Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman: Nobel Peace Prize honors African, Arab women

Yemeni Tawakul Karman smiles as she talks on a mobile phone after it was announced that she won the Nobel Peace Prize, in her tent in Tagheer Square in Sanaa.

Declaring women’s rights vital for world peace, the Nobel Committee awarded its annual Peace Prize on Friday to three indomitable campaigners against war and oppression — a Yemeni and two Liberians, including that country’s president.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first freely elected female head of state, shared the $1.5 million with compatriot Leymah Gbowee, who led a “sex strike” among her efforts against Liberia’s civil war, and Arab activist Tawakul Karman, who hailed the award as a victory for democracy in Yemen.

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told reporters.

Johnson-Sirleaf, 72 and once dubbed the “Iron Lady” by opponents, is running for a second term in an election on Tuesday where she faces criticism for not having done enough to heal the divisions of years of civil war. Jagland dismissed suggestions the award might seem to be meddling in the vote.

But the former Norwegian prime minister said that honoring Yemen’s protesters, who unlike those in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are still battling to get rid of their ruler, sent a signal from Oslo that President Ali Abdullah Saleh, long a U.S. ally, and other Arab autocrats should now step down.

It is a message that the era of Arab dictators was over, Karman told Reuters in Sanaa, declaring her prize a victory for Yemen and for all of the uprisings of the Arab Spring.

The trio of laureates follow only a dozen other women among 85 men, as well as a number of organizations, to have won the prize over its 110-year history.

The Committee said it hoped the three-way award “will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.”

ARAB SPRING HONORED

Recognizing Karman, a 32-year-old journalist and mother who was detained for a time during the unrest, was seen as a gesture of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s wider approval for the Arab Spring protest movements, which had been heavily tipped to win the prize for their young street campaigners.

“In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the Arab Spring, Tawakul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen,” the Nobel citation read.

Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz, who had been nominated, said: “Giving it to Yemen means giving it to the Arab Spring, and this is an honor to all of us and to all Arab states.”

The committee said all three women were rewarded from the bequest left by Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

LIBERIAN CAMPAIGNS

It noted that Johnson-Sirleaf had led the way for women to lead African states and that Gbowee, 39, had mobilized women across ethnic and religious lines to bring an end to the war in Liberia and ensure their participation in elections.

Her brother, Alphonso Diamond Gbowee, told Reuters: “I am so excited that her relentlessness to ensure the development of women and children in our region has been recognized.

“She’s very hard-working, helping with women and children all over the place, especially in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone … This will be a challenge for her to do more. I have no doubt she’ll continue to impact those vulnerable lives.”

Speaking by telephone from Monrovia, Johnson-Sirleaf’s son James told Reuters: “I am over-excited. This is very big news and we have to celebrate.”

Johnson-Sirleaf was Liberia’s finance minister, then suffered jail and fled the country as it descended into one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars, serving as a World Bank economist before going home and winning the presidency in 2005.

Gbowee’s Women For Peace movement is credited by some for bringing an end to the civil war in 2003. The movement started humbly in 2002 when Gbowee organized a group of women to sing and pray for an end to fighting in a fish market.

She is the subject of an award-winning documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”

“Whatever they achieved today has been done along with all Liberian women,” Liberia’s minister for gender and development Vabah Gayflor told Reuters.

“It is something that all Liberian women will be proud of … Women all over Africa and the world will be proud.”

The prize will be presented in Oslo on December 10.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…