The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize has been presented during a ceremony in the Norwegian capital Oslo to three women who have fought against dictatorship, injustice and sexual violence in Liberia and Yemen.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist, and Tawakkol Karman, the Yemeni pro-democracy campaigner collected their diplomas and medals at Oslo’s city hall on Saturday (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
They will also share the prize money of $1.5 million.
All three of them were recognised for their “non-violent struggle” for women’s safety and for women’s rights to participate in peace-building.
Africa’s first elected head of state Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, told delegates she was honoured to be following in the footsteps of the Africans who had won the prize before her, such as South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan, the Ghana-born former UN secretary-general.
Mrs Sirleaf, who is credited with helping to end Liberia’s 14 year civil war, said : “On behalf of all the women of Liberia, the women of Africa, and women everywhere in the world who have struggled for peace, justice and equality, I accept with humility the 2011 Nobel Prize for Peace.”
The announcement of her award came days before Liberia’s presidential election. Last month she won a run-off poll in a vote boycotted by her rival who said the first round was rigged.
She also expressed her “deepest sympathy” for the people of Norway after the twin attacks which killed 77 people on 22 July.
‘Peace, equality and justice’
Leymah Gbowee led a peaceful campaign to end Liberia’s civil war and oust its ex-President Charles Taylor.
She said: “I am humbled and honoured to have been selected and I receive the prize in the name of women who continue to work for peace, equality and justice across the world.”
“I believe that the prize this year not only recognises our struggle in Liberia and Yemen.
“It is in recognition and honour of the struggles of grass roots women in Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast], Tunisia, in Palestine and Israel, and in every troubled corner of the world.”
32-year-old mother of three Tawakkol Karman (photo, from aljazeera.com) becomes the first Arab woman to win the prize. In 2005 she founded the organisation Women Journalists Without Chains.
In Arabic she told the audience : “Thank you for the award, which I consider as an honour to me personally, to my country Yemen, to Arab women, to all women of the world, and to all people aspiring to freedom and dignity.
“I accept the award on my behalf and on behalf of the Yemeni and Arab revolutionary youth, who are leading today’s peaceful struggle against tyranny and corruption with moral courage and political wisdom.”
‘Wind of history’
After giving the prize to the three laureates Thorbjoern Jagland, the chairman of the Nobel peace prize committee, said : “The leaders in Yemen and Syria who murder their people to retain their own power should take note of the following: mankind’s quest for freedom and human rights can never stop.”
“No dictator can in the long run find shelter from this wind of history. It was this wind which led people to crawl up onto the Berlin Wall and tear it down. It is the wind that is now blowing in the Arab world,” he said.
“[Yemeni] President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh was not able and [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad in Syria will not be able
to resist the people’s demand for freedom and human rights,” he insisted.
He added that each in their own way, the three women represented “the most important motive forces for change in today’s world, the struggle for human rights in general and the struggle of women for equality and peace in particular.”
In 2010 the prize was won by Chinese dissident lawyer Liu Xiaobo.
The first Nobel peace prize, named after the Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel, was awarded in 1901.