Across North Africa and the Middle East, voices of discontent are crying out. One way these voices unite have united it through music. El General, a Tunisian rapper seen in the YouTube video above, is a noted voice of the younger generation, bravely airing the grievances of the people.
Abdulla Darrat, a Libyan exile, tells NPR’s On the Media, that these young musicians “are using their skills, their talents to not only make others aware, but give people a set of ideas.” He continues:
What the world really needs to understand about the struggle in these regions is there is a youth that has hope. They have optimism about the future, but they see a lot of obstacles in their way, obstacles that are internal, in that the people that they see who are kind of ruining that potential of the youth are ruining it through corruption, first and foremost, and – and they see outside forces who continue to intervene.
The youth are not only the future of Iraq … they are the present. This photo, “Swimming in the Tigris On a Hot Day” by Gerri Haynes, is but one of a series of photos EPIC will be featuring in the days ahead. Stay tuned and help EPIC to create a positive, nurturing environment where Iraqi youth can thrive today … to become the leaders of tomorrow.
“Thanks for your Service!” Many of us who’ve served in combat have heard these heartfelt words from well-meaning Americans. Many veterans humbly acknowledge the kind gesture with gratitude and humility., But although I’d served honorably, when I returned home I had one prevailing emotion: Guilt. I had all ten fingers, all ten toes, and a beautiful family. Yet, I was confused, quick to anger, and often withdrawn. My first year home was the hardest year of my life.
Over the last two years, I’ve accepted that PTSD has become part of who I am. I know that despite the combat and violence I witnessed, counseling and the never-yielding support of my family have given me a chance to truly heal. Now, I feel compelled to do more, especially for the youth of Iraq who have suffered through a generation of violence and war.
With EPIC, I have that opportunity. EPIC empowers Iraqis to shape their own future. One group that will play a vital role in Iraq’s future: the youth. How can you empower the children of a nation to be its future leaders? You can start by giving them a chance to be children.
That’s why EPIC is working to establish a first-of-its-kind youth summer camp in Iraq. Our vision is to work with other experts and organizations that know best, both here and in Iraq, and by the summer of 2012 turn our vision into reality. I’ve seen Iraqi children smile with no reason to smile, seen them cope with situations no child should face, and seen them remain optimistic in the face of so much adversity.
In the north of the country, in Erbil, I met children who reminded me of my own. They hoped that one day they would have a chance to live a life free of violence and corruption. We can do this by helping create a place where Iraqi youth can share, grow, and heal.
Recently, my eldest son had the opportunity to attend a camp this summer with children of other veterans who have served in harm’s way. It was an incredible experience for him to build friendships with other children and was an opportunity he will never forget.
Through EPIC’s efforts, I hope we can create a similar space that young Iraqis can call their own. So, I say if you want to thank me for my service, for my sacrifice, in place of a handshake and kind pat on the back, please work with me and EPIC. Invest in the youth of Iraq and empower them to reclaim the future of their nation.
President of EPIC’s Board of Directors
The protesters set two government buildings on fire, as well as the governor’s house, according to Mahmoud Talal, chairman of the Kut provincial council. Mr. Talal said 55 people were wounded in the clashes, including 12 policemen and nine firefighters. He said some protesters had guns and firing at the security officials, who he said were shooting in the air.
…security forces opened fire on protesters throwing rocks and chanting anti-government slogans in front of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, office on February 17, killing a teenage boy and injuring nearly 60 other people. Three remained in critical condition on February 18, according to a Sulaimaniyah hospital source.
Iraqis’ frustration has boiled over. They’ve dealt with corruption, shortages of food rations, and a lack of reliable electricity but also a government hasn’t adequately addressed these issues. Combine this frustration with high unemployment, especially among the youth, and you’ve got a generation of young people who see fewer and fewer opportunities to be a part of their country’s future. It’s a cycle of frustration that must end.
In recent weeks, leaders in Tunisia and Egypt have been toppled by mass protests, those countries’ citizens unwilling to continue living under the yoke of oppression. Among the many stories to come out of both, one that stands out is that of the power of youth.
Decades of authoritarian dictatorships and disproportionately young populations have created a generation of disaffected youth. They can’t find jobs, they’re outraged at the state of their government, and they take to Facebook and Twitter to organize their revolutions. While my friends and I were sharing hilarious cat videos, the youth in Egypt and Tunisia were sharing their visions of a new beginning.
While the details differ from one nation to the next, the common element is failure—not just of young people to find a place in society, but of society itself to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation.
Iraq is not immune from the too common failure to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation. The youth are already acting. It’s time for their government and the rest of the world to respond.