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Youth Empowered: The Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt

posted Mar 26, 2011, 3:47 PM by Golden Knight

By Sean McCreary


Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

For the past several weeks, the world’s attention has been drawn to the tumultuous developments of two North African nations who have risen up against oppressive dictators almost out of nowhere. 

In Tunisia, a country that had endured the oppressive power of ex-President Ben Ali for almost twenty-five years, a sudden outburst of protests and popular discontent has ousted him from power in less than a month.  The great majority of the newly free Tunisians did not rally behind their own Lech Walesa, but instead were united by their overwhelming youthful desire for freedom.  Like most of the Arab region, Tunisia has a very young population that has, until now, been cut off from the great political and social freedoms that have swept youth in the West and elsewhere in the world.  The Tunisian military has even supported the new government, highlighting the overwhelming popular outrage for the former dictator’s regime.  So far, the general situation of the streets has been one of celebration for the new government and pandemonium has been skillfully avoided. 

The same cannot be said for the situation in Egypt, another American-backed government (with $1.4 billion in military aid last year) that is currently experiencing the early stages of what could eventually turn out to be a violent revolution.  Egyptians of all walks of life and many young students eager for change have defied government orders to disperse for the past week as street demonstrations have often turned into violent clashes between protestors and riot police.  There is a similar desire for political and economic freedom between Tunisians and Egyptians, but Egypt’s President Hosni Sayyid Mubarak has a much stronger grip on his power and is not likely to give up as easily as Ben Ali.  

For now, the larger importance of these two revolutionary movements in changing the political landscape of the Muslim world and beyond has yet to be determined, but they do clearly illustrate the power of young people in government.  The power brokering elite in Tunisia and Egypt thought they could simply ignore the great majority of their population and get away with it only to find out just how wrong they were.  This illustrates the fact that power derives only from the consent of the governed, and even our generation should learn from these events.  Just like in Tunisia and Egypt, the youth of America has the power to change our society dramatically and cannot take for granted its precious gifts of freedom.