News / Middle East

Young People Driving Middle East Protests

Young people gather around candles as they begin three days of mourning Friday to mourn dozens who died in the protests that drove their autocratic leader from power, in Tunis, January 22, 2011 (File Photo)
Young people gather around candles as they begin three days of mourning Friday to mourn dozens who died in the protests that drove their autocratic leader from power, in Tunis, January 22, 2011 (File Photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Lisa Bryant

The popular revolts roiling Egypt and other Arab countries are being driven by young people clamoring to oust autocratic governments they have known all their lives. The hardscrabble Tunis neighborhood of Ettadhamen provides a representative look at the hardships, and aspirations, of some of the young people behind Tunisia's so-called Jasmine Revolution.

Cite Ettadhamen, on the edges of Tunisia's capital, is considered one of the poorest places in this small north-African country.  Accurate statistics are hard to get, but it is safe to say that many young people here are just scraping by. Twenty-nine-year old Bessam is luckier than most - he has a job as an engineer for a French company.

But Bessam said his brother, who has a masters' degree, was unable to find a job in Tunisia. He now works in Qatar, washing dishes in a hotel.

Another Ettadham resident, 17-year-old Selim, is still in high school. He hopes the changes afoot in Tunisia, where weeks of protests overthrew authoritarian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, will bring a brighter future. "Maybe this new government could change my future, my job, all my dreams. Because the last government of Ben Ali is not good."

It was literally a spark that ignited what Tunisians call their Jasmine Revolution, the self immolation of a young man who was prevented from selling vegetables. His story struck a chord with many young people who became the driving force in ousting Ben Ali on January 14th. Ettadhamen was one of the first neighborhoods to revolt.

Mansouria Mokhefi, head of North African and Middle East programs at the Paris-based French Institute of International Relations, said the frustrations of Tunisia's youth - their lack of jobs, free expression, dignity and power - are mirrored across the Arab world, where 70 percent of the population is under 30 years of age.

Mokhefi said this young population is making history. She believes the Arab world is witnessing its first real independence movements. Youths are beginning to take control of their destiny.

Just about everywhere you go in Tunisia, people will say they are proud, proud of toppling the Ben Ali government they hated.  Proud, especially, of their young people.

It was the young people who changed things, one woman in Ettadhamen said.

The editor in chief of the Tunisian news magazine Realites, Zyed Krichen, said he was astonished at the younger generation. Krichen said older adults like himself thought Tunisia's youth were uninterested in politics, that they lived in their own world.

Tunisia's revolt is now inspiring uprisings across the Arab world. There have been a string of reported self immolations - in Algeria, Sudan, Yemen and Morocco. Eyes are now focused on Egypt, where tens of thousands of protesters are calling for 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Analyst Mokhefi said Tunisia's revolution reflects a maturity, even an elegance, of those who led it. She does not see it being replicated in Egypt, where the younger generation is poorer, less educated and more frustrated.

Tunisia's revolution is far from over. The interim government has promised elections six months from now. The youthful leadership on the country's streets, however, is not reflected in politics, where many known figures are middle aged or elderly, including opposition heads.

But Mokhefi, for one, is upbeat about Tunisia's future. Tunisians living overseas are heading back home to help rebuild their country. She said she is confident a new, younger leadership will emerge to steer it.

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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