah Saleh’s regime made it appear as if she had verified statistics on their identities. But she didn’t.
This statement is similar to ones made by Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt who claimed that most of the martyrs of the January 25 Revolution belonged to the Brotherhood.
Karman’s comment provoked critical reactions on her page, particularly from students belonging to the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). They asserted that they were the first to go to Taghyeer Square, meaning Change, at Sanaa University, only to be followed by Karman.
The head of YSP’s student branch, Hani al-Junayd, replied to Karman’s comment: “Yes, we did not go out to demonstrate against Ali Abdallah’s regime. We were not kidnapped and tortured. We did not write the first statement of the Youth Revolution. But how can we believe that the bullets fired by Saleh’s forces were able – with great precision – to specifically choose the youth of the religious fundamentalist Islah party and no others?”
Every day, Karman suffers losses because of the inappropriate way she uses Facebook. One of the worst incidents took place after she was chosen to be a member of the technical committee to coordinate an inclusive national dialogue. The committee sought to involve the entire spectrum of political activism in the dialogue, including the opposition abroad.
During their first session, the committee held elections to determine posts. Karman wanted to be the official spokesperson for the committee, but they told her that this will be determined by open elections which included another candidate, the women’s rights activist, Amal al-Basha.
Karman won 9 votes, while Basha won 13. It seems that the Nobel winner needs to reevaluate her modus operandi to avoid similar losses.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.