Her country named her the "Mother of the Revolution," and for it, the world awarded her the Noble Peace Prize.
"It is our victory," Tawakkol Karman told ILLUME, on winning the Noble Peace Prize, referring to all the citizens of Yemen who took part in the country's non-violent revolution.
"I am so proud of that. The image of Muslim people, of Muslim women is changed. That we are not terrorists. That we have the ability and will to change our lives."
Tawakkol Karman (pronounced Tha-wak-kull Car-maan) is a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist, who co-founded the group Women Journalists Without Chains. She began working for social and political change in 2005, leading up to the Arab Spring and overthrowning of Yemeni President Ali Adbullah Saleh in 2011.
For her efforts, Karman was named co-recipient of the 2011 Noble Peace Prize, along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Laymah Gbowee for their "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work."
Karman is the first Arab woman and only the second Muslim woman to be awarded the prize. Age 32, she is also, the youngest Noble Peace prize recipient ever. In 2003, Shirin Ebadi became the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Only 15 women have won the prize in its 110 year history.
Dressed in a blue and rust colored hijab and long, black robe, Karman addressed a standing-room-only audience at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall in a speech titled, "Living the Revolution."
The well-dress, well-groomed crowd of mostly Yemeni-Americans cheered on Karman, interrupting her on several occasions to thunderous applauds and even breaking-out in patriot songs as Karman recounted the steps that lead to the overthrown of Adbullah Saleh.
"The youth left their homes with dreams in one hand and their coffins in the other," she told the crowd. "Not that they wanted to die, but they knew that if they did, it would be for future generations and their offspring to live that dream."
That dream being, "to live in peace and without fear," in nations that respect human rights and where all people are equal before the law.
Karman said the Arab street rose up against "corrupt, evil dictators," "bad luck" as she says the Arab people refer to their former rulers, who, "gave away its people and its land," but adds, that was just the start.
She describes Yemen as being in the third stage of the revolution, a transitional stage, where the transition of power from the old, authoritative power structures are transformed into a system that is transparent and democratic.
Karman points out that one of the other effects of the revolution has been to unite factions of Yemen's tribal society that have been ancient foes, allowing them to put aside their disputes, their problems and even gender differences and to unite under one flag.
She says the tribes are "tired of the cycle of violence and revenge," adding that those, "most in need of change were at the forefront of the fight."
In a interview with ILLUME after her talk, she was asked if Yemeni's wealthy elite are ready for compromise.
"They are not ready. But we will make them ready." Ending corruption and recovering the billions stolen by the government, will be the start she says to rebuilding a new Yemen. "We are... excited about building our country. We have the ability and the resources to build our country."
When asked about the United States role in the Arab Spring, Karman answered that the US did good, except for in Syria. She believes the US and the international community, "have not fulfilled their responsibility." She thinks the US needs to "flex more muscle" and to do more than just, "issue press releases and statements."
And though a devout Muslim herself (in fact, until recently, she use to wear a face veil), Karman does not support the role of religious parties in a new Middle East. She does not want to see groups dividing people along religious lines, adding that the majority of the Arab people are already Muslim, so there is no need for religious parties or governments to dictate how people should live as Muslims.
"All of (the political parties) have to compete on programs, not ideologies. The Arab Spring was about fighting corruption, defending human rights. These are all Islamic values, values shared by all religions."
Karman firmly believes religious ideologies should be left to individuals to decide for themselves, going even further, by stating non-Muslims should even be allowed to run for president in Yemen.
As a mother of three, Karman, who is also a senior member of the al-Islah Party, has made no decision about her political future, except that she will continue to work with Yemen's youth, as they continue to press for political reform and social change.
As a Noble Peace Prize winner, she says she now carries the extra responsibility of observing political change as new governments form in the post-revolution Middle East.
Though she wouldn't name anyone specifically, she says she draws inspiration from a number of historical figures from Islamic and Arab history, a list to which her name has now been added for her role in the revolutions that made up the Arab Spring.
But Karman is quick to admit that the revolution is not done, pointing to huge obstacles that remain. However, unlike the in the past, she says there is one thing that they are certain about, that the Yemeni people will lead their countries future.
"We use to cry about the past. But we don't cry about the past any more. We cry about the future, out of happiness because we were able to save our country."