News / Middle East

Egyptian Youth Vow to Transform Their Society

Volunteers check other anti-government protesters to search for and prevent weapons and infiltrators entering the demonstration after brief clashes with pro-government supporters in Talaat Harb square near Tahrir square, Cairo, February 4, 2011
Volunteers check other anti-government protesters to search for and prevent weapons and infiltrators entering the demonstration after brief clashes with pro-government supporters in Talaat Harb square near Tahrir square, Cairo, February 4, 2011

In Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, a mix of Arabs are protesting against their governments. And a feature of many of the largest demonstrations has been the use of social media by young people to mobilize big crowds. The Egyptian youth rallying there are vowing to transform their society.

Amid the continuing protests, Cairo's Tahrir Square has been a place where protesters are helping each other and have been seen sweeping the street, picking up garbage, while sharing food, water and medications.

Fadi Awad has been here since uprising started on January 25. The 32-year-old said, "Now when you look in the eyes of people you see happiness, you see intelligence, and you see acceptance of the other - all the others, inside or outside,” said Awad. “I guess Egypt is going to be a great country after all, I hope."

Watch Video of Friday's Protests in Cairo

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has long justified his rule by warning that without it, chaos would reign in Egypt.  Protestors charged that Mr. Mubarak's supporters tried to sow chaos earlier this week in the streets of Cairo by attacking foreign journalists and human rights activists - and by hurling cinder blocks and steel pipes from the roofs of buildings surrounding the square.

Mahmoud Shaker, a 26 year old diving instructor from the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, fought back. Now his left arm and eye are all bandaged up.

Still, he says he is prepared to fight until death.

Watch a Related Video from VOA's Luis Ramirez

Shaker recalls that even former U.S. President George Bush, not a popular figure among Arabs, wanted Mr. Mubarak to embrace democracy.

That makes Awad hug and kiss Shaker, who he just met. Awad said, “He made a great metaphor!”

Shaker continues, with Awad translating.

"The Arab countries are going to be changed by the hands of their youth - not the old people, corrupted people like Mubarak," Awad added.

These young are suspicious of the older dissidents, including former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei. They also worry that the Muslim brotherhood may try to hijack their revolution.

But they were the ones who helped bring the revolution to the streets of Cairo - with the help of Facebook and Twitter. And Awad expresses their optimistic outlook.

"All the Egyptian people is changing. Me myself, I'm changing,” said Awad. “Egypt is going to be more democratic. I hope the economy, everything, is going to be better after this regime steps down."

Members of the younger generation in Egypt say changes that have swept the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall - have finally arrived in the Middle East.

 

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Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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