Monday, March 26, 2012

Arab Youth, Diamonds In The Rough

Arab youth have made news in the past year as leaders of change, carriers of hope and the architects of a bright future of freedom and liberty.

Prior to Ben Ali’s fall, the west was unaware of Arab and North African activism that paved the way for the revolutions and uprisings years before 2010. In contrast, local leaders not only noticed, but they were afraid of this activism and the passion that came with it. They fought back by throwing many activists in jail under the pretext of stirring national tension or threatening national unity and stability.

Generations of young Arabs had been marginalized by dictatorial societies. They were not represented in the media. Entities were not addressing them or their issues. It was only natural that they would turn to the free Internet space to mingle with like-minded people, express their opinions and air out their frustrations.

In response, the mostly dictatorial regimes of the Middle East have done everything possible to mute them, disable their activities and block their progress. This was the case only a year ago in many of the newly freed nations; it continues to be the case in most of the region.

Saudi bloggers have been fighting for years for their liberties. They’ve been challenging a very strict and controlling system that does not tolerate free expression. Several young Saudis have landed in jail over the years for expressing opinions that contradict or challenge ideas or edicts imposed by ultra orthodox religious leaders. Why are we not hearing about those activists now? Why is it that the issue of Saudi freedoms has not come to the surface in force with all the region’s uprisings?

Did the old guards hijack this spontaneous uprising and claimed it their own, throwing the heroes who made it happen out? Looking at Egypt, it seems that way. The bickering between SCAF (Supreme Council of The Armed Forces) and the Muslim Brotherhood is perfect proof. SCAF should not be in power in the first place: It is an extension of the Mubarak regime. The Muslim Brotherhood on the other hand should not have made such gains because the uprising was not theirs anyway. But both of them are so used to manipulating the street that they totally godfathered the revolution and called it their own. We probably now need a revolution to rid Egypt of them or create a new balance.

Same scenario in various degrees applies to most Arab countries.

The future must be the focus in light of all the uprisings we’ve witnessed since the end of 2010. Yet, the conversation continues to rotate around Sunnis and Shiites, power-sharing, political splits, Salafi threat, role of the fundamentalists, the Islamists, elections, and so many of the old clichés and topics.

Why aren’t we talking about job creation, women’s rights, education reform, creating opportunities for growth and openness? Where are the topics of personal freedoms and free flow of information? Why aren’t young people who led the revolutions heading the national debates? How can there ever be change without their voices and their full participation?

The youth of the Arab world are like diamonds in the rough. Arab societies are still raw, unsophisticated and unable to give their young brilliant minds the opportunities they deserve to excel and bring change and reform in return. The scary part is that similar regimes still stand as rugged, archaic or barbaric as the fallen ones.

So, what was really achieved since the Tunisian uprising? Has anything at all changed? Are we replacing regimes by other broken ones and leaving those who fought for freedom continue to fight on?

No revolution will be complete without those who fought long and hard, when fighting was not even popular. No uprising will be fulfilled without the crucial effective participation of youth, women and other minorities.

We must insist on full youth participation today, otherwise freedom loving will never become mainstream. Freedom seekers will always be struggling for attention, and fighting to be heard. And THAT will be our failure as individuals, as nations and societies as a whole!


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What did the world lose with the 10,000 people murdered in Syria? Might one of those killed have been the next Steve Jobs? (his heritage was Syrian via his birth father).

It is beautiful to see the Arab youth fight for freedom, which should be a natural birth right to all in this world.

It is fascinating to see how technology aides human rights as dictators fall as the youth tweet and FB their way to a new way of life in Arab nations. Brava Octavia for shining a light on the quest for democracy throughout the Arab world.

April 2, 2012 at 4:22 AM  
Anonymous Madz said...

There is no freedom in the middle east

April 25, 2012 at 3:22 AM  
Anonymous arab chat said...

Arab people felt the freedom by using social media and they look like they succeeded!

May 25, 2012 at 12:38 PM  

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