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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Middle East unrest calls on youth for action

Hosni Mubarak is out, so Egypt should be on its way to a new model democracy, right? Well, unfortunately nothing is quite that simple, and Egypt is now facing a major fork in the road.

On one side, a tenuous situation simmers as the temporary military leaders try to sort things out before open elections in six months (or nine or 12 or 15 …).  On the other, the Muslim Brotherhood is lying low, not trying to attract too much attention, but is ready to pounce with Sharia law.

So here is the conundrum: One of Mubarak’s arguments for staying in office a while longer was that his firm rule was the only thing keeping out the extremists, but in a free society, you can’t really keep banning political groups that might possibly, sometime in the future, espouse radicalism.  

Oh, and let’s not forget about the rest of the Middle East, where popular resistance movements are springing up everywhere, each its own interpretation of the events that transpired in Egypt. This sets up a major hurdle for democratic progress in the region because, when dictators fall, others like to move right in. Does Iran ring a bell?

Yes, like just about any issue in the Middle East, it all goes back to Iran somehow. Iran kicked out its repressive monarch back in the late 1970s, but the vacuum was quickly filled with, you guessed it, religious fundamentalism. And in Iran (where the ruling Mullahs make Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship look rather benign), protests have started to ignite again. Unfortunately, Iran’s time for change seemed to be back in 2009 during a string of summer revolts, and apparently our country’s government did not want to upset Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with any support for the demonstrators. Yeah, anyone see a missed opportunity there? This makes a successful movement in Iran much more difficult at this point. But to be sure, the regime in Iran will fall. Not tomorrow, and maybe not even in coming years, but its level of repression cannot be sustained. Calls by hardliners on Tuesday to execute opposition leaders perfectly illustrate such a point. Where the Egyptian military has used relative restraint with regard to protesters, Iranian secret police don’t miss a beat when cracking down on demonstrators.

If you haven’t been following the recent events in the Middle East due to lack of information or interest, the demonstrators and their goals should be enough to capture your attention, because the protesters are you.  

They are the youth, and they want a piece of the democracy that we enjoy.

Youth participation effectively fueled the recent events in Egypt, and with a median age of roughly 26 years old for the Iranian population, you better believe that young adults lead the protests there as well. When dictators stay in power for decades, the divide between them and the youngest segments of society become extremely pronounced, and when those youngsters also happen to be educated, unemployed and frustrated with their leaders, they will take to the streets.  

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the role of social media in all of this. No, not a blog posting on the most recent development in the train wreck that is Lindsay Lohan, or a tweet expressing an individual’s catching of Bieber fever. What I am talking about is the mass circulation of information that both unites a movement and helps the outside world gain if but a glimpse into the backwards world that is a totalitarian state. By time you read this, so much could have already changed in the Middle East. But one thing is certain: The youth are galvanized and ready to lead their countries into the future. I stand with them. The question is, do you?

— Tanner Weigel is a sophomore majoring in history and Spanish. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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