Subscribe
The Monitor's View

Echoes of Arab Spring in peace steps

Hopes for freedom

A possible driver for cease-fires in Syria, Libya, and Yemen may be a high desire for freedom and equality among Arab youth. A new survey reveals their aspirations, five years since the Arab Spring.

  • close
    Tunisian girls attend a rally to mark the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring, Jan.14, 2016 in Tunis.
    AP Photo
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Five years after the Arab Spring, a 16-country survey has detected an undercurrent of hope among young Arabs in the Middle East. While the democratic uprisings of 2011 largely failed, and thousands have joined Islamic State (IS) or other militias, millions of young people still hold aspirations for freedom, opportunity, and equality.

Are those hopes now helping drive recent steps toward peace in Yemen, Libya, and Syria?

An overwhelming and rising majority of young Arabs ages 18 to 24 reject IS and its notion of a “caliphate,” according to the poll, conducted by US-based firm Penn Schoen Berland. But that is not the most interesting part. A majority say that those who join IS are impelled not by an extremist version of Islam but by a desire to escape joblessness and poor economies. (The Arab world has the globe’s highest unemployment rates.)

This insight should help reverse a common stereotype about the Middle East as wallowing in religious strife. Or as commentator Rami Khouri of Lebanon’s Daily Star puts it: “The easy and simplistic analysis one encounters across the world, especially in the United States, is that Arab lands are hopelessly caught in their own self-made sectarian wars waged by ethnic, national and religious communities that are unable to live together peacefully.”

The survey finds more than half of young Arabs say religion plays too big a role in public affairs. And despite their pessimism about prospects for democracy, two-thirds still want governments to improve personal freedoms and human rights.

Radical leaders cannot long ignore these youthful voices, which may explain the tentative successes of cease-fires in the region’s worst conflicts. But it also emphasizes a need to undercut extremist groups like IS by tackling the economic, social, and political problems in Arab societies. The promise of the Arab Spring has not gone away, the survey’s authors say. It is being expressed in new and necessary ways.

 

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK