“If not for the sake of Judith, do it for the sake of Yemen’s reputation which is getting worse each day the kidnap lasts.” Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman has added her voice to the growing number of Yemenis demanding the release of kidnapped Dutch couple Judith Spiegel and Boudewijn Berendsen.
Journalist Judith Spiegel, who worked regularly for RNW, was abducted together with her husband more than a month ago. A dramatic video of the couple was released last week in which they appealed for help and said they feared for their lives if the demands of their captors were not met.
A strongly worded statement from Tawakull Karman was read out during a meeting of rights groups and journalists who are demanding more be done to secure the safe release of the couple. She described them as “lovers of Yemen”, adding: “I hope that the Yemeni government and all its security, military and civil agencies will stand up to their duties and secure the release of Judith and her husband.”
On her website, Karman demanded that Yemen’s president and prime minister pay personal attention to the issue and exert all efforts to release the couple – if not for Judith’s sake, then for the sake of Yemen’s reputation. She went on to say: “I hope that you, Judith, and your wonderful husband are released soon and safe and call on everyone to join this campaign for your release.”
Journalists in Yemen have been campaigning for weeks for the release of the couple and formed a solidarity movement together with Yemeni human rights groups. There is an online petition and support for the movement is growing. During the latest public meeting the organisation called for greater transparency from both Yemeni and Dutch officials so people could better know what was being done to secure the release of the couple.
“Resist repression without repression”
Tawakkul Karman was joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 – and, at 32, the youngest person ever to receive the award. She is one of most prominent female faces of the Arab spring, and seen by many in Yemen as the “mother of the revolution”.
Accepting the Nobel Prize, she said: “I have always believed that resistance against repression and violence is possible without relying on similar repression and violence. I have always believed that human civilisation is the fruit of the effort of both women and men.”
Even before the 2011 uprising, Karman was a prominent independent journalist, active in the struggle for free speech. In 2005, she set up the campaign group Women Journalists Without Chains, and two years later began organising the first protests demanding the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade rule. These protests eventually grew into the uprising that resulted in Saleh’s resignation.
According to ‘The Journalist’ A video has just been released in which the kidnapped Dutch couple state that if their government fails to act, they could face execution within 10 days.