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Archive for February, 2011

Interview with Illiterate Pakistani girl

Ans: My name is Mashal. I am 18 years old and I belong to Tehkal. I have 8 siblings including 7 sisters and 1 brother. 2 of my sisters are married. We are very poor. My parents had no education. They didn’t go to school or anything which they regret. My father earns Rs.50 a day which is 0.60$ a day and that is when he works from day to night. This is very less for us. In my whole day, I am so busy in the household chores and activities that I don’t even get a single moment for me to spend free. Still, by chance, if I get any, I sit with my sisters and talk. Lay down in bed and do nothing.

Q2: How is your generation different from your parents’?

Ans: Actually our thoughts don’t match. They always stop me and tell me to do a specific thing in a specific way but I get annoyed and I try to make them understand that I know my work better and I can do it. My uncles(mother’s brothers) are very strict and they try to rule us. They don’t let us go out and try to make sure we stay at home. It’s a small village so for girls to go out very often is not appropriate. Small issues can lead to disasters.

 

Q3: What are the major problem facing humans today?

Ans: For me, the biggest problem that humans are facing today is poverty. Poor people have no money, no food, no happiness. They can do crimes for money. I’d like to give an example from my life here. Like my very own cousin also was involved in a house robbery that lead him to jail because he would look at his master’s kids who had everything! Cars, cellphones, money, new clothes, everything! This made my cousin do robbery despite the fact that he knew it’s wrong but he couldn’t control his personal desires and went on doing it. He’s in jail today as well and it’s been 3 years now. He’s young and strong and was the sole earner of the family. His family is having a very hard time living these days. It shouldn’t be this way. I think despite of chasing the money, Government should do enough things for the poor on yearly basis so that we don’t lead to do such crimes.

 

Q4: What would you do to solve this problem if you had power?

Ans: If I had power, in the other words, if I had money, I will buy food, clothes, shoes and everything for my fellow poor. I will make sure the kids go to school and get good education. I wish Allah gives me enough money so that I help the poor in the whole world. There are very poor people in the world. I have seen very difficult times.

How would your life be different if you were born a boy and how you would like your future to be the same or different from her mother’s?

Ans: If I was a boy, that could have settled everything for me. I would have done everything. I would go out with friends, stay outside, spend time with my buddies, play cricket, have fun, make long distance travels, make phone calls with friends. It would have been awesome. I wouldn’t just stay home, do the household chores everyday, listen to my parents complain about food, work, money, etc. I would get the most attention in the house and people would love. Being a boy is very cool.

I want my future to be exactly like my mother’s. I love her and respect her so much. She gave me good manners. Today, no one can say that I am a bad girl. It’s because of my mother. She brought me up well and that’s why I adore her. So I’d grow up to be like her and take care of our family and live happily.

 

Q5: What kind of media do you use (radio, TV, Internet, cell phone?)

Ans: We don’t have a TV or computer in the house. We don’t have internet. We just have one cell phone in the whole house. I don’t even know how to use it. I just know how to pick up a call by pressing the green button and turn the cell off my pressing and holding the red button. I cannot even send a message. We are not too much into media. We can’t afford too much electricity and that’s why we can’t use it.

 

Q6: How do you think life would be different if you grew up in a city like Peshawar?

Ans: If I ended up growing in Peshawar, I’d have all the facilities in the world. Life would have been much better. I could easily go out, go to school, have friends and enjoy with them. Won’t worry about doing too much work and listen to my parents complain about food and work. It really annoys me.

 

Q7: Tell us about the quality of your schooling.

Ans: I never went to school. I don’t know how to read or write. I didn’t even study Quran. Life is meaningless to me.

 

Q8:  What would you like in a marriage partner? Will your parents arrange your marriage?

Ans: I would like my marriage partner to keep me happy, don’t scold me, agree with what I say, respect my thoughts, my mother-in-law to love me and take care of me. I just want both families to get along well and spend a happy life. I want to take some rest and don’t want more miseries in the world. I want him to be understanding and understand me, my emotions. That’s all !

Yes, my marriage is arranged. My engagement wad done last year after Ramadan and Eid. I get married in the next 6 months. The name of my fiancé is Yousaf. I don’t even know how old he is. I just saw him once and that was when his family came to ask for me. I talked to him thrice on phone but never in person. That’s all the interaction I had with him. But my parents did ask me before saying yes and I had no other option than saying yes so I am happy the way life is. Yousaf’s family wants gold and expensive clothes in the marriage. My parents make Rs.50 a day. We are living off so difficultly. How can we even think of gold? Let’s hope Yousaf understands the situation and make his parents understand and compromise.

 

And the book questions:

1. If you could ask a question of the wisest person in the world, what would you ask her or him about life?

Ans: (after taking a long time) How do you live your life in home and what do you do?

2. What bothers you in your daily life?  What practice best helps you stay calm?

Ans: I get bothered with the extra work that I do in my daily life and don’t even get appreciated for it. I do the household chores from day to night and when my little siblings spread the mess again, I get annoyed and I have to do the work all over again. It bothers me.

I just console myself with the fact that I am doing it for my own family. I am stressed so much at times that I sit back and cry but I don’t tell anyone and keep on doing the work for them (at this moment, she has tears in her eyes).

3. If there were one thing you could change about adults, what would it be?

Ans: I will like the adults not to say inappropriate stuff and appreciate the work I do. Understand me.

4. What would you like to change about yourself?

Ans: I wish I could have studied so that’s the only thing I would change about myself.

5. What do you like to do for fun?

Ans: We don’t do anything for fun. We don’t have extra time for extra activities. I just sit back at times in my home and talk to my sisters about life. That’s all my life is.

6. When have you felt most loved by someone else?

Ans: Never. As I said, my parents have not studied much so they don’t show their emotions. In fact, they don’t understand. I have never felt loved by anyone. Everyone orders me to do work for them.

7. Why do you think you’re here on earth; what’s your purpose? How are you influenced by global media (TV, Internet, advertisements, etc?)

Ans: I don’t really understand the reason. I have not studied Quran, the religion, or the school so I don’t know why I am here. I don’t like this pattern of life. I wish my life was better.

8. On a scale of 1 to 100, how highly would you grade your school? Why?

Ans: There is no school in my whole village for girls. There is only one Government school which is for boys. There is none for girls.

9.  What work would you like to do when you’re an adult?

Ans: I would like to be a MISS(teacher) or a Nurse.

10. If you were the leader of your country, what changes would you make?

Ans: (good question, she says) I would like to finish the poverty. Provide homes for them, have the kids go to school, finish inflation, provide jobs and facilities to poors.

11. Imagine you get to write on a T-shirt going on a trip around the world. What do you want your T-mail to say to people?

Ans: (after taking a long time) I AM WITH ALL THE POOR PEOPLE IN THE WORLD AND WOULD HELP THEM IF I HAD POWER.

12. What is your daily routine?

Ans: I woke up at 7 am daily. Pick up the dirty utensils, wash them, clean rooms, the outside, make beds, wash bathrooms, make the home look clean, make breakfast for all the family members. After this, prepares to cook for lunch, make bread. After they eat, wash dishes. Then I take some rest and after that, I prepare to cook for the evening. That’s all I do daily.

13. Is your home all well-furnished?

Ans: No, we have a mud house and that is badly affected lately due to floods. Our walls fell down so it was very hard for us to cover our house. Me and my sisters dared and set up the walls ourselves. It was very tiring. Still we have 2 walls to make. May Allah help us!

14. What would you like for your younger siblings to have that you didn’t get?

Ans: I would want my little 6 year old sister to have all the necessities in the world. I would like her to have good education, good manners and grow up so well so that she get married in a good place.

15. Are you happy with your life?

Ans: Yes, I am happy with the fact that I have my family members around me and at least have a roof to be under it.

 

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Youth Altruism

As a follow up on my post about peaceful youth revolutions, it’s not just Middle Eastern youth who are altruistic and concerned about the welfare of others. I’m writing a book about global youth viewpoints, based on 11 questions. (If you know young people who would like to answer them, I included them below.) Here’s a summary of their responses when asked about their life purpose:

  1. Do good works, make the world better
  2. Personal: Be successful in my goals, be happy, have business success, learn
  3. Worship God and fulfill my destiny

4.    Help parents Help country and the environment

 

Greetings from California. I’m writing a book that gives you and other young people around the world an opportunity to say what’s on your mind. I’m asking people age 19 and under to respond to 11 questions. I have translations in other language. See http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Global-Youth-SpeakOut/160382763986923.

Thanks, Gayle Kimball, Ph.D. gkimball@csuchico.edu

 

1. If you could ask a question of the wisest person in the world,

what would you ask her or him about life?

2. What bothers you in your daily life?  What practice best helps you stay calm?

3. If there was one thing you could change about adults, what

would it be?

4. What would you like to change about yourself?

5. What do you like to do for fun?

6. When have you felt most loved by someone else?

7. Why do you think you’re here on earth; what’s your purpose? How are you influenced by global media (TV, Internet, advertisements, etc?)

8. On a scale of 1 to 100, how highly would you grade your

school? Why?

9.  What work would you like to do when you’re an adult?

10. If you were the leader of your country, what changes would you make?

11. Imagine you get to write on a T-shirt going on a trip around the world. What do you want your T-mail to say to people?

 

What questions are missing that you’d like to answer? Your email. . . . . . .

What first name would you like used in the book to quote you?

How old are you?

Girl or boy?

What city and country do you live in?

Gracias! Merci! Danke! Arrigato! Chi chi!

 

> > > > >Previous Books:

> > > > > Essential Energy Tools book and 3 videos.

