TUNISIAN YOUTH SPEAK OUT
By Paul Ndiho
May 17, 2011
Tunisian youth are playing active roles and have recently become more politicized as they continue to assert themselves, and demand for democratic change. Today, more young people are joining activist movements and taking a keen interest in government affairs.
Following the youth-led revolt that ousted Tunisia’s long time leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, young people are mobilizing to try to move the country toward a functioning democracy.
Many observers say the overthrow of Ben Ali in January helped break down much of the fear across the Middle East and North Africa in places with repressive regimes. Across the region, students and pro-democracy activists continue to clash with and push authorities for reforms and concessions, often resulting in protests spilling over into violence.
“We, the students are part of the national movement; we are an integral part of the national movement.”
Recent protest in Tunisia has prompted the government to implement a night-time curfew to control the streets. Around half of Tunisia’s population of 10 million is under 30 years of age. This protester says the voice of youths should not be ignored.
“We will continue to demand change until our demands are all met.”
Some in Tunisia are calling for an end to protests, while others, including state television, are saying some troublesome youths have been paid money to cause havoc.
“Some people are using Tunisian youths who have little political knowledge. It may be a particular party or movement who use them to further their goals.”
The National Youth Forum in Tunisia is bringing young political activists together. Political debates and party meetings were a taboo under the government of the ousted president, Ben Ali. Yu’ad Bilrajab, a youth leader, says the change in the political leadership means that the youth no longer have to fear open meetings.
“We are all youth who have gathered together despite not knowing each other. (Former President Zine el-Abidine) Ben Ali’s strength was in separating us and now this is bringing us together.”
“What we need is serious and real initiatives, opposite to what we have today. We can express our ideas and demand the youth to participate and present initiatives to help move Tunisia forward.”
Other activists in Tunisia say they believe there is an even bigger role to be played by their generation to help ensure their nation makes a successful transition to democracy.