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

AU Takes Action on Boko Haram, Defers on S. Sudan

African Union is moving forward with a request for a military force to stop the spread of Boko Haram insurgency in West Africa; Ban Ki-moon welcomes decision to form a five-nation force More

Mass Protests Held for 58 Killed in Pakistani Shi'ite Mosque Bombing

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims took to the streets across Pakistan Saturday to protest a powerful bomb blast at a mosque in Sindh province during Friday prayers, killing dozens of people More

Williams Wins Australian Open with Straight-Set Victory over Sharapova

The win is Serena Williams' sixth in Australia, and her 19th overall Grand Slam title More

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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid