The Nobel Peace Prize which was awarded to three women, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, women’s rights activist, Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni campaigner, Tawakul Karman has been presented to the winners in a Nobel ceremony in Oslo, Norway’s capital city.
The ceremony was attended by the country’s royal family — King Harald, Queen Sonja, crown prince Haakon and crown princess Mette-Marit.
Opening the ceremony, the head of the Nobel selection committee issued a note of warning to oppressive leaders in the Middle East.
“The leaders in Yemen and in Syria who murder their people to retain their own power should take note of the following: mankind’s quest for freedom and human rights will never stop,” committee chief Thorbjorn Jagland said.
Jagland warned that despotic leaders will not be able to escape the ‘winds’ of change in the region.
“No dictator can in the long run find shelter from this wind of history. It was this wind which led people to climb up the Berlin Wall and tear it down. It is this wind that is now blowing in the Arab world. Not even President Saleh was able, and President Assad in Syria will not be able, to resist the people’s demand for freedom and human rights,” he said.
The first to accept the peace prize was Liberian President Sirleaf — the first woman who was freely elected as a head of state in Africa and has won widespread international praise for her work rebuilding her country.
Sirleaf paid tributes to all the Nobel Peace winners from her continent and those of African descent.
“I am particularly honoured to be a successor to the several sons and one daughter of Africa who have stood on this stage — Chief Albert John Lutuli, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and F.W. D Klerk, Kofi Annan, Anwar Sadat, Wangari Maathai, Mohammed El Baradei as well as as Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Junior and Ralph Bunche — Americans of African descent,” Sirleaf said in a speech.
Fellow-Liberian Leymah Gbowee, who mobilised and organised women across ethnic and religious divides to help bring an end to the war in Liberia in 2003 and to ensure women’s taking part in elections, dedicated her award to the women in her country.
“There is no time to rest until our work achieves wholeness and balance — where men and women are considered equal and free. And finally Liberian women, thank you for making our country proud. Thank you for sitting in the rain and in the sun. This is your prize. This is our prize. The world used to remember Liberia for child soldiers, but they now they remember our country for the white T-shirt women,” Gbowee said to a standing ovation.
Tawakul Karman, an Islamist journalist who has been a key figure in protests in Yemen, said she accepted the prize on behalf of Arab youth leading uprisings in their countries.
“I accept this 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 wisdom.”
Karman called on everyone to support the calls for freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
“This same spirit of the Nobel Prize is this to which we look forward, so that the Arab people can aspire to a world of democracy, justice and freedom. If we support the spirit, the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize, then we will prove to the despots that the ethics of peaceful struggle are stronger than the path of oppression and war,” she said.
Syria and Yemen have been on the verge of civil war this year amid the violent suppression of anti-government uprisings.
The laureates, receiving the prize on the 115th anniversary of the death of benefactor Alfred Nobel, will share a total award worth 1.5 million U.S. dollars.