عربي

Mrs. Tawakkol Karman’s Speech at Munich Conference on Women

Let me first express my appreciation for your efforts to promote the continuing struggle for women's rights and gender equality through the partnership programme between the South and North, especially Germany, such as today’s meeting at this event sponsored by the UN Women National Committee in Germany.

We gather today to support women's struggles and fights for equality and their full rights, including the right to participation in building their societies at political, economic and developmental levels.

Women's issues and support for women's struggles for equality, participation and access to their full rights have been a primary concern of the world’s women’s organizations and their local partners in all nations of the world.

This event bringing us together today is another step towards more global synergy to support women's issues, and its initiatives significantly contribute to opening lines of communication and participation among the rich North and the poor South at different levels of advancement women have made in their long and hard way to live with dignity and to escape from injustice, oppression and discrimination.

The continuation of this global interdependence between the feminist movement, local and international civil society organizations and donor countries will have an important impact to make a difference in the issues of women's rights, equality, participation, education, cultural change and freedom from tyranny and political, social and economic oppression.

As you know, the Arab Spring countries have witnessed peaceful popular revolutions and devastating wars caused by counter-revolutions. Peaceful revolutions served as an opportunity for women and men to come together and look towards a future of justice and equality for all members of society. The peaceful nature of popular uprisings created a climate conducive to those fascinating scenes of society cohesion for the sake of freedom and dignity.

Eight years ago, the slogan "The Voice of Women is a Revolution" was among chants repeated during the peaceful revolution in my country, Yemen. Women were in the lead of protest demonstrations, in a unified scene of all segments of society, including men, women, youth and the elderly, driven by one goal: change.

The February 11 revolution in Yemen and the Arab Spring revolutions in general adopted peaceful means to achieve the change. The peacefulness of our popular uprising in Yemen served as an open gate that attracted a broad sector of female population from all over Yemen to contribute to the change and take part in the most remarkable event in the history of Yemeni society.

Women took to the streets in the first wave of the Arab Spring to say that society can’t rise with one wing and that equality is essential for both women and men. Women went out to shout for better opportunities for life, work, decent living and enjoyment of rights and freedoms guaranteed to all human beings without discrimination.

On the contrary, counter-revolutionary wars have erupted in some countries of the Arab Spring and women have found themselves again in a new reality dominated by armed groups and extremist sectarian militias, all of which adopt ideas that undervalue women and deprive them from the meager acquired rights accumulated by our societies over a long time of arduous struggle.

These wars, however, were not the end. They have been followed by the second wave of the Arab Spring, which has resumed in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq and Lebanon to define the reality of the Arab Spring as an irreversible shift in the history of the Arab region from east to west.

Many attempts have been made to terrorize our societies, by transforming the countries of the first wave into arenas of violence and war. But all this violence, intimidation and the fueling of civil wars have never extinguished flame of hope or the desire to change the tyrannical and sectarian regimes that have cracked down on our societies men and women.

Today, the second wave of emancipation has erupted to break completely all barriers of fear. All attempts to bring our Arab societies to their knees by the means of all-out wars have been thwarted in 2019; after eight years of open warfare, during which strongholds of counter-revolutions in Riyadh and Tehran backed by their major international allies have spared no effort or means of tricks to wipe out peaceful revolutions.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women in Beirut and Baghdad are writing our future with their peacefulness, determination and belief in the human right to a decent life at home and to reject sectarianism, corruption, discrimination and tyranny. In the second wave of the Arab Spring 2019, our peoples are repeating what they chanted for during the first wave in 2011.

The second wave of revolutions of dignity is an additional confirmation of our societies' desire for freedom, dignity and revolution against the corrupt sectarian regimes that should suffer the same fate of their overthrown counterparts; there's always tomorrow.


Dear friends, 
I have not found better than our experience in Yemen and other countries of the Arab Spring as an entry point to talk about women and their struggles for equality and rights. They (women and men) stood up with courage in the face of those abusing our freedom and practicing all forms of discrimination and oppression and exclusion and crackdown on rights. 

Our experience tells us that women cannot be liberated without the whole society being freed. This is evidenced by the events of history with all its revolutions, transformations and transitions. Hence, the role of women in change is at the forefront of women efforts to break free from oppression, exclusion, oppression and discrimination.
Based on our experiences and many countries’ similar ones, it becomes evident that women’s issues do not make any difference unless parallel progress takes place also in different areas involving the whole society, including the state, the law and the judicial legal system, and unless that all is accompanied by a qualitative shift in education, which provides a conducive environment for advancing women's rights, enhancing their struggles for the dignity and equality and rejecting discrimination, injustice and enslavement. 

There have been, and are still there, hopes for a radical transformation of women's issues and gender equality, through the struggle to free the whole society from tyranny and the culture of religious extremism and extremist groups.

The dignity-driven Arab revolutions brought together men and women who took to the streets demanding equal citizenship governed by the law and constitution without discrimination on grounds of sex, color, belief, race, sect, religion, social level and influence. For eight years, the intertwined structures of tyranny and extremism have tried to hinder all of these ambitions and declared war against popular uprisings in 2011, thus preventing any difference in the status of women.

But the change we have begun will not stop. The second Arab Spring wave of 2019 has broken the barrier of fear and opened broad prospects for transformations in Arab countries. The continuation of peaceful popular revolutions in 2019 has dropped the war and overcome its barrier.

The peaceful struggle brought down the war that was and still is the project invested by the forces of counter-revolution, tyranny and injustice against all members of societies. These forces are in their best interest to keep the status of women more backward and prevent any shifts that end discrimination against women or achieve gender equality.

Dear all friends, 
The feminist movement for equality is facing a legacy of a culture of ignorance, puritanism and extremism that the medieval kingdom of Saudi Arabia has contributed to spread over the past decades for political reasons and in order to prevent transformations and awareness about rights, freedoms and change in general in those parts of the world where wealth has become a curse for its peoples. Furthermore, dictatorships have used religion and religious doctrines to mislead societies and subjugate them to their high-handed policies.

A culture of puritanism, contempt for women and justification for total exclusion and oppression of women has been fueled since the end of the 1970s, by the rise of the revolution of Khomeini and mullahs and their extremist doctrines in Iran. On the other hand, this culture was also fostered by Saudi Arabia, which for decades worked to spread religious extremism and extremist ideas in Arab societies in conjunction with the Afghan-Soviet war. Saudi Arabia and Iran are two sides of the same coin. 

The emergence of terrorism as a global problem has not led to the reform of the educational curricula and to pushing governments of the relevant countries towards openness and democracy and enabling political participation of their peoples.

With the birth of the Arab Spring in its first and second waves, the axis of Saudi Arabia and Iran stand in the face of our peaceful revolutions, despite the conflicting religious and ideological perspectives of both countries.

Today, however, the second Arab Spring wave shines in our sky, announcing that history is not going backwards. Freedom in the Arab Spring countries has rekindled, and women and their issues, emancipation and role are at the heart of these great peaceful revolutions. Woman play two roles: as fighter for change and as part of a society that aspires to a bright tomorrow and a better reality befitting all human beings.

Glory to women struggling for change, dignity, freedom, justice and equality in all parts and everywhere of the world! Victory for men and women gathering in areas and squares of dignity, freedom and revolution!