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posted: 5/30/2014 2:30 PM

Nobel Peace Laureate discusses human rights at North Central

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By Nancy Dunker
North Central College

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Tawakkol Karman of Yemen will visit North Central College to talk about her experiences as a journalist, politician and human rights activist.

Karman is the first Yemeni, first Arab woman and second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize and, at age 32, was the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate. One of three women to share the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 -- a first for the Nobel Peace honor -- Karman, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee were honored for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work.

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Karman will give her lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, at the college's Wentz Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. The free event is hosted by North Central's Office of International Programs and the Leadership, Ethics and Values program, and is the culmination of the college's three-year focus on global human rights, which has featured symposiums, films, speakers, exhibits and visiting Fulbright Scholars-in-Residence.

Bold and outspoken, Karman was a leading figure in the revolution in Yemen during the Arab Spring and has been imprisoned on a number of occasions for her pro-democracy, pro-human rights protests. Among Yemen's youth movement, she is known as the "Mother of the Revolution," "The Iron Woman" and, more recently, "The Lady of the Arab Spring." She is founder and president of Women Journalists Without Chains, which advocates for rights and freedoms and provides media skills to journalists. A senior member of the Al-Islah political party, Karman is also on the advisory board for Transparency International and several international human rights NGOs. She is a mother of three.

In 2007, she initiated weekly protests in Yemen's capitol city of Sana'a, targeting systemic government repression and calling for inquiries into corruption and other social and legal injustices. Her protests continued until 2011 when she redirected protesters to support the Arab Spring.

After receiving her Nobel award, Karman began leveraging social media to communicate with those promoting peace in her home country. Although there's a high illiteracy rate in Yemen -- some figures show youth illiteracy at 60 percent -- she currently has a combined 1.4 million followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Awarded the 2008 Courage Award by the U. S. Embassy in Sana'a, Karman has been named among the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine and the first among the 16 most revolutionary women in history by Time magazine. She has an undergraduate degree in commerce from the University of Science and Technology in Sana'a and a graduate degree in political science from Sana'a University.

For part of her lecture, Karman will be joined by Yemen native and North Central College student Mustafa Alnaqeb for a question-and-answer session. Alnaqeb hopes to teach English when he returns to Yemen.

Other Nobel Laureates to speak at North Central College have included Leon Lederman, 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics, who spoke on campus in 2000. Three Nobel Peace Prize recipients spoke on campus before they were named Nobel Laureates: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel, spoke on campus in 1960; former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 1973 Nobel, spoke in 1963; and President Barack Obama, 2009 Nobel, spoke in 2005 as U.S. senator.

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