The Long and Winding Road for Democracy in Egypt Part 15
No country for Young Men: Egyptian Youth challenges and generation wars
Political observers have attributed the Egyptian revolution for many elements that includes economic burdens, lack of freedom of expression, absence of proper governance, political status quo and the bleak uncharted future that many Egyptians felt during the 30 years reign of Mubarak.
All these are very true factors but they won’t have been sufficient incentives to revolt should the bulk of the Egyptian population had a secure life and fair employment opportunities like their many of their elders had in their lifetime.
Unlike most Western societies, a young man or woman are bound to stay in the same house with their parents till they marry and that can occur when they are as young as 18 and all the way till their 40s . The truth is that this is part of the Egyptian oriental tradition, where the family plays a role in people’s lives from the very day they were born till the day they die. The same can be mentioned about many Western societies all the way till the 1960s when youth revolutions that swept Western Europe and the USA. However, these Western trends never found their way in Egyptian societies for many reasons including close family ties traditions but more recently economy.
Though many modern days young Egyptians would like to follow their Western counterpart’s path and have their own independent lives away from their parents’ supervision but their ambitions are always crippled by both tradition and financial means. While the former is more prevalent in Upper Egypt and more rural areas, the latter is attributed to a lack of financial means by most young men and women who can almost never be financially independent enough to carry on with their own lives.
The problem of financially incapable young men is even found in those who happen to hold jobs for years as they are not paid well enough to establish their own family and have an independent lifestyle. This is due to the incredible rise in real estate prices, whether that is for lease or purchase purposes.
The prices of real estates in Egypt are almost equivalent to their counter parts in any European capital and even surpass them in many cases. The prices of real estates in major cities like Cairo or Alexandria almost matches that in Paris , London or Los Angeles and surpasses most of the smaller cities in rural areas in Europe or USA. This fact hinders most young men and women not just from being independent but also from actually getting married which still represents a series of other problems as elaborated below:
In a society that rejects and abhors pre-marital sexual relationships, preparations for marriage are an essential task in every Egyptian family regardless of their wealth. In fact most Egyptian parents don’t believe that their mission in life is complete before they make sure that they their siblings are “happily” married. And though the word “happily” here is quite overstretched than realistic but at least that is the perception of every Egyptian parent have in mind and usually spare no effort or expense in realizing that dream for his/her children. In the past 30 years, many parents failed to meet that self taken oath and their siblings find themselves stranded in an era where in order to get married they have to pay at least tenfold what their parent did to complete the same task. Fresh graduates with college degrees especially from National colleges hardly find jobs with wages that enables them to be independent.
Engagements that last almost a decade and ends up in breaking are not uncommon, marriages that last a year or even a few months are also widespread phenomena in the Egyptian society especially in the past few decades. Most young couples find themselves obligated to meet a lot of expenses that that only a small sector of the population with the help of their parents are able to afford.
Furthermore, The hassles of life entangles younger men and women as well as couples who find themselves torn between their marital obligations towards their family and the burdens of daily life. A very common Egyptian cynical proverb can manifest these cases which goes as “When poverty knocks at the door, love jumps from the window”. That proverb has been manifesting itself quite frequently in the Egyptian society with the number of annual divorces especially among newlyweds are skyrocketing.
Some sources indicate an increase in divorce rates by 79% in 2010 compared to 2009. The reasons for that are numerous. The burdens of daily life tasks taking its toll on the married couple who usually felt more comfortable during their stays at their parents’ home regardless of the standard of living they enjoyed. Almost immediately after marriage, the glamour of first days of engagement and marriage soon wavers and the realities of life strike in.
The number of unmarried girls in Egypt is on a continuous rise in the past two decades which resulted in a new pile of social challenges that consecutive governments not just failed to tackle but also contributed in their escalation. In Egypt as an oriental society, the young man must arrange for all the expenses of a wedding and a house while the women are tasked for arranging for the purchase of furniture in that house. The ratio between the two side’s expenses is quite wide, since houses cost a huge amount of money compared to the average salaries for the Egyptians. For instance , a new modest apartment would cost from the range of $20,000 – $40,000 depending on area. That number doesn’t seem very high in the Western world but adding the fact that the average minimum monthly wage in Egypt is around $100-150 per month, buying a new house or an apartment is a strenuous challenge.
Arranged marriages between younger girls and wealthier Arabian Gulf states millionaires are becoming an infestation in rural areas in Egypt. That’s when greedy parents can sell the future of their daughters to wealthier suitors who offer a substantial cash dowry and some financial security for an impoverished family that is tempted by the sudden influx of cash offered by the wealthy and usually old suitor. This phenomenon has been targeted by human rights and feminist groups in Egypt in the last years since more and more Egyptian young women still fall victims to these arranged marriages. These marriages usually end in weeks and in best scenarios a few months, then the young woman is divorced and sent home to her parents.
Cases of abuses and sadistic behavior from these older husbands are innumerable and have been reported massively in the Egyptian media, yet under the stress of hardships mixed with greed still many mostly rural Egyptian families allow these shameful marriages to take place.
It will require a social group effort and firm laws to disallow these kinds of arranged marriages that represent a huge abuse to younger poor women in Egypt. Furthermore , it’s essential to combat these early marriages that is even taking place in among Egyptians who sometimes are not issued official birth certificates at birth and have their age determined by a doctor to check their fitness for marriage or not.
In many occasions, the doctor is bribed to provide a certificate that the girl is in the legal age for marriage for her family are willing to get her to marry early as some ridiculous rural traditions may dictate.
Finally, due to the increased necessities for marriage and the inability of the current generation to afford it, the number of unmarried young men and women escalated and is reaching about 13 million among the youth of both sexes. Also a lot of unofficial marriages take place in secret and with the acknowledgment of just of the couple involved. These kinds of marriages are unregistered, un-notarized and usually lead women to lose any rights should they get involved in it or they get pregnant since the husband only signs an acknowledgment paper that is unbinding in any court of law.
Despite all the above, still this type of marriages remains one way for some youth to battle the constraints of society and the economic hardships but usually it ends with more problems to the couple than any actual benefits. Also, none of the sides would be able to win any custody battle easily since the marriage is unregistered in the first place.
While there is certainly no lack of proper or quality houses in Egypt, there is a major lack of affordable ones. Since the early 1990s the prices of houses and apartments have soared rapidly. Ironically enough, Egypt never lacked the proper house building material, the land space, the human resources or skilled construction workers and Engineers. In fact, Egypt is one of the biggest exporters of quality cement in the world as well as possessing a huge number of construction workers and Engineers that many end up working in neighbouring countries with higher wages due to their high skill and relatively lower wages.
These simple facts alone drive observers to wonder about the reason of the overpriced housing units in Egypt which are in par if not higher in many cases than their counterparts in Europe and North America. The only difference is that the average salary in Egypt ranges between 1 out 20 to 1 out 40 compared to that in Europe and North America. This comparison alone manifests the devastating reality which faces most Egyptian youth in their search for an affordable house.
It’s becoming a fact in the past 3 decades that hardly any young man or women is in a position to offer to buy their own house on their own salary regardless of how high it is.
All of these young suitors have to almost totally or at least significantly rely on their parents to secure any purchase of house for themselves. While the Egyptian authority for statistics have announced that an average Egyptian family spends 23.5 % on their house needs Many Egyptians young couples rely on the lease system but with overpriced rental fees that can consume up to 60-70 % of the average wage. These staggering statistics represent a huge burden for the Egyptian family.
The government has done little to help young men and women settle easily and their policies in terms of land pricing and building material have aggravated the problem to be worse. For example, an average 140 square meter apartment in Cairo would be worth around 20,000 to 30,000 Egyptian pounds in the early 1980s now that same apartment would easily sell 10 to 15 times higher at least in 2013. Thanks to the devalued currency in the past 3 decades, the sharp increase in building raw materials, the overpopulation problems and the lack for proper planning and distribution of land among Egyptian citizens.
The government has single-handedly turned the lives of several generations of Egyptians into a living hell with their policies that totally ignored the needs for the youth to settle in their own houses. Added to these facts is the greed of many contractors and landlords who continually increase the prices for sales and rental fees that render any young man or women seeking to own an apartment or even to live in a decent neighbourhood a very hard task without the substantial help from his elders.
Egyptians still live on about 5% of Egypt’s area and considering the Egypt have a zoning problem or lack of land for building and urbanization seems quite unfathomable but it’s the truth thanks to decades of poor planning, corruption and lack of vision.
Now this is the root of all evil in the Egyptian society in the post 1952 era. The façade that Egypt is providing its youth a free education masks the ugly truth of the incompetent quality of Egyptian education system especially in the last 20 years. Throughout ancient and modern history, Egypt has always been a beacon of culture and knowledge from the Ancient Library of Alexandria all the way to the once prestigious Cairo University. Millions graduated from Egyptian educational institutes have positively contributed to the region and in many cases to international development, scientific research, literature and global culture. Regardless if those graduates were Egyptians or other nationalities, the Egyptian educational institutions have been a Mecca for those seeking knowledge and wisdom from around the world till very recently.
The current school educational system is by far among the most underdeveloped in the world in terms of the curriculums, the quality of educators or professors as well as the educational facilities which are sub par if not completely inappropriate by any modern day standards of the education particularly the government run schools and educational institutions. In comparison the private schools are forced to utilize the same curriculum as the governmental one while adding a few other foreign languages curriculums and translated books for the subjects taught such as mathematics or chemistry as examples. The end result is that the private schools provide a slightly better educational experience to students but the problem is that they still study the same outdated and underdeveloped curriculums as their public counterparts.
. Comparing the current Egyptian education system to any modern one in Japan, Finland or Germany is like comparing engravings on walls with typing on computers. They are ages apart in quality and output. Yet it’s noteworthy that some private facilities in Egypt offer high standards of education as both schools and universities and draw a lot of students from all over the world but these facilities hardly cover a fraction of the number of students in Egypt. Whereas , about 47,900 Public schools most of which provide a low quality education there is only a fraction of that number in private schools and many of them do not provide adequate educational facilities that meets the needs of the 21st century. The Egyptian educational curriculum may include a large selection of topics ranging from world history to biology, physics and chemistry however the curriculum is geared towards the students’ ability to learn by heart and memorize huge chunks of information and not tackling their creative ability.
Unfortunately, the same pattern continues in the Egyptian universities which is the result of the above is an education that just provides the basic skills but not toned for the labour market except with personal initiatives from each student. Most students find themselves having to take extracurricular courses and private tuition for Languages and computer skills in order to keep up with the job market demands that the student isn’t adequately qualified for. According to statistics 93% of the unemployed Egyptians are educated with different levels of education ranging from high school diplomas all the way Post University graduates certificate holders with Masters and doctorates degrees.
Moreover, for decades the vocational training has been neglected by continuous governments and even the modest attempts by these governments have failed to convince the younger Egyptians of the importance of the vocational training in rebuilding the nation economy. This is due mainly to the social stigmas that look down on the manual labour and skilled workers as being of lesser class than ones with university degrees. This stigma has been inherited by generations and was even worse before the 1952 coup d’état but even with years of socialist policies, the perception and the social status of the worker in a manufacturing plant is still lower than the accountant or a manager working in the same plant.
This is a very unfortunate social stigma requires further enlightenment, education and awareness programs as well as further focus on the vocational training and education in the near future. Younger Egyptians would certainly benefit more from the vocational training that qualifies them to get a decent high paid job as skilled worker instead of waiting in long unemployment lines or sitting with unemployed friends in a Cairo café waiting for an opportunity to get hired in a very tough job market.
Naturally the cause of most misfortune to the youth is the lack of job opportunities upon their graduation from high school or college. In Egypt the unemployment rates can’t measured by accurate statistics but according to statistics available and mentioned by Researcher and Journalist Rasha Saber in her excellent field report and research about unemployment in Egypt titled “Education + ? =Employability “.
Rasha Saber, stated in that according to The Central Authority for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), show that Egypt’s statistics authority, declared that around 20.4 percent of young people under the age of 29 are unemployed, adding that there are 19 million Egyptians aged between 18 and 29 unemployed as well . The situation ironically got worse as the percentage of unemployment rose from 8.92 % in January 2011 to 12.4 in January 2012.
Accordingly, the revolution which was mainly aiming to improve the quality of life of Egyptians became another obstacle in that direction. The situation by January 2013 is even much worse with over 1500 factories are shut down and lots of layoffs have been taking place in many companies. Furthermore , Saber’s research have shown upon interviewing many young Egyptians of different backgrounds, that they have attested that their education hasn’t qualified them enough for the job challenges that they would face after their high school or even university.
While in most western countries many young males and females can rely on their high school diplomas to acquire a decent job that can provide a good standard of living for themselves and their families , that is certainly not the case here in Egypt.
A Job candidate is required to have a university degree with high grades in order to acquire even the basic corporate or executive job in any company. Ironically, manual labour job candidates’ are usually much luckier than their higher educated counterparts and usually end with jobs that pay much more than their university graduates in many cases.
Furthermore, there has been a myth since the 1960s that the government education system is free all the way to the university. But in reality due to the deterioration conditions of the Egyptian schools and universities and classes that sometimes exceeds 100 students attending them, most students opt for private tuition sessions which cost hefty sums each year for every student. Accordingly, in reality Egyptian families may pay the equivalent of at least several thousands of Dollars each year in what is supposed to be free education and many have chosen recently to send their children to private schools since at least they could save some of the expenses of these private tuition sessions.
Contrary to yesteryears and as a result of the continuous deterioration of the quality of Egyptian educational system less Egyptian educational institutions certificates are being internationally recognized with the exception of existing International educational institutions in Egypt like American University in Cairo and similar prestigious institutions.
Now, with the country’s declining economy post the 2011 revolution and approaching near bankruptcy levels in first quarter reports of 2013, the employment market couldn’t be at a worse shape for Egyptian youth. Adding salt to an open wound, due to Morsi’s government mismanagement and lack of expertise, the countries chief hard currency revenue which is tourism is witnessing its second in a row bad year thus a lot of layoffs in most hotels and touristic industry facilities have been taking place. This adds a further burden on the Egyptian youth whom about 4-5 million works in Tourism related industries and multiple times that number in related services.
The government should cease-and-desist all activities that are repelling both domestic and international investments in Egypt or they will be faced with a problem that they will not be to handle.. This negative indication is very likely to lead to further riots, protest and political turmoil in the foreseen future if left unchecked.
It’s disheartening to know that one of the utmost dreams of most Egyptian youth are immigrating to Europe and North America to have a better life and there. The dreams of living in the West or even receiving a job opportunity in the Arabian Gulf States are still among the utmost dreams to be realized by many Egyptian young men and women regardless of their social standard, political or religious affiliation. For example, as soon as the United States Green Card lottery announces they are willing to accept applications. Through the years millions applied for the Green Card Lottery, with an estimate of over 6 million Egyptians had applied for them already which represents about 5% of the current Egyptian population.
The dream becomes even greater for the impoverished ones whose life in Egypt have shifted from bad to worse in the past couple of decades. The scenes of Egyptian young men fighting death on the shores of Greece or Italy in unseaworthy boats is not just heartbreaking, but also a stab in the pride of every Egyptian whose country was the richest in the region and one that ironically the Greeks and Italians found shelter and work in Egypt early 20th century till 1952.
Now the roles are reversed and thousands of Egyptians flock to Italy and Greece in search of jobs and better living conditions. Many of these youth don’t realize that both Italy and Greece are suffering from a major economic depression so they can’t really accept new immigrants let alone illegal ones. Both countries bolstered their anti-immigration laws and securities and more and more young Egyptians find themselves either captured by coast guards or immigration police once they their feet touches the Italian or Greek shores provided that they are lucky and their unseaworthy boats reaches that shore.
One of the worst Greek tragedies is not to be seen on the Greek theater playing the likes of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King or Antigone but rather on the Greek shores, where tens of dead bodies of young Egyptian men surfaced after drowning, they were young men who were fooled by dreams of wealth and a better life.
If they are lucky enough they get caught by the police to be left in immigrants camps then most likely sent back to Egypt again. Some of them have attempted this multiple times and fought death to find a decent standard of living for him and his family. Many fail and few do succeed but the price they pay is a reflection on the struggling economy that has been going from bad to worse in the past 2 decades.
The standard of living of most of the youth in Egypt has compelled them to accept gladly working in jobs they would never accepted in Egypt. Thousands of Egyptian youth would usually refrain from any manual labour if they are in Egypt just because they have university degrees and feel that manual labour is demeaning to them.
However, that stance is gradually changing within the current Egyptian youth generations as more are up to date with what’s happening with the counterparts in Europe and North America who work after high school graduation and during university years for a living. Also the harsher living conditions have swayed more Egyptians to work in jobs they never dreamed of doing before due to their social status.
It’s not uncustomary to find young Egyptians with degrees in medicine working as taxi drivers or those with Engineering or Accounting degrees workings as delivery men for fast food franchises. Other young women with master degrees are barely making minimum wages work as shop assistants or a modest job in some factory. The economic circumstances and the poor administration of the country has led these young men and women to put their aspirations and dreams on a hold and years of hard studying and memorizing thousands of pages in all subjects in school and college will not mean anything if they don’t have the proper connections to land them a decent job with a high wage.
Accordingly the dream of immigration under any circumstances becomes the normal choice for Egyptians especially for those who are living in poverty stricken areas whether in rural or urban areas. The promise of a new beginnings and stories of success from others who made it to the top whether it is in Europe or elsewhere lures the young men to attempt illegal immigration mostly through immigration brokers.
These immigration brokers are mostly crooks who scam the desperate youth out of their money and they demand hefty fees for their services with amounts reaching from 5000 to 10000 Dollars per person on average to smuggle them into European territory. What’s ironical that most of these young victims borrow that incredible amount of cash and promise their family they will repay them as soon as they reach their destination country, yet given the risks they take, they could invest that kind of money with a group of their friends in a small projects that could be more profitable on the long run than this illegal gamble with their own lives. The lure of a better life especially with satellite TV shows that displays a high standard of living in European and North American countries compared to the miserable villages they are likely to come from makes up their minds towards taking the risks instead. Also the lack of proper education that enables them to face the challenges after graduation and the absence of entrepreneurial creative minds doesn’t help these young men and women to take the decision to invest in their own country.
Accordingly, if the Egyptian state doesn’t take firm steps towards administrating the human resources that Egypt have manifested in its youth and opening the door for local and international private investments to curb on the ever rising unemployment rate, the situation will aggravate even further in the upcoming years and Egypt will continue to losing its finest sons and daughters as well as all the manpower needed to modernize Egypt, and other countries will gain them.
One of the main issues that dominated the political spectrum during Mubarak 30 years era is that absence of the youth element from most of the decision making positions in his regime. Most of his regime key figures were comprised of men over 70 who served in the various governmental posts since the 1960s and onwards. The youth elements was hardly ever visible and even political posts like minister of youth was usually occupied by a minister who is over 60 at least. The negligence of the youth element has not just alienated them in the past few years but also has led to a void in the political life and the inexperience mixed with political gullibility practiced by most young politicians after the revolution.
Maybe the only advantage and gain so far from the January 2011 revolution would be the effective extensive participation of the youth in the Egyptian political spectrum. Also the emergence of thousands of political bloggers and writers as well as young leaders in many political parties and coalitions, have enriched the political scene. Yet, the situation is still a status quo in regard of their effective participation in running the country by choosing the most skilled and experienced among them for key regimes. Unfortunately, Morsi regime is as rigid as any past tyrannical regime and has allowed no political participation in the cabinet by the youth. Even the government headed by Hisham Qandil who despite being relatively youthful, he doesn’t represent the bulk of the young revolutionaries or even the average Egyptians youth. In fact Qandil have time and again proved his disassociation from reality. Qandil’s had nothing to offer except complete obedience to the Muslim brotherhood group aside from possessing extremely limited abilities as a politician and an administration in a very critical time in Egypt’s history. Accordingly, the youth are still politically sidelined by the current regime as much as the previous one.
In fact, the younger vote that mostly naively supported Morsi against Ahmed Shafiq paid the heftiest price for Morsi’s controversial victory. Morsi have retracted from all his promises towards these young voters and the only youth who benefited from his ascension to the seat of power are the Muslim Brotherhood youth who are dealing with haughtiness and organizing terrorist like militias all over the country to terrorize Morsi’s opposition.
The same young voters are paying the price as the Pro-Morsi’s goons allied with some corrupt police forces are killing young protestors and demonstrators many have ironically voted for Morsi and thus signed his own death warrant by Morsi’s success.
Nevertheless, the Egyptian youth have managed despite the negligence through the years and being overlooked after the revolution to make their voices heard by many and eventually they will represent a force to be reckoned in the upcoming years provided they start to learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to politics and not to let their impetuousness and emotional drive override their logical judgments and decisions like the one they have done by electing an Islamist president with a fascist just for spite against Shafiq whom they deemed as a former regime figure. They and the rest of the country are paying the price of this historical mistake.
On the other hand, the media is tasked to give a bigger role and greater airtime for younger politicians to appear and eventually take the stage. The media may need to avoid the huge mistakes they had done after the revolution which was the exaggerated glorification and overhyping the importance of these young politicians who appeared post the revolution and treating them as Godsend experts occasionally. That media treatment led many of these inexperienced young men and women to act in a pompous and arrogant way after this overexposure by media.
Similarly, they should avoid the mistake occasionally made by media outlets before and after the revolution which is ridiculing all the youth statements and rendering them as unworthy which is a huge mistake. A rational way of handling the young politicians is in order, in a manner that would bring up the fresh ideas for social discussion without glorification or trivializing them. This pattern by media might help in creating a new generation of experienced and rational politicians who can lead Egypt in the near future with good political capabilities and vision towards the future.
Culture Barriers, Drug addiction and religious extremism.
Due to the many reasons discussed above for the current status of Egyptian youth the gap between the haves and the have not is growing ever wider and the high hopes that the revolution in 2011 seemed to have provided for the young Egyptians are now in tatters. The rift is not just between the rich and the poor but also extended as a generation war waged by the younger generation who feel betrayed by the misadministration and planning of the older generations.
Many Egyptian youth are in a personal conundrum of dreaming and trying to attain a life quality similar to the ones they watched in Western movies, read about in books or even watched among their richer peers in the Egyptian society. They are still suffering from the constraints imposed by a seemingly more conservative society that keeps closing its doors towards enlightenment and knowledge. The Egyptian youth find themselves in a personal struggle between desire and what they are being as religious rules.
This conflict bolstered by bad academic education and worse religious one in school and family, is reflected on the youth behavior towards everything and everyone. The higher tendency of violence among current generations of Egyptians is uncanny. Their hypocritical views in regards to their desire towards the other sex and at the same time their demands of having more constraints in the relationships between males and females seems baffling and hypocritical to observers.
Many Egyptian young women have succumbed to the ideas of extremist Wahhabi clerics calling themselves “Salafis” and have worn full veil for no rational reason except they were made to believe that they will get married and God will bestow his blessings on them once they are fully committed to worship only. It’s not completely strange judging by the increasing number of unmarried women in Egypt who are estimated to be around 9 million according latest estimates of 2012 from the Central Authority for Statistics in Egypt. These women ages range from 18-35 and of course there are older ones as well.
Many Women living in a contradicting society have given up their will to mostly illiterate and uneducated clerics to lead them to better world and the result is that their situation gets worse and worse on social levels.
Naturally, the religious extremism is more prevalent in men who due to sudden loss of ambition and willingness to fight occasionally resort to extreme religious forms usually prevalent in rural areas and low income urban areas. Many chose to join some religious groups in order to find help in getting married and securing a stable life with a job. The religious groups in Egypt managed throughout the years to lure thousands of young Egyptian men to join their ranks through this angle. The government and society have forsaken the youth for long decades and the end results more recruits for groups with extreme ideologies promising the youth salvation on earth and heaven in after life.
These groups have managed to recruit many elements in the past 3 decades to join what they called a holy cause and unfortunately many lost their lives either by getting killed by security forces during the war on terror in the 1980s and 1990s or lost the best of their years incarcerated for their ill deeds.
Furthermore, despite being huge fans of sports particularly football , not many Egyptians are capable of affording joining sports clubs and the government run youth centers are unequipped and not enough in number to cover even a fraction of the Egyptian youth seeking to practice sports. The result is more lost souls and an increased number of youth heading towards addictions of narcotics and alcohol. The number of youth actually practicing sport is dwindling compared to an ever growing population. Thanks to the lack of proper sports facilities compared to the size of the population. While Egypt is Africa’s best in most competitive sports yet that is not reflected on the youth and the health of the general population.
Addiction and drug abuse seem to be the problem of the hour to many young men who utilize these substances as a form of catharsis and escapism from their struggling life. This is one activity that the youth of all affiliations and social ranks seem to practice incessantly in the past decades. The result is a growing addiction problem and sharp increase in crime rates particularly robberies, rape and murder. Many of these crimes are committed under the influence of drugs and despite the war going on to combat these drugs waged by the government the victory is still far from reach and it will take long years of fighting addiction and drug trading to reach any substantial results. According to former minister of Social Solidarity Gouda Abdel Khalek speech during a forum titled "A Revolution against