The predictable tragedy of Tunisian youth
It is a simple four-letter word that is the key to understanding the tragedy of youth in Tunisia. In the beginning of 2011, the Tunisian people led a revolution that would change the face of the Arab world. The reasons behind the uprising were clear: high unemployment, corruption and inequality.
They fought for hope. Four years later, hope is nowhere to be found.
It is important to look at the past few years to understand the present. One must understand that the blame is both national and global.
On a national level, the numerous inexperienced political parties created in 2011 failed to boost the economy and provide jobs for the unemployed. The only noticeable achievement, since 2011, is freedom of speech. Nothing else.
There are two pillars needed for every emerging country to succeed: a strong state of law and political stability. Tunisia had none of those during its democratic transition. Political parties with their own agenda have weakened state institutions. This has led to corruption and injustice. The killing of two opposition politicians in 2013 was a result of turmoil between the parties.
On a global level, chaos has spread in the Middle East and led to a new breed of jihadists, far more sophisticated than anything we have seen so far. The rapid expansion of the Islamic State (ISIS) is proof that terror has reached a new level.
Islamic extremists are no longer hiding in caves planning sporadic attacks on the West. They now have an ideal: a fascist Islamic caliphate spread across the Arab world. Like any corporation would, they invested in what they believe is the catalyst to achieve their dreams: human resources. Unfortunately, Tunisia has been their best market with more than 3,000 nationals fighting among foreign jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
In Tunisia, successive governments (secular and Islamist) have failed to provide the hope young generations dream of. For many of them, the situation is worse than it was before the revolution.
For young people with no perspective, ISIS and other terror organisations have become a plausible alternative: offering a good salary and a promise of a good life all under God’s blessing. Hope that their own country does not offer them. A false promise that would lead them, with little doubt, to certain death.
What is truly worrying is that terror groups know exactly where and how to reach our youth. Extremist organisations use social media to promote their way of life and their ideas.
For example, ISIS has created dedicated teams to reach out to unemployed and bitter young people on social networks such as Facebook. In addition, they possess propaganda cells within Tunisia that use mosques as job centres. Hundreds of mosques are outside state control.
The equation is simple but seems so hard for our leaders to understand: If a state or a political system cannot provide hope to its youth through employment, stability and economic growth, they will find it in another system, another ideal, which happens to be the one provided by the zealots. They are offering a false promise of a future, one that has crystallised over the past few years with the fall of strong secular regimes in Libya, Tunisia and Syria.
That is the most important difference between the past and now.
Therefore it is crucial that the broken system gets fixed quickly through investing in Tunisia’s most valuable asset: its youth. Otherwise this tragedy will bring a harsh stop to the only successful democracy in the Arab world. Then hope will be lost forever.