RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--It's no coincidence that so many of the people you see demanding change on the streets and squares of Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Yemen and other countries in the Arab world are young.
"Freedom of speech and religion … are the kind of rights every human deserves and that we don’t have in Egypt."
-- Young Egyptian-American
They're the expanding majority, for one thing. Two of every three people in the Middle East are under 24. Half of greater Cairo's 18 million people are under 30.
And they've had it.
"Kefaya!" (enough) is the Egyptian Arabic word heard loud and clear in many of the protests. It's also the unofficial name of a grass-roots political reform movement in Egypt, but it has taken on a far wider and deeper meaning in recent days. It has become a cry of anger, of despair -- and of determination. Young people in the region have had enough of being ignored. Enough of being abused. Enough of being silenced. Enough of being forgotten. Enough of being left behind as the rest of the world rushes ahead.
"The regimes and the leaders are the ones under fire, but it's really about despair over the future," said Sami Alfaraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, in an interview with the Associated Press.
Egyptian opposition leader and Nobel Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei admitted as much. "It's all [led by those age] 30 and below ... who want a future and a hope," he told a reporter as the protests gained momentum.
Food shortages -- and food prices -- in many Arab countries are increasing. Jobs are decreasing. Opportunities for young adults with good educations to get ahead often depend on family "connections" and bribes. Political, social and religious freedoms vary from country to country, but they generally fall far below the liberties Arab young people see their counterparts enjoying in other parts of the world.
David, 23, an Egyptian-American follower of Christ, will never forget the first time his parents took him to visit relatives in Egypt. He was talking loudly on the street when his parents nervously told him to be quiet.
"I can say what I want!" he protested.
"No you can't," they sternly warned him. "This is Egypt!"
In that moment, David understood why his grandfather, an Egyptian Christian pastor, had left his beloved homeland many years before.... Read More