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Project January 28, 2011

North Africa: The Young and the Restless

Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.
Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.

Ellen Knickmeyer has been traveling the Arab world from the first weeks of the revolutions to tell the story of the frustrated young generation at the heart of the unrest. After sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa hold the largest share of young people in the world. Two out of every three Arabs are under 30. For many, their symbol has become Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old high school drop-out in Tunisia who set himself on fire when a corrupt cop blocked the peddling by which Mohamed made a bare living for his family. Although he didn't live to know it, Bouazizi ignited a generation, and a region. Knickmeyer explores some of the causes of the anger that made young Arabs so receptive to the calls to revolution that followed: the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, a lack of prospects that forced many to delay marriage, careers and the launch of what should be their adult lives, and, for too long, a deadening of hope.

With the support of the Pulitzer Center, Knickmeyer traveled to Sidi Bouzid to profile the short, thwarted life and angry death of the young man who generated the first people's power uprising of the Arab World.

Following the spread of the unrest, Knickmeyer reported from Egypt, where an internet-savvy young generation that led the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak is struggling to have a voice in what comes next. She traveled to Saudi Arabia, where government handouts soothe the complaints of a young generation unable to find jobs – but can't for long, some analysts warn. In Libya, she looks at the wedding dreams of young Libyans unable to afford marriage, and asks the critical question of whether the revolutions of 2011 make the future of these young people look any brighter.


teal halftone illustration of a family carrying luggage and walking


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