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

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid