As military leaders and tribal chieftains hijack Yemen's revolution to settle long-running scores, it's easy to forget that the original uprising was guided by the same peaceful principles that motivated protesters across the Middle East. The day after demonstrators toppled Tunisian despot Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January, Tawakkol Karman, a 32-year-old mother of three who runs an organization to protect freedom of expression and human rights, rallied a few of her friends outside Sanaa University to cheer the Tunisians' success -- the first sign that the Arab Spring had reached Yemen.
As the protests gained momentum, Karman improbably stepped to the forefront of this deeply patriarchal society, articulating a nonviolent spirit and democratic principles to define the revolution. President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, unable to deter this bothersome activist with threats, finally ordered her arrest in a nighttime raid, a misstep that turned her into a cause célèbre and only added to the ranks of the protesters. Her eventual release did nothing to temper her resolve. "This is not the victory I seek," she said. "I was ready to stay in jail if the demonstrations would have toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh." But though Karman has been celebrated worldwide for her bravery -- and shared the Nobel Peace Prize for her audacity in helping launch the Arab Spring -- Yemen remains in turmoil, and the political paralysis in Sanaa has left the country defenseless against religious extremism and economic decline.
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