> > > > > 21st Century Families: Blueprints for Family-Friendly Workplaces,

Schools and Governments. (Equality Press)

> > > > > How to Create Your Ideal Workplace (Equality Press)

> > > > > The Teen Trip: The Complete Resource Guide (Equality Press)

> > > > > 50/50 Parenting (Lexington Books)

> > > > > 50/50 Marriage (Beacon Press)

> > > > > ed. Everything You Need to Know to Succeed After College (Equality

Press)

> > > > > How to Survive Your Parents’ Divorce (Equality Press)

> > > > > ed. Women’s Culture (Scarecrow Press)

Ø  > > > > Ed. Women’s Culture Revisited. (Scarecrow Press, 2005)

 

 

Middle East Peaceful Youth Revolution

–what would you add or correct?

Middle East Youth Revolution

In the Middle East and North Africa, about two-thirds of the population is under 30, the highest percentage of young people in the world. The average age in Egypt is 25 and it’s 24 in Libya. High youth unemployment creates fervent desire for change and electronic media provide a way to organize, a tinderbox waiting for a spark to set it off. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the region’s foundations were sinking into the sand. The spark occurred when a young Tunisian man who set himself on fire to express his frustration with not being able to make a living and with corruption. It’s called the Arab Spring and the Youth Revolution, similar to a democratic uprising in Latin America 20 years earlier. A reminder that history includes ideological revolutions that are more than regime change including 1789 in the US, Russia in 1917, China in 1949, Nasser’s Revolution of 1952, Cuba in 1959, and Iran in 1979.

Before the youth revolutions started in 2011, a Muslim preacher who rejects extremism, Amr Khaled warned, “Arab and Muslim youth need to be listened to.[i] No one listens to them. They have dreams. We need to bring out those dreams,” but governments ignored their unrest over high unemployment and rising food prices. The Arab slang word hittistes refers to those who lean against the wall, without work, many hittistes in a humiliated generation who need wasta—connections to someone with power or bribes–to get a job. Getting married requires a good job to pay for a wedding, feasts, dowry, and a place to live, clearly a frustrating situation for unemployed young people. For example, 30% of Libyans were unemployed and the average Egyptian income was $2,007. A chart lists the unrest index, corruption, poverty, average age and literacy rates in Middle Eastern countries.[ii]

If you followed the news about revolution in Egypt, it would seem a single self-immolation protest on December 17 by fruit seller Mohamed Bouzzizi (age 26) caused youth demonstrations in Tunisia after he died in early January. Protests spread around the country, resulting in the resignation of the dictator Ben Ali in January 2011 after 23 years in power. Around 100 protesters were killed.[iii] The youth revolution leapfrogged via Twitter, the Internet, Al Jazeera TV and rap music to Egypt, the most populated country in the Middle East. Only 18 days of demonstrations organized by young people led to the 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in February, momentous events like the American and French Revolutions, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break up of the USSR in 1989.

Demonstrations spread calling for local days of rage in Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Libya and Syria where autocrats have ruled for many decades (the prize for longest rule goes to Libyan Muammar Khadafy or Gaddafi who ruled Libya for 42 years, since 1969). The anthem of the young protesters is a song by a Tunisian rapper, “Mr. President, your people are dying/ People are eating rubbish/ Look at what is happening/ Miseries everywhere, Mr. President/ I talk with no fear/ Although I know I will get only trouble/ I see injustice everywhere.”[iv] Protesters demand the end of decades of emergency rule and corruption, honest elections, affordable food, and jobs. Yemen was the only place where someone called for an Islamic state, rather than democracy. Al Qaeda in Iraq didn’t get it and warned Arabs to “beware of the tricks of un-Islamic ideologies, such as filthy and evil secularism, infidel democracy, and putrid idolic patriotism and nationalism.”[v]

Governments responded in a positive way by changing government leaders, ending decades of emergency rule, making changes to the constitution, and giving cash grants or lowering food costs. Or they use force, arresting demonstrators, blaming and roughing up foreign media (In Libya autocrat Khadafy blamed young rebels given psychedelic drugs in their drinks by Islamic extremists), cutting off access to Internet and mobile phones, or military force with water cannon and tear gas, rubber or real bullets that killed hundreds of young demonstrators (365 in Egypt), Bahrain (7), and thousands in Libya. They set tribes against each other and bribe tribal leaders, as in Yemen and Libya. The Arab League’s 22 members normally oppose foreign intervention, but they asked the UN Security Council to impose a non-fly zone over Libya. Khadafy responded, “If the world is crazy, we will be crazy too.”

