Youth of MENA [Middle East and North Africa] refuse to step down despite setbacks
an article by Aisha Habli for Common Ground News Service
The glow of the Arab Spring wore off in the media
a while ago. Violence, internal division and
widespread frustration have replaced the hopeful
scenes of youth standing up to demand change. But
have youth really stepped back from the frontlines
of such change? I followed up with my peers, co-
participants at an Arab Youth Leadership workshop
earlier this year, to find out.
click on photo to enlarge
I first checked in with Marouane Bakit, a social
activist in Libya and co-founder of a project,
Sonaah Al Amal (Makers of Hope), which brings
together youth of different races and ethnicities
to discuss and engage in post-Arab Spring
development. They are buoyed to continue their
work due to the impact of some of their early
At the end of 2012, in post-war Libya, Marouane
and a small team of youth visited the refugee
camps in their city, Tripoli, to which hundreds of
families have sought refuge from Bani Walid,
Sirte, Tawergha and Misrata that were badly
affected during the war. Marouane’s team was
inspired to change the terrible conditions they
observed – people were drinking seawater and kids
were sleeping on the ground, with no shelter in
They reported their findings to government
authorities, who responded by relocating about 300
people who were living in the worst conditions to
places with better living conditions, and later
investigated the refugee camps in Tripoli. . .
In Palestine, social activist Ohood Murqaten
describes how many youth initiatives have been
active in calling for national dialogue around the
Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. She
mentions her involvement in The YaLa Young Leaders
Online Academy (YLO@), a year-long educational
program that teaches critical skills, empowers
youth and serves as a communication platform for
young leaders from the region. “For many this is
the first time Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis
are getting together and studying and becoming
friends. For many of the Israeli participants,
this is the first opportunity they have had to sit
and talk and listen to Palestinians and Arabs, and
to learn that we have ideas, languages and
creativity, and are educated,” . . .
Like Marouane and Ohood, other youth in the MENA
region remain engaged, advocating for dialogue and
youth engagement. Bassam Ghaber, an organiser at
the Yemen Elections Monitoring Network (YEMN)
mentioned that youth-led organizations have been
working to promote a culture of comprehensive
national dialogue and raising awareness on the
importance of civil participation in their
communities. And Najwa Uheba, another Libyan
participant and activist, shares how youth
initiatives in her country are tailored to
critical current events. “Several youth
initiatives advocate for nonviolent expression,
particularly in demonstrations and protests,” says
Najwa. . . .
Nonetheless, MENA youth are resilient and remain
determined to be agents of positive change.
Despite the frustration and the challenges, they
have refused to give up, or to sit passively on
the sidelines. We have a big role in carrying our
communities forward even when the older
generations may have grown tired, and we will
continue to create positive change.
Question(s) related to this article:
The Arab spring of 2011, Can it inspire democratic movements around the world?
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The following is reprinted from Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 30 August 2011, www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
Cultures of peace, lasting change in Egypt?
Cairo - Instead of falling victim to Egypt’s eye-for-an-eye past, a concerted effort to create a culture of peace in what has quickly become a starkly fractured political scene – between religious groups, the military and activists, and activists and the people – may well be the best opportunity to bring about a new Egypt with social justice, transparency and tolerance.
Egyptians are striving daily to show the world that societies can change. Cairo is not the same city it was six months ago. As voices now begin to breech the political and social stalemate in the country, Egyptian society can, through a culture of peace, set a precedent not only for their own country but for the whole region.
UNESCO defines the culture of peace as “a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue”. In Egypt, for example, this could help develop an overall sense that the "other", who participated in violent acts in the past, can become part of society, instead of remaining on the outskirts as they are currently. Building such a culture in Egypt would follow the South African model of reconciliation, which allowed the country to look forward instead of focusing on the frustrating and sad past of apartheid.
Instilling a culture of peace in the younger generation could be a great antidote to the older generations’ mistrust and antagonism toward one another – Christian versus Muslim; Worker versus Owner; Military versus the People; and so on.
In Egypt, one of the root causes of a lack of a culture of peace is the educational system. Young Egyptian students are taught that they are different from one another, that their respective faiths are cause for separation. In schools, Christian students study the history and faith of Christianity separately, while Muslim studentsdo the same for Islam. This creates a sense that each group is separate and divided when it comes to any national cause. . ...more.