Mrs. Tawakkol Karman’s Speech in University of Massachusetts Lowell, Nonviolence leads to change – Nonviolence is a way to change

First of all, I would like to express my happiness for being here among you. It is a great feeling when you talk to people who can understand you even if they have different views. Universities always offer great opportunities for learning and knowledge and for making introductions, which should have a direct bearing on our behavior towards each other.


Dear friends, 

Over the past decades, the world has witnessed great and rapid developments in various aspects of life. Among these positive developments are the emergence of the human rights movement in the world and peaceful and non-violent struggle. Such ideas have reinforced the tendency of most people to renounce war and fully believe in peace. However, this does not seem enough to stop wars and armed conflicts.

As you see, the matter is very complex. Democratic countries go on investing in the arms trade to reap more profits while authoritarian regimes, which believe in violence as a means of dealing with their citizens and others, regard repression as part of the necessary security measures that should not be objected by anyone. 

So there is an alliance between most governments to keep the level of violence high, which explains these suspicious relations between democratic governments in the West and repressive regimes in the world, especially in our Arab region.

Dear friends, 

I have always believed that the peaceful struggle is the most effective way to wrest the rights and resist injustice and tyranny, being aware at the same time that some will not accept this logic and deal with it as defeatism or lack of understanding of reality. For me, non-violence achieves greater benefits and preserves society and state together.

The crux of the problem lies in the authoritarian regimes that practice killing and violence. Let's remember how the Libyans rallied in demonstrations demanding change, and how Gaddafi battalions marched to Libyan cities to exterminate people, and how the Syrians took to the streets chanting "We want freedom". 

Let’s also remember how Egyptians took to the public squares asking for change, and how squares of change in Yemen were full of people coming from everywhere and leaving behind their personal weapons so as to uphold the peaceful values and not slip into violence.

The Arab peoples have provided a great example of the peaceful struggle, but attempts made – especially with the complicity of the West- to drag them into the cycle of violence were too strong to be thwarted.

Unfortunately, a four-party alliance has emerged to confront the Arab Spring. It consists of repressive regimes revolted against, regional countries that have a lot of money but a little conscience and live in fear of change winds, Western countries that talk too much about democracy but brazenly support anti-democracy autocrats, and finally terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Please, don’t check out clothes and hairstyles of these parties as they are certainly different, and instead look at their positions towards the Arab spring and the democratic change that erupted in 2011. You will find out that they all have the same position: a very strong position against change. 

All these fires in our cities are under their supervision and have been caused by them. They pretend to be enemies against each other, but in fact they have no enemy other than us, as we who believe in change, democracy and human rights.

Gandhi used to believe that in order for the non-violence strategy to succeed, your adversary should enjoy at least a kind of conscience and freedom so that he could enter into dialogue and retreat from previous procedures. This is what has been proved by his experience and the experience of the Indian people when the British occupation was forced to retreat from some unfair actions against the Indian people as a result of peaceful resistance.

Martin Luther King, too, believed in the peaceful struggle as a way to counter racial discrimination against blacks in America. Despite his death in 1968, he and the American civil movement finally managed to win. In my opinion, such success would not have been achieved if those who were ruling American were like Bashar al-Assad, Qadhafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh. 
Dear friends, 

During the Arab Spring in 2011, the voice of al-Qaeda and extremism in the Middle East subsided. Extremists and terrorists were hit hard as peaceful protests, which have brought down authoritarian regimes, came as a heavy blow to those who were raising the banner of change by force. With the rise of counterrevolutionary forces, however, the forces of extremism and tyranny returned to the forefront once again.

The Arab Spring has been conspired against, and doors have opened wide in front of “Daesh Spring”. This is an unforgivable crime against the Arab peoples, who have demanded nothing but freedom and a decent life.

Amidst all these ruins and wars, we will have no choice but to hold tyrants and murderers accountable and reject all attempts to classify opposing political forces as terrorist groups because such classification simply blocks any peaceful struggle or political change. We must be brave and condemn murderers, and stand by the side of victims. In the end, we must not be in favor of policies of exclusion and hatred.

Dear friends 
Let me talk a bit about Yemen, my country, which is exposed to more than a war internally and externally. It is regrettable to tell you that the UN Security Council and the international community have abandoned their duties and responsibilities towards Yemen. 
Yemen today has been under the tutelage of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that play a destructive role there by undermining the legitimate authority and supporting and establishing militias and armed forces that do not comply with orders of Yemeni President. 
These two gulf states have also controlled the country’s ports and islands in favour of their own ambitions, taking advantage of the weakness of the legitimate authority and the continued coup by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia.
The most dangerous thing Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are doing in Yemen is to prevent political action while promoting armed groups to keep Yemen in the cycle of violence as long as possible.

Dear friends, 
The repressive regimes and their financiers have sought to bring the region into the cycle of armed conflict because they are very good at playing such role, and have succeeded in a great deal in this endeavor. Nevertheless, this is only a temporary success as the Arab peoples will thwart this conspiracy and make their recovery. 
Until then, we must do everything to hold those committing crimes against civilians, political opponents and human rights activists accountable. We must form a global network to defend those who pursue the principle of nonviolence in their struggles and movements. This is the least we can offer in the context of resistance to injustice, racism and terrorism.

Dear friends, 
Many ask me: what next? Has violence prevailed in the Middle East? Has the logic of terrorist groups prevailed? I always reply:  Yes, violence is there, but it will not endure.
ISIL is very similar to the authoritarian regimes but does not resemble the Arab peoples. This is what I'm constantly trying to confirm, and I think this is the truth that some try to conceal. 
We will win, no matter how great the pain, the sorrows and the hardships, we will certainly win, and establish states that respect human humanity and dignity. We have no other choice. We will do it, be confident!
Many thanks