In Yemen, where one-third of the population suffers from chronic hunger and 40% of the adults are illiterate, they said, “After Mubarak, it’s Ali’s turn” (President Ali Abdullah Saleh). A key organizer of the protests, Tawakkol Karman, was arrested, which led to further outrage and demonstrations until she was released. Saleh declared that women and men mingling in the demonstrations was a violation of Islam. A text message spread: “Saleh has brought shame upon his country’s women; meet tomorrow at 3.30 p.m. at Sanaa University for a women’s march of honor,” resulting in 10,000 women in black abayas marching through the capital on April 16. In Bahrain, Shia demonstrators chanted “peaceful,” and urged minority Sunni Muslims (the King is Sunni) to join them, “Not Sunni, Not Shiite, just Bahraini.” The monarch responded by bringing in Saudi troops to break up the demonstrations in Pearl Square. Protestors also rallied in Oman calling for political reform and jobs and in Iraq where the unemployment rate is 45%. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who postponed elections for years, quickly announced he would hold new ones and formed a new Cabinet. Youth activists used the Internet to call for a union of Gaza (controlled by Hamas) and the West Bank (controlled by the Palestinian Authority). Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad, promised change and lifted restriction on Internet usage, including lifting a ban on Facebook. However, demonstrators heated up when 15 teens were detained for spray-painting protest graffiti, chanting “No, no to emergency law [in place since 1963]. We are a people infatuated with freedom.”

In Iran, the Green Movement activists of 2009 were activated again by the overthrow of Mubarak, which the government also praised, and tens of thousands took to the streets again, as seen on YouTube.[vi] They chant the familiar “death to the dictator” (Ahmadinejad), marching and calling to Allah from the rooftops in the nighttime. They seem to be the only young protesters who don’t march in the name of nonviolence. They added a new chant about its time for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to follow Ben Ali and Mubarak in resigning. A young Iranian woman interviewed by CNN on the phone explained she is fighting for her rights and for a university friend who was killed by security forces.

In response to youth uprisings, the Iranian government arrested thousands, used tear gas, beat demonstrators, and began an execution binge.[vii] In parliament, members pumped their fists chanting for execution of opposition leaders Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the defeated presidential candidates in 2009, who were under house arrest and then reported jailed. Like Mubarak, the dictators blame foreign instigators. A difference between the military in Egypt, which is trusted by the demonstrators, and the security forces hated and feared in Iran, is the former are conscripts and the latter are volunteers sworn to loyalty to the rulers. The Basiji volunteer paramilitary on their motorcycles are feared and hated. These security forces use Facebook to spy on activists and sometimes cut off Internet access.

In Libya, Mummar el-Qaddafi blamed young people for the bloody uprising, saying they were led astray by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, and “hallucinogenic pills in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe.” On February 24 he said on TV, “No one above the age of 20 would actually take part in these events. They are taking advantage of the young age of these people [to commit violent acts] because they are not legally liable.”[viii] He urged parents to “come out of your houses and talk to your sons.” He responded with mercenaries and machine guns, killing thousands of people. A defector to the rebels, the commander of the military’s special operations forces, General Abdul Salam Mahoom al-Hassi, told Al Jazeera news, “I place all of my resolve and capabilities at the service of the youth revolution.”[ix] After vowing to go to door to crush rebels, the UN Security Council voted on March 18 to protect civilians and Gaddafi called a cease-fire.

Even in Saudi Arabia, a group of businessmen launched a new political party in February, called Islamic Umma, asking King Abdullah for a voice in governing, although the country has no elected Parliament and public descent is banned. They wrote to the King, “You know well what big political development and improvement of freedom and human rights is currently happening in the Islamic world,” echoing reform discussions on Saudi social media.”[x]  A group of academics and activists called for a constitutional monarchy, complaining about nepotism and corruption. Two-thirds of the Saudis are under 30, facing high unemployment rates and many years waiting list for public housing, which makes marriage difficult. Thousands signed petitions asking for reform and demonstrations took place, although the government outlawed them. Facebook and other sources called for a Day of Rage on March 11, but the government snuffed out the effort with a show of force in the capital, Riyadh.

Outside the Middle East, demonstrations spread to North Sudan protesting worsening economic conditions. Security forces sent phony Facebook and text messages telling where to assemble, then arresting those who showed up. In Azerbaijan a 20-year-old activist, a member of a youth political organization, called for his country’s own “Day of Rage.” Demonstrators in Albania demanded new elections and Armenians called for the government to resign. In Russia, demonstrators called for Prime Minister Putin to resign because of his government’s “rule of thieves.”

Small protests called “Jasmine Rallies” after the Tunisian revolution were planned in China, as on www.Boxun.com, calling for “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness.” An editorial in the Beijing Daily dismissed the Mideast protests as “a self-delusional ruckus,” but increased media censorship and excluding reporters from areas where gatherings might occur. A Chinese young man told me, “They briefly report the fact that there was protest and government change [in the Middle East] and not much details as 99% of the results focus on the economics aspect. Not much update after early February. There is one or two story about the current Egypt, but no analysis. Of course the news of demonstrations in China are blocked. I can’t open the pages of the search results. I used proxy to read something.” The Chinese government did acknowledge “social conflict” with the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Another Chinese observer commented online[xi],

As long as the government continues with its censorship of the Internet, it will be extremely difficult for a Jasmine Revolution to take root in China. Continued censorship has meant, sadly, that many ordinary Chinese have little interest in domestic or international affairs, and are only interested now in how to make money. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that so many foreign observers have argued that the biggest success for the Chinese government as a result of 30 years of economic reforms is that people are now simply chasing money, and have forgotten about chasing political ideals.

The Cambodian dictator Hun Sen threatened his people in a speech, “I would like to tell you that if you want to strike as in Tunisia, I will close the door and beat the dog this time.”[xii] In Zimbabwe, strongman Robert Mugabe arrested 45 people and tortured them for watching online reports of North African protests. They were charged with treason for inciting public revolt, although the people are too preoccupied with survival to be politically active.

Despite the impression of spontaneous protests, thousands of demonstrations, strikes, and protests about economic and political grievances prepared the way in the Arab world the decade before. Protests were led by labor groups, youth organizations and bloggers, leftist movements, political parties and less so by Islamic groups. Mosques were the only space to meet in countries that prevented public assemblies, but youth in 2011 didn’t organize in the name of Islam. Youth consider the older unions and leftist groups too slow and obsolete. In contrast, using the Internet, youth activists can organize quickly and get around government emergency laws about assembly, etc., as they said at meeting organized by the Carnegie Middle East Center. In turn they’re criticized by older activists for lacking commitment to organizing and sustained planning for the future. The Carnegie Center did a review of earlier protest movements,[xiii] pointing out that in Egypt, for example, more than 2,000 “episodes” took place from 1998 to 2009.

Waves of economic and political protest have swept Jordan for over 20 years. Youth organizations include the National Campaign for Student Rights and the Jordanian Democratic Youth Union. When they started demonstrating again in January and continued every Friday after prayers, King Abdullah’s government responded by reducing taxes for fuel and food and replacing an unpopular prime minister. The population is mainly (60%) Palestinian refugees, less supportive of the monarchy than the local tribes, so Jordan is considered especially vulnerable to change.

Morocco also had waves of protest, especially in the last decade. In Algeria, the military took over in 1992 to stop an Islamic victory at the polls, generating a decade of violence between Islamist groups and security forces. In February, demonstrators chanted “change the power” and demanded an end to the state of emergency rules as police tried to break up the crowds. The government promised to end emergency law. Police repressed attempts to march in the capital. Previous protests in Kuwait and Bahrain were about political and civil rights; in Kuwait protests led to full political rights for women in 2009.

How were demonstrators able to topple well-entrenched dictators in a few weeks? No one predicted that Tunisia would be the catalyst for democracy. Protests started in December 2010, in poor tribal regions in the west were the young man set himself on fire. Graffiti in the town square where Bouazizi lived says “No to youth unemployment. No to poverty.” Bloggers spread the news and demonstrations got larger after his death until the army forced Ben Ali to leave the country. The government hacked into Facebook accounts to change passwords to try to stop communication, but didn’t succeed over time.

Sixty percent of Egyptians are under 25 and use the slang “El-Face” because Facebook is so widely used (over 3,581,460 members by July, 2010). [xiv] Egypt has the most Internet users in Africa. President Mubarak acknowledged youth leadership for change and their dreams for a brighter future. In his last speech to the nation on February 10, Mubarak (like other dictators) blamed the foreign media and interfering nations for the unrest, but addressed and praised the “noble youth.” He said, “I speak to the youth of Egypt from the depth of my heart, I deeply cherish you as a symbol, a new Egyptian generation seeking a better future.” He said he spoke to them as a father to his children, not a shrewd approach. His own sons almost came to blow over that speech, with Alaa urging him to step down and Gamal (groomed to follow his father into the presidency) convincing him at the last moment to rewrite his speech to keep his title as President, but for one more night after 30 years in power.

The groundwork for the “youth revolution” was established by decades of struggle for worker rights and the movement against police brutality, both of which included leadership of youth and women. About 20% of the population is poor, living on $2 per day.[xv] A blogger about “Torture in Egypt,” Noha Atef (26) reports about work conditions.[xvi]

In Egypt, we work all day and night seven days a week. If we ever have a half-day off we spend it sleeping. You often have three jobs at the same time. You have your main job, then you go home and work from home. And then at night you go to your third job. Most Egyptians are doing this. They are doing all this and they still cannot meet their needs. My vision is to see people living in a humane way [and have a weekend] break.

In 2004 a protest movement called Keyafa, which means “enough,” referring to Mubarak running for another term as president, took place, also to protest of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Kefaya activists helped form the April 6 Youth Movement. It helped organize a general strike in 2008 led by “cyber activist” youth bloggers and workers’ groups.[xvii] Organizers like Ahmed Maher (see him on video[xviii]) called for economic and political reforms including higher wages and the end of government corruption and police torture, but could only sustain the strike for one day. Maher was captured and beaten by police. He posted photos of his torture scars online after his release. His captors wanted him to reveal the password to the Facebook page although no password is needed, so he made one up and they released him. The April 6 Youth Movement has over 78,000 online members. It has a flat leadership structure, as in universities across Egypt, so it was difficulty for the government to control them.

In 2008 the April 6 members studied the nonviolent strategies of Serbian and Ukrainian youth movements who were in turn influenced by Gene Sharp’s book From Dictatorship to Democracy, available online[xix]. One of them participated in an “Alliance of Youth Movements summit” in New York City. A Washington Times reporter maintains it’s “the USAID grants, from an $800 million budget for developing “political competition” and “civil society” in 67 nations, that have proved vital to activists in a half-dozen Arab lands, from Morocco to Yemen.”[xx] He adds, It’s estimated more than 10,000 Egyptians since 2005 have participated in USAID-financed democracy and governance programs, carried out by NDI, IRI and 28 other international and Egyptian organizations. . . .” The American democracy promotion campaign dates back to the 1980s, when Poland’s Solidarity movement was one beneficiary.

One of the leaders was Esraa Abdel Fattah, known as “Facebook Girl,” who started the call for a strike and as a punishment was jailed for two weeks while the April 6 group got the country talking about her. Another founder is Asmaa Mahfouz (26) who on January 18 called for protest after the Tunisian revolution on January 25 in a viral video posted on Facebook. (She has an MBA from Cairo University.) She appealed to men’s honor to come to Tahrir Square to protect her and other girls from harassment, to demand human rights and the end of government corruption.[xxi] She also disturbed thousands of leaflets in Cairo slums on January 24.

Police stifled April 6 Youth Movement demonstrations until youth were galvanized by a Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said.” (Also spelled Saieed) It publicized police publically beating Said (28) to death in Alexandria.[xxii] It became the largest online activist group. See the Frontline video about the young male and female leaders of the April 6 Movement during the revolution. The photograph of his broken skull and mangled face went viral on the Internet. His family was able to bribe a policeman to get the photo, one time when corruption worked for the revolutionaries. The Facebook page, created by Google employee Wael Ghonim (30), called for demonstrations against police brutality where activists wore black and carried Korans and bibles.

Encouraged by the January 14 revolution in Tunesia, the April 6 group set up an “operation room.” Two days before the protest, the group organized cells of 30-50 activists. They organized in poor neighborhoods chanting “They are eating pigeon and chicken and we are eating beans all the time. Oh my, 10 pounds can only buy us cucumbers now, what a shame what a shame,” mobilizing thousands of demonstrators. The page called for a national “Day of Rage: A March Against Torture, Corruption, Poverty and Unemployment” on January 25 (the national Police Day).

The buzz was enhanced by Asmaa Mahfouz’s viral video where she says, “Don’t be afraid of the government.” Ghonim told CNN, “The revolution has begun online. This revolution began in Facebook.” (Time magazine was perceptive in naming founder Mark Zuckerberg man of the year in 2010.) They survived the government shutting down the Internet and telephones from January 27 to February 2, an act that called more attention to dictatorial tactics. Also, engineers from Twitter and Google developed a “Speak-to-Tweet” service to send voice messages by Twitter. The young activists also used Facebook to lie to secret police about the location of demonstrations. True locations of meeting points were only discussed in person to trigger a phone network of protesters.

Ghonim gained more stature as a leader after his 12-day arrest when he was kept blindfolded by police, enhanced by his emotional sobbing on February 7 on a popular TV show when he was shown photographs of the murdered demonstrators. He said, “All I did was use a keyboard;” the real heroes were on the ground. During the protests, young activists formed a coalition called “The Revolution’s Youth.” The “Youth Revolution” was joined by earlier democracy organizations like Kefaya and El Ghadlm, the 6 April Youth movement, Justice and Freedom, Muslim Brotherhood youth, ElBaradei’s campaign, The Popular Democratic Movement for Change (HASHD), The Democratic Front and Khaled Saeed Facebook group administrators.[xxiii] The youth coalition includes political activists such as the administrators of “We are all Khalid Said” page on Facebook, Wael Ghonim and Amr Salama; April 6 Youth movement general coordinator Ahmed Maher; Asmaa Mahfouz; and media coordinator of the Public Independent Campaign for Supporting ElBaradei, Abdel-Rahman Samir.[xxiv] It also includes members of the Justice and Freedom group, the Muslim Brotherhood and Democratic Front Party members Shady Ghazali Harb and Amr Salah.

The most widely recognized group is the 25 January Youth Coalition, formally established on the first day of the uprising. The coalition has 14 group representatives in total and a general assembly with a few hundred members. Specific leaders are listed in the endnote.[xxv] “No single individual has the right to speak for the revolution, including us,” 6 April press coordinator Injie Hamdi said. “The 25 January Revolution belongs to all of Egypt’s young people.”[xxvi] The revolution was not fought in the name of Islam, but democracy. A Frontline video that followed young Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammed Abas shows him asking a demonstrator to not show his pocket Koran to the public. No Islamic banners appeared.

Youth formed neighborhood watch People’s Committees to protect their neighbors from looters (included some women). An Aljazeera video shows the male and female organizers in action in their Cairo office, planning publicity, organizing demonstration routes, recruiting in poor neighborhoods, supplying food and medical care.[xxvii] They insisted on non-violence other than stone throwing, giving flowers to soldiers. The video shows one of the organizers learning these strategies from a Serbian organizer who learned them from an American writer named Gene Sharp who wrote From Dictatorship to Democracy. [xxviii]  Sharp said, “If people are not afraid of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in big trouble.” A 21-year old female student said, “We’re not afraid of them. What are they going to do, arrest millions of us?” Interior Minister Habib al-Adly dismissed them as, “A bunch of incognizant, ineffective young people.”

Ghonim reported, “Our protests were peaceful and our motto was ‘Do not break.’”[xxix] Slogans and graffiti said, “We are peaceful.” Blogger Noha Atef, points out when “the protesters are chanting “peaceful, peaceful, we are peaceful”—and you use live ammunition against them, it means that you are weak. And after just two days of protesting, the police disappeared. We don’t see them on the street.” The revolution wasn’t without bloodshed, as 363 protesters were killed and many more wounded.

Women were afraid to come back to Tahrir Square in Cairo after “the police/thugs started targeting women in a particularly horrifying way, molesting, detaining, raping.”[xxx] The military also tried to keep women home to “protect” them. But they returned to the protests (see photos[xxxi]) trusting their comrades to keep them safe because of men’s recent good behavior and calls for “purity,’ despite a tradition of men harassing women on crowded Cairo streets. Sara Abu Bakr, a Cairo journalist, was surprised by the lack of sexual harassment, a frequent problem–especially in large crowds.[xxxii] “This was supposed to be sexual molestation day, and nothing happened,” Bakr said. A leaflet about civic awareness after the revolution called on Egyptians to  “ . . .  don’t harass girls on the street, know your rights, stay positive, respect other opinions.”[xxxiii]

Despite women’s involvement in organizing and demonstrating, Nehab Abou El Komthan, the chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, said that the “society is blind” to women’s participation.[xxxiv] No women were part of the transitional government or appointed to be the head of a province. However, Buthayna Kamel, a talk show host, campaigned to be elected president. For Amal, the Egyptian revolution has catapulted Egyptian women into the public sphere.

The mainstream media only seeks the images and voices of men, but I am an eye witness and I can tell you that women, especially young women are omnipresent in this revolution. They live in Midan al Tahrir. They are doing amazing arts activities. Their creative graffiti, pictures, workshops, et cetera…are mindblowing. What is most amazing is that these young women are literally living in Midan al Tahrir. This would have been unheard of before![xxxv]

Amal added, “We are seizing this opportunity to push boundaries–to dare to talk about taboo issues related to women.” The Egyptian Women for Change (EWC) is a political women’s network that developed in March 2010. According to one of the founding members, Azza Kamel, “the EWC consists of all types of women, even housewives.”

Demonstrators’ main goal was to get rid of Mubarak, the focus of signs and graffiti, many variations of “Game is Over” and “Get Out.” After the fall of Mubarak, demonstrations and strikes continued, including police seeking higher wages. A popular singer, by 23-year-old Ramy Essam, known for his song “Leave,” reported the army beat him with whips, sticks, rods, and applied electricity on March 9.[xxxvi] The military leaders promised a referendum on constitutional change, held on March 19. An Armed Forces Supreme Council established an 18-member committee of legal experts to work on a constitution, but more than 60 women’s and community groups condemned the panel, saying it is an all-male group that “excludes half of society.”[xxxvii]

Youth are empowered, convinced they can reform their country, that “it’s up to us to fix this country,” as an 18-year-old student told CNN. They were prepared to go back to the streets if necessary and did engage in conflicts with security forces in Tahir Square demonstrations. The April 6 movement refers to itself as the Egyptian Resistance Movement and continues to send out requests for actions from its Facebook page, critical of the High Military Council’s “lack of open discussion with the youth.” They want Mubarak put on trial for corruption. One suggestion was to lower voting age to 16. Just call them the Miracle Generation: “These young people have done more in a few weeks than their parents did in 30 years,” concludes a Cairo University professor, Hassan Nafaa.[xxxviii] “What happened in Egypt and Tunisia will happen elsewhere: Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen, all those countries with autocrats, hopefully they will have democracy,” predicted Ahmed Maher, age 30.[xxxix] However, conflict continued, as in March when the army took over Tahrir Square from demonstrators on March 9 and Muslims blew up a Christian church leading to violent clashes between the two religious groups. Helping the new Arab democracies stabilize and deal with the main issue of finding jobs for the people is the most important issue of our time, according to Professor Joel Brinkley.[xl] To keep current, check online as on Foreign Policy’s the Middle East Channel and Aljazeera English.


[i] Eboo Patel, “ Egypt, Tunisia and the Youth Revolt in the Middle East,” Huffington Post, January 28, 2011.

[iv] Bobby Ghosh, “Rage, Rap and Revolution: Inside the Arab Youth Quake,” Time Magazine, February 17, 2011.

