Tawakul for president?
A Facebook group to ask the public whether they would vote for Tawakul Karman as head of government now has over 1,300 members. The group is flooded with comments for and against the notion of having a woman, and specifically Tawakul, leading the government.
Zahrat Al-Jabal posted saying that Tawakul is the “dove of peace” that will soon knit a shroud for President Saleh.
Other comments include poetry singing the praises of a Yemeni woman who managed to bring pride to Yemen after decades of oppression and negative images.
Many comments also talked about the real meaning of the revolution and what it holds for Yemenis – especially women.
Soon after that another Facebook page was launched asking: “Would you vote Tawakul Karman as president?”
The question received many comments including one by Abdulkarim Al-Juhaifi, a Yemeni man who said yes in many languages.
However, when polling Yemeni youth offline there was a visible difference between what men thought about Karman, compared to women. Nuha Al-Buraihi, a medical student in Sana’a University, said she would not vote for Karman as president. “I believe a president should be a man not a woman because there are many responsibilities that come with the position which women cannot bear,” she said.
Afrah Ali, another female university student, agreed, adding that only when women get their rights and are seen as real partners in society will Yemen be ready for a female president. As for now, “women will never be equal to men unless we are able to go to the streets and live equally.”
However, others looked at Karman’s credentials rather than simply her gender. Najat Hassan, who works in the education sector, said it depends on Karman’s mandate. “I would not vote for her just because she is a Noble Peace Prize winner. I have to see if her program is better than others, then I would decide.”
Hana Naser, a female teacher in Sana’a, said she would not vote for Karman, but had her own reasons. “I have a problem with Tawakul being a member of the Islah party and I have my suspicions regarding her receiving aid from Qatar or elsewhere,” she explained. “I would not vote for a president whose reputation is full of rumors.”
Another Yemeni woman, a housewife, voiced similar concerns. She said she feels that Tawakul Karman has not been honest about her sources of funding – especially that Qatar itself is not a democratic country so there is an issue of hypocrisy.
Surprisingly the men had a more welcoming attitude towards Karman.
Aridh Aidaroos, a 23-year-old commerce student, said he is a firm believer in a woman’s right to be president and believed that Karman has what it takes. “There is no specific ruling in Islam that says a woman cannot be president. A president has to possess certain leadership qualities and values such as justice, equality, freedom and democracy,” he said. “Anyone who implements them should have the chance to be president.”
Although he didn’t have a problem with Karman specifically, Muneer Jabri a construction engineer has a problem with women ruling. He insisted that Islam forbids women from being leaders.
However, the majority of polled men instantly said “sure” when asked whether they would vote for Karman as president. Faris Al-Himyari, a journalist with the Chinese News Agency Xinhua, believed in her. “She said no to oppression and lead peaceful protests and was not afraid of the consequences. She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, what more can we ask for in a president?” He added that it is time to return Yemen to its glory after so many years of oppression of bad publicity.
Hakim Mohammed who works in advertising was very enthusiastic about Tawakul Karman as president. “We tried men and look at where we are. It is time for a woman. In fact if you go to all the leading positions you will see that women are more committed and professional.”
He also said that we are supposed to have a modern state with parliamentary system after this regime falls so this means that it will not be a one man show like it used to be, to help control any new president’s power.
Mohammed Qadhi a bus driver wants to vote for Karman because he reflected on the past and saw that whenever a woman was leader such as Queen Bilqis or Arwa, Yemen was doing very well and thriving as a country.