Lebanon

Antoine Saad

Outlet: 
MTV Lebanon
Country: 
Lebanon

Arabs under thirty drove the region's revolutions, and they have emerged as prominent social and political actors. But with new governments now in power, are youth satisfied with the pace of change? On this month’s episode of America Abroad – Youth in the Arab World: After the Revolution – we travel to Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia to find out.

Across the Arab world, Islamists are the new political power brokers. In elections in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, Islamists won big. Similar results are expected in Libya, and if the Assad regime falls, they might well emerge on top in Syria too. After decades of repression by secular rulers, Islamists are now poised to transform the region's politics and culture. But it's still not clear what they plan to do with their power, and what that will mean for those who don’t share their views. 

While the Arab Spring may have toppled a couple of regimes, democracy alone can’t solve the bread and butter issues of the region. The Arab world faces a stark demographic dilemma: nearly a quarter of Arabs under 30 remain jobless. The bleak economic conditions that fueled the Arab uprisings have become the inheritance of any new governments that stand up in the region. And youth in the region aren’t likely to sit quietly and wait for economic change. 

As citizens rise up across the Middle East, they fear more than reprisals of their own rulers. Many worry that leaders from Iran are looking to capitalize on a de-stabilized Middle East. They fear Iran wants to acquire more power and influence in the region.

The balance appears to be tipping in Tehran’s favor: Iran has solid footholds in Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza. And it’s eyeing potential openings across the Arab world… From Riyadh to Washington, alarms are sounding.

Sitting in limbo is where many young Arabs find themselves today. Nearly a quarter of Arabs under 30 are jobless. Long gone are the days of a guaranteed government gig, and the private sector is far from filling the gap. Today, Arab youth are searching for work and waiting for weddings. Some just want to leave the region – and its long unemployment lines – altogether. At best, unemployment and flagging Arab economies lead to a generation of bored and frustrated youth. At worst, economic conditions create a breeding ground for extremism and instability. 

Lebanon has been a political and religious powder keg for decades. It’s a nation known for its intellectual and cultural capital, and its political instability. Lebanon was built on a shaky sectarian foundation with religious identity at the heart of its political system. History has shown that when there is a palpitation, it can have deadly consequences. This summer, after two years of political paralysis and a couple of bloody spasms, Sunni, Shia, and Christian factions compromised and formed a consensus government.

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It's been 5 years (June 4, 2009) since President Obama's landmark Cairo speech in which he spoke of common values between the West and "Muslims around the world: they were values of "justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings." A year later, the world witnessed the popular uprisings and protests that gripped countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Syria...popular political expression that was once thought to have the power to liberalize.