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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid