MENARY Monitor – Edition 113
May 28, 2023
Politics and Political Engagement
The Atlantic Council highlighted that Syria’s youth who have paid the highest price in the Syrian conflict are left behind, amid ongoing normalization negotiations. Since 2011, over 30,000 children have been killed in attacks by the Syrian regime, and 47% of the 5.5 million refugees residing in neighboring countries are under the age of 25, third of whom do not have access to education. The report further calls for vigilance over Assad’s “Arab unity” remarks during the Arab Summit held recently, as such unity could very much take the shape of tighter power grabs, with Syrian youth – and youth of the region for that matter – are likely to be subsumed to that.
Al-Monitor interviewed the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mohammad Halbousi. The interview report highlights that because Halbousi is younger than many of Iraq’s power brokers, he exhibits what can be called “a post-sectarian frustration with the status quo”, a sentiment shared among Iraq’s youth, across ethnic and sectarian lines. Halbousi highlighted during the interview that “Iraq has suffered from these disputes between neighbors. The youth of our society have lived their lives in the shadow of regional conflicts, and their negative consequences have taken a heavy toll on them, and on all Iraqis.”
Kamal Kaljdaroglu, Erdogan’s rival in Turkey’s presidential election, appealed to young voters to support him in the runoff as he looks to the president’s reign from entering its third decade. Kaljdaroglu received 45% of the votes, compared to 49.5% for Erdogan, just short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. The vote is seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s rule. Reports highlight that Turkish assets fell, especially government bonds, corporate bonds and bank stocks, as investors expect Erdogan to win and continue his unconventional economic policies. Kaljdaroglu sought to highlight the positive aspect of the first round in a series of tweets addressed to Turkish youth, stating “There is a message of change that has emerged from the polls. Those who want change in this country are now more than those who don’t“, referring to Erdogan’s inability to get 50 percent. Kaljdaroglu tilts young voters with reference to the cost-of-living crisis, which has worsened in Turkey as a result of Erdogan’s insistence on cutting interest rates, causing a sharp depreciation of the Turkish Lira and rising inflation. “You don’t have enough money for anything. You were robbed of the joy of life. We have 12 days to get out of this dark tunnel”. A Konda Research Foundation poll last year showed that about three-quarters of voters casting their ballots for the first time believe Erdogan’s victory would be bad for Turkey.
The Politics and Society Institute and Tomai Foundation for Youth Development unveiled a new book titled “Youth Policies in Arab Countries… What changed after the Arab Spring?“, written by Dr. Mohamed Abu Rumman and Kamel Nabelsi. The book emphasizes youth’s transformations and state responses in countries that witnesses mass uprisings during the two waves of the Arab Spring. Dr. Fares Braizat situated youth challenges within the context of state-society relations in general. He added that all the problems expressed as motives for the Arab Spring were unable to be transformed into political platforms that could be adopted from systematic and organized political movements with crystallized economic interests.
The Coordinator of the All Jordan Youth Committee in Irbid, Samer Marashda, said that Jordan has undergone serious political and party reforms, including positive laws governing political action, contributing to persuading young people to engage in political parties, especially that a legislation had reduced the age of candidacy to 25, and the national list mandating that the fifth seat should be reserved for young people under 35 years of age. These actions have contributed significantly to encouraging young people to engage in political action. In Irbid, a large number of young people are now active members of new political parties, including some who have assumed chairmanships of important committees.
A group of young Kuwaitis organized a panel discussion among the members of the fifth constituency of Diwan Al-Jumaa, with the aim of consolidating efforts against voting based on tribal affiliations, ahead of the Kuwait Parliamentary elections, scheduled for June 6. The panel was moderated by the political activists, who emphasized the importance of consolidating youth efforts towards the selection of the most suitable national candidates, in order to achieve comprehensive political reform, notably the modification of the electoral system, the establishment of a high electoral commission, and the repeal of laws restricting freedoms.
A Kuwaiti activist, previously convicted over tweets critical of Saudi Arabia, has been handed a further prison sentence over his tweets by Kuwait’s Criminal Court. The 24-year-old was handed extra five years with hard labor for using his Twitter account to spread “false and malicious rumors” about Kuwait, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). He fled to the UK last year from Qatar – where he was studying – after he was warned of his imminent arrest back home and feared that Doha might hand him over to Kuwaiti authorities. Days later, he was sentenced in absentia to five years in jail with hard labour for insulting Saudi Arabia and spreading false news purportedly over tweets about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A survey conducted by the Institute for Social and Media Studies on the confidence of Moroccan youth showed mixed assessments among youth about the Moroccan state’s seriousness in the fight against corruption. The results show that 45.5% of youth indicated that the state is working to combat corruption, but inadequately, reflecting their perception of efforts being made but not enough to fully address this problem. On the other hand, 50.5% of young people believe that the state is not working hard in the fight against corruption, which means that they feel there are insufficient efforts or problems accumulating in this aspect.
The Lebanese Minister of Information of the Caretaker Government, Ziad al-Makari, considered that “youth migration is the biggest problem in the country. Unfortunately, our official institutions no longer have a youth component due to the prohibition of employment following a Council of Ministers decision. The public sector is ageing and can no longer sacrifice because it is tired.”
Economics and Entrepreneurship
Tunisia’s National Statistical Institute (INE) announced that unemployment rose to over 16% in the first quarter of 2023, compared with 15.2% in the same period last year. The Institute’s data revealed that the number of unemployed in the first quarter of this year was estimated at more than 650 thousand, compared with some 624 thousand last year, an increase of about 31 thousand. The Institute’s report added that unemployment among holders of higher degrees currently stands at 23%, including 15% among males and more than 29% among females. These figures coincide with a decline in growth to 2.1% during the first three months of this year, compared with 2.4% in the same period in 2022, and 4.3% in the same period in 2021.
Iraq announced a multi-billion dollar road and rail project stretching from its southern shores to the northern border with Turkey. The planned route will begin at al-Faw port and pass through 10 provinces on its way to the Fishkhabur border crossing with Turkey. The route will connect Iraq to the European Union through Turkey and there is no plan to build railroad connections to other neighboring countries for at least 10 years. The project is expected to be an economic boost to the provinces it passes through and will create over 100,000 jobs for Iraqi youth.
The unveiling of the first Moroccan-made car is an important step to strengthen the label of “Made in Morocco” and supports Morocco as an important player in the production of cars globally. The project’s total investment is expected to be MAD 156 million, with the potential to create 580 jobs for young people.
Orange Jordan’s CEO said that the Jordanian information and communication technology (ICT) sector is a key factor in achieving social and economic development and attracting more investments. The CEO also said that Orange is working to empower people and startups, especially women, people with disabilities, and youth, adding that a strategy was designed to address the challenges of unemployment and the digital divide, focusing on empowerment and promoting innovation through digital education, training and entrepreneurship support. Orange runs the Coding Academy, which has provided Jordanian youth with training for employment opportunities, as about 80% of its graduates are employed.
An EU delegation visited the Sandbox Business Incubator in Aden, Yemen, to learn about its efforts in supporting young entrepreneurs in the city and develop their current and future ventures. The delegation learned about the incubator’s mechanisms, and they participated in a roundtable discussion with five young people from Aden, mostly entrepreneurs and beneficiaries of the 12-month “Start” project funded by the Crisis and Support Centre of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by French non-profit organization Super Novet with its partner in Aden, Mithalla Institution. Sandbox recently launched its first three-month youth and youth entrepreneurship camp in Aden, which aims to support the professional integration of Yemeni youth in Aden by providing training and supporting entrepreneurship.
Deloitte’s AI Institute was officially launched at the Experience Analytics conference in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh. The institute is set to create business solutions that use generative AI and machine learning, similar to the technology used in the ChatGPT language tool. It will focus on unique propositions for the Saudi and wider Middle East markets. The AI Institute will also nurture talent and create opportunities for Saudi youth interested in pursuing careers in the field of artificial intelligence. Deloitte plans to collaborate with major universities in Saudi to provide a platform for students to gain skills in the industry.
Injaz Qatar held its awards ceremony to mark the conclusion of Mubadara 2023, the Annual Young Enterprise of the Year Competition. Twelve university teams and six high school teams participated in the six-month-long Mubadara program, which offers students the opportunity to conceptualize, establish, and run their own startups with the guidance of professionals from leading businesses across Qatar. The team “Khatwa” won the Best Company Award among universities, which received QR 35,000 as seed funding from Boeing, the strategic partner of Injaz Qatar since 2009, in addition to the ongoing support and incubation award presented by the Qatar Business Incubation Center.
Injaz Kuwait Association launched an important program that efficiently links entrepreneurship with school curricula, with the aim of enabling and encouraging young people to achieve their aspirations for a better economy. The Executive Director of the Association said that “it organized its program, which includes its annual competition with the participation, for aspiring youth groups who presented their ideas and future projects to a committee, representing senior managers of private companies in Kuwait, leveraging their vast expertise.” The director added that “the program is one of Injaz’s training efforts for youth to equip them to run their own projects and companies.” It is worth noting that the project also builds youth’s capacities in terms of market analysis, problem solving skills, and critical thinking.
African Development Bank organized a panel discussion titled “The role of fintech in promoting sustainability and green finance.” Rasha Najem, assistant governor of the Central Bank for Fintech and Innovation, said that there are currently about 177 projects in this sector, compared to only 3 in 2012, 60% of which is run by young people aged 16-25.
Middle East Monitor reported that the Israeli occupation forces detained a 24-year-old female Palestinian, after she was summoned for an interview. Her detention increased the number of female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons to 34. According to Palestine Prisoners Study Centre, female Palestinian prisoners receive harsh treatment in Israeli prisons. Since 1967, the Israeli occupation has detained more than 17,000 female Palestinians. The Director of Palestine Prisoners Study Center, former prisoner Riyad Al-Ashqar, confirmed that 8 female prisoners were sentenced to more than 10 years, including a 16-year-old. Several others face severe medical conditions, including one who was detained and put in prison immediately after being wounded by live bullets.
Three young Palestinians were wounded by the Israeli occupation forces that had stormed the city and camp in Jenin. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that three Palestinians had been shot, one of them in the abdomen, and had been admitted to operations at Jenin Public Hospital. The occupying forces had broken into the city’s target area and surrounded a house before arresting a young Palestinian.
The Israeli occupation forces launched a large-scale arrests campaign in the town of Sandala, breaking into dozens of houses, tampering with their contents, and subjecting their residents to field investigations. The occupation forces stormed the town, raided and searched a number of houses, and arrested several residents for investigation by the security services. Preliminary information showed that the vast majority of the detainees were young friends of martyr Diyar al-Omari. According to available information, the Israeli police arrested 10 youths from the town, where these arrests were made against the backdrop of mobility and protests in the town following the killing of 20-year-old Diyar al-Omari. The Israeli Occupation forces stormed the Balata camp in Nablus and arrested two young men in armed clashes. They also stormed the town of Qabatiyeh, south of Jenin, and arrested a young man, according to local sources. The occupation army had mobilized large forces around the Balata camp before its incursion, which prevented worshippers from exiting Abad Rahman Mosque after dawn prayers. The occupying forces fired gas bombs at citizens’ homes as they stormed the camp.
Sudanese youth have reopened a medical centre in the state of Southern Darfur with self-help and voluntary efforts, trying through this initiative to cover the needs of patients in all neighboring areas. One of the initiative’s youth said, “We receive 200-300 patients every day.” A large number of hospitals have closed, and some health centers are opening with vigilante initiatives due to the growing need for medical services. The young Sudanese reported that the medical staff at the center are volunteers, and that they are also trying to provide the medicine free of charge despite the scarcity of medicines. The Sudan Doctors’ Union said 62 hospitals out of a total of 86 were closed, while the World Health Organization reported that more than 60% of health facilities in Khartoum were closed and only 16% were operating at their normal capacity.
Virtual and augmented reality have become quite popular, especially with rapid technological development. Palestinian youth Hamza Siraj launched his project “Memories from Palestine” that enables individuals to virtually roam and wander around Palestine, including the West Bank and the occupied territories. Through this technology, Hamza hopes that Palestinians abroad, who are unable to visit, will be able to see their country, its villages, and archaeological areas, and get in touch with their identity.
The Basma Youth Foundation in Dara’a – Syria, announced the launch of the primary legal response program, in cooperation with the Syrian Secretariat for Development and in partnership with UNHCR. The Director of the foundation’s Office in Dara’a stated that the program features legal awareness-raising sessions on family, women, and children’s rights along with the provision of legal consultations and legal support in issuing personal and family identification documents for the first time free of charge.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, announced the launch of the “Updated Document for Population Policies” in Iraq, while stressing the importance of adopting serious development policies, based on economic, educational, and rehabilitation plans, to fulfill the potential of young people, to ensure that the demographic endowment does not become a curse, as experts and specialists warn. Al-Sudani explained that “the updated national document has paid great attention to the empowerment of young people,” stressing that “Iraqi society is still young and enjoys a demographic gift, which provides a real opportunity for a significant improvement in the joints of sustainable development.” It is worth noting that the document features 11 thematic areas, including education, health, empowerment, care for vulnerable groups, migration, and community cohesion, among others.
The Mafraq Young Women’s Center (Jordan) organized a symposium on protecting youth from the scourge of drugs, as part of the Mafraq Youth Directorate’s efforts to hold awareness seminars on the dangers of drugs and its negative effects on society. The symposium focused on counter-narcotics approaches, introduced the treatment resources and centers, and held an awareness roadshow.
The Egyptian Ministry of Planning and Economic Development and the National Institute for Governance and Development organized a training workshop for youth, training them on developing policy papers. The workshop targeted young Egyptians participating in student competitions at the Youth for Development Initiative at the Policy Paper Hub. It featured extensive discussions on public policies and how to draft policy papers and write their summaries. This workshop is part of a series organized by the Youth for Development Initiative for students participating in research competitions.
The African Union’s Youth Envoy, Chido Cleopatra Mbemba, welcomed the revitalization of Libya’s participation in African Union youth-related programs. During her meeting with the Libyan Youth Minister, the two parties reaffirmed their support for reviewing some provisions of the African Youth Charter, developing African youth institutions and coordinating their work under the umbrella of the AU Commission. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Minister extended an invitation to the Youth Envoy to visit Libya at the International Youth Day celebrations for Libyan youth and to learn about the development achievements of the Ministry’s youth sector under the Government of National Unity over the past two years.
UNICEF has been supporting Jordanian youth as well as young refugees in Jordan with informal education through its Makani Centers. The centers and their curriculum can be adapted to different age groups, physical settings, available resources and the demographics of those attending. Though the resources and staff available in Makanis vary, they share a common thread: Children in each are actively engaged in their learning. The children have somewhere safe to go when not in school — children are only able to attend school for half days in Jordan, due to double-shift school scheduling. Makan Centers have caring teachers and facilitators trained to identify children who might be facing particular challenges and help connect them with additional services. This reality motivates each of them to gain both technical skills — digital literacy, entrepreneurship and vocational skills — and life skills to help them thrive in any future workplace or classroom. UNICEF works with the Government of Jordan to weave together technical and transferrable skills development programs, leveraging available resources including cutting-edge maker spaces to promote young people’s active engagement and creative thinking.
Engineering, psychology, and nursing are the three most appealing university majors for Kuwaiti youth, according to data collected by Potomac University on the university disciplines most searched for. Psychology was found to be particularly popular in the Gulf States, especially in the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait. The data that covers 181 disciplines or degrees showed that nursing is the most common choice worldwide, followed by business administration and law.
The Aden Youth Center (AYC) organized a workshop titled “Green Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals“, attended by government officials, academics, civil society organizations, and activists. The workshop discussed a number of aspects, including the impact of climate change in the context of conflicts and specifically in Aden, the repercussions of political attractions on different underdeveloped sectors, the space for youth when it comes to climate action, policies to reduce the negative impacts and repercussions of climate change, and the role of CSOs in raising awareness of the risks of climate change. The participants recommended the need for a national strategic plan to address climate change for the most affected sectors, namely water, agriculture, and energy. They also highlighted the importance of assessing the impact of climate change across all relevant sectors, stressing the need to prepare national projects that mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases and respond to climate change. They noted the need for a proactive contingency plan to avert climate change crises and to develop durable solutions before natural disasters occur.
NEOM held the second Tabuk Forum under the title of “The future of Human and place”, during which NEOM and its sectors illustrated the different programs that this mega project looks to achieve. During the Forum, NEOM highlighted that it will establish a preserve in Al-Asilah area in an effort to preserve and celebrate the area’s sea, wild, and coastal environment, particularly that the area is home to the Arabian oryx, the Arabian sand gazelle (known as reem), the mountain gazelle, the ibex, and the ostrich. This initiative comes under NEOM’s social responsibility efforts, as it is expected to create a positive developmental, social, economic impact on the families and their regions through supporting talented youth and entrepreneurs.
A national hygiene campaign was launched in Amman – Jordan, under the slogan “With our Hands We protect our Environment“. Organized by the Capital Youth Directorate, members of various youth centers in Amman engaged in this campaign that aimed to strengthen youth’s role in preserving the environment and promoting environmental culture along with positive practices towards the environment, such as reduce random waste and raising awareness of the importance of voluntary work and the values of community cooperation.