The debate at this year’s Al Jazeera’s Forum has been focused on recent political developments across the region – trying to place revolutions and popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and other countries in context, but also trying to understand whether or not these uprisings are leading to the formation of a fundamentally different political system.
Then again, having said that, several participants at the forum have made note of the marked disparity between the number of older academics and analysts and younger activists, who are, really, the centre of the conversation. While it may be true that at conferences and fora such as this, it is easier to simply invite those who already reside within the institutionalised structures of knowledge, it is not as if the young people who took part in these uprisings are wholly anonymous – their presence on the internet is ubiquitous.
Nevertheless, there are many young activists here – from bloggers to lawyers, from social media users who are a part of the conversation to people who actually drove change on the ground in Tahrir, Baida and Pearl Roundabout.
Al Jazeera spoke briefly to a few of these people – included in this post are Islam Lotfi Shalaby, an Egyptian activist, and Sultan Sooud al Qassemi (@sultanalqassemi), a columnist in the UAE who, for many on the microblogging site Twitter, became the voice of the revolutions, live-tweeting events as they happened across the region.
First, here’s Shalaby, who spoke about how a new political leadership is bound to emerge from the revolution in his country, but also about how young voices are still not a part of the conversation about the revolution.
And here’s al Qassemi, expressing much the same hope that new parties would take the lead in the coming Egyptian elections. He also speaks about how there is a rising sense of pan-Arabism, one that began in the 1990s with pan-Arab satellite television stations broadcasting to the entire region, but which became a “two-way interaction” once the internet provided social media tools.