[v] Joel Brinkley, “Uprisings Make Fools of Al Qaeda,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 2011, p. F9.

[vii] Omid Memarian, “Iran’s Execution Binge,” The Daily Beast, February 5, 2011

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-02-05/irans-execution-binge/

[ix] Nancy Youssef, “Defections Further Iisolate Qaddafi,” Truthout, February 26, 2011 http://www.truth-out.org/defections-further-isolate-qaddafi-obama-calls-ouster68086

[x] Ulf Laessing, “Pro-Reform Saudi Activists Launch Political Party,” Reuters, February 10, 2011.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/10/us-saudi-opposition-idUSTRE71942L20110210

[xi] Mu Chunshan, “How Jasmine Looks to Chinese,” The Diplomat Blogs, March 2, 2011.

http://the-diplomat.com/china-power/2011/03/02/how-jasmine-looks-to-chinese/

[xii] Joel Brinkley, As Revolts Rock the Mideast, Cambodia, Thailand at War,” San Francisco Chronicle San, February 27, 2011, p. F3.

[xiii] Marina Ottaway and Amr Hamzawy, “Protest Movements and Political Change in the Arab World, “ January 28, 2011. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The report mentions the above facts.

[xiv] Linda Herrera, “Egypt’s Revolution 2:0: The Facebook Factor,” Jadaliyya, February 12, 2011.

http://www.jadalliyya.com/pages/index/612/egypts-revolution-2

[xv] News Desk, “A Region in Upheaval,” Global Post, February 15, 2011.

[xvi] Noha Atef, “In Egypt the People are Taking Control, Pulse Wire, February 1, 2011.

http://www.worldpulse.com/magazine/articles/in-egypt-the-people-are-taking-control

[xvii] Official Group of the Movement

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9973986703

Official Page of the movement on Face book

http://www.facebook.com/shabab6april

Page Information Committee of the Movement

http://www.facebook.com/6aprilmediacommittee

[xix]Gene Sharp. From Dictatorship to Democracy. The Albert Einstein Institution. Fourth edition, 2010. http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations98ce.html

[xx] Charles Hanley, “US Training Quietly Nurtured Young Arab Democrats,” The Washington Post, March 13, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/12/AR2011031202234.html

[xxii] www.facebook.com/pages/Khaled-Said/100792786638349

/www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=146499585362420&id=133634216675571&ref=mf

[xxiv] Saffaa Abdoun, “Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution to meet armed Forces Council Wednesday,” Daily News Egypt, February 16, 2011 http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/egypt/coalition-of-the-youth-of-the-revolution-to-meet-armed-forces-council-wednesday.html

[xxv] The group representatives include Ahmed Maher and Mahmoud Samy from the 6 April Youth movement, ElBaradei supporters Ziad Alimy and Abdel Rahman Samir, Islam Lotfy and Mohamed Abbas from the Muslim Brotherhood, Shady Ghazali Harb and Amr Salah from the Democratic Front Party and from the Youth for Justice and Freedom, Khaled Sayed and Mostafa Shaki.

Additionally, Wael Ghoneim, one of the founders of the Facebook group “Kolona Khaled Said” (We are all Khaled Said), as well as independent activists Naser Abdel Hamid, Abdel Rahman Faris and Sally Moore are also members.

Salma Shukrallah, Ahramonline, February 9, 2011

[xxviii] Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook used in a Revolution,” New York Times, February 16, 2011.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17sharp.html?_r=1&src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB

[xxx] Paul Amar, “Why Egypt’s Progressives Win,” Jadaliyya, February 8, 2011.

http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/586/why-egypt-progres…

[xxxii] Mike Giglio, “Egypt Revolution: The Purity Protests,” January 28, 2011 Newsweek Education Site

http://www.newsweek.com/2011/01/28/egypt-revolution-the-purity-protests.html

[xxxiii] Bobby Ghosh, “Rage, Rap and Revolution: Inside the Arab Youth Quake,” Time Magazine, February 17, 2011.

[xxxvi] Steve Inskeep, “Ramy Essam: The Singer of the Egyptian Revolution,” NPR, March 15, 2011.www.npr.org/2011/03/15/134538629/ramy-esam-the-singer-of-the-egyptian-revolution. Includes a video and photo.

[xxxvii]Sarah El Deeb, “Advocate Faults Egypt’s Military,” Associated Press, February 17, 2011

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11048/1126031-82.stm

[xxxviii] Bobby Ghosh, “Rage, Rap and Revolution: Inside the Arab Youth Quake,” Time Magazine, February 17, 2011.

[xxxix] Melissa Block, “Founder of Egypt’s April 6 Movement Weights In,” February 14, 2011.

http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133756340?Founder-Of-Egypts….

[xl] Joel Brinkley, “A Lesson from America,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 2011, p. F9. He points out that Latin American democracies crumbled over their failure to improve the quality of life for the people, leading to the authoritarianism of leaders like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

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