News / Europe

    Inspired by Arab Protests, Spain's Unemployed Rally for Change

    People take part in a demonstration in Madrid, May 18, 2011.
    People take part in a demonstration in Madrid, May 18, 2011.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Lauren Frayer

    Thousands of demonstrators are occupying squares in major cities across Spain, protesting high unemployment and lack of opportunities for youth, ahead of municipal elections on Sunday. Many of them say they've been inspired by similar protests across the Arab world.

    Protesters have been camping out in the capital's main square for days. Volunteers set up food and medical tents, adorned with homemade revolution posters. Someone pinned an Egyptian flag up overhead.  

    But this is not Egypt, it is Spain. Educated but unemployed youth who are frustrated by the poor economy and perceived government corruption have taken over Madrid's main square, Puerta del Sol - inspired by similar youth uprisings across the Middle East.

    Pedro Escol, an unemployed scientist with a PhD, surveys the scene around him - piles of sleeping bags, revolution banners and angry youth.

    "This situation in the square reminds me of Tahrir Square in Egypt," said Escol.  "We are brothers with them. We are brothers.  We have the same problems."

    Escol says he's frustrated. He has a good education, but can't find work. He thinks politicians here are corrupt. And he says he was inspired by what young Egyptians did back in February. They took over a public square for days, calling for change. And it worked.

    "Now I understand, that to take a square like [a] symbol is a very good way to force the government to talk about it, because the square is from the citizens.  It's our square."

    What started as spontaneous gatherings in Tunisia, and then Egypt, have now formed a blueprint for protests elsewhere - even in Europe. Calls have spread on Facebook for similar rallies among Spaniards living in Germany, the UK and Italy.

    James Denselow, a Middle East expert at King's College in London, says protesters in Europe are copying some of the same tactics used in Cairo's Tahrir Square - exercising rights Europeans have had for decades.

    "In European countries you've had free legitimate protests as an often constitutionally-protected right for decades, whereas in the Middle East this is incredibly new, which is a reason why it's proving so infectious partly," said Denselow.  "I think there's a feedback loop in the sense that European countries are using lots of the same methods and tactics as groups in the Middle East, no better so than online social networking and Internet tools to organize."

    Denselow says that while their political circumstances have been drastically different, with dictatorships in the Middle East and democracies in Europe, some of the economic conditions for youth in both regions are remarkably similar. Some Mideast regimes have fallen, and European governments have had their own stumbles.

    "These are educated young professionals who are finding a workplace that is not accommodating them, whether it's in terms of people with degrees or people struggling to pay for their degrees," Denselow added.  "There's been a government brought down in Greece and replaced quite quickly by another unpopular government, and problems in Ireland too. Each country has its own unique characteristics that reflects a reaction to those protests."

    In downtown Madrid, Angela Cartagena is a volunteer on the protesters' quite savvy media outreach team, giving reporters tours of the protest camp. She says organizers learned lessons from the supply lines and that sustained Egyptian protesters in Cairo last winter.

    "We have a legal commission, a communication one which I belong to, an infrastructure sub-commission also inside," said Cartagena.  "We have a cleaning committee, which I think is very important. They're doing a great job, they're taking care all the time, cleaning the square, everything."

    Cartagena says demonstrators are even calling for a Spanish "revolution."

    "It depends on your concept of revolution," Cartagena noted.  "This is a kind of democratic revolution, in a sense. Of course it's not a revolution like in the Middle East, the situation is completely different. But we are also trying to make a new democracy. They are trying to get [their first] democracy, and we are trying to get a new one - a different one, a better one."

    Spanish protesters are angry about government austerity measures and high unemployment, and their voices are directed at all Spanish politicians, not only those currently in power. But local and regional elections are being held Sunday, and polls predict losses for the ruling Socialist Party. The next general election for parliament, however, is scheduled to be held by next March.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora