Message to the Media: We Need to Hear More from Arab YouthRead All Posts
I’m tired of listening to the foreign policy experts and political commentators filling our airwaves and newspapers with their perspectives on what’s taking place across the Arab world. I want to hear from the young people in these countries who are the ones mobilizing the demonstrations and leading the way. It’s their ingenious use of social media and the internet (until it’s intercepted by the government) that has helped get the word out about what’s going on and what’s happening next. And it’s their rage against the deep seated problems of unemployment, corruption, and repressive rulers that is fueling this widespread unrest. Yet the voices of these emerging youth leaders are frustratingly absent—at least in the mainstream media.
But I’ve found a few. “Washington has been very anxious about what’s happening here,” says 29-year-old Mohammed Fouad, an Egyptian software engineer who has recently joined a demonstration calling for President Mubarak’s ouster. “But it should be happy. This will reduce terrorism. When people have their voice, they don’t need to explode themselves.” It’s a simple but important message for all of us to hear and consider. Particularly so when many public figures are getting tangled up in the argument that it’s vitally important to maintain “stability” in the Middle East—even if it means supporting authoritarian rulers who crush the dreams of their people.
Another protester describes why citizens from all walks of life have joined the throngs of people in the streets to demand fundamental change. “They [the leaders] have closed all the doors of hope.” To me, that says it all. Far too many young people are already struggling to support themselves and build a decent and dignified life. Communities can’t grow, young people can’t succeed, and governments can’t ultimately survive, if you cut off the hope that such aspirations are even possible.
At this point we don’t know how the situation in Egypt, or Tunisia, or Jordan will end. But we do know that listening closely to what the young people are saying will surely help us understand what happens next; and perhaps, the best way forward from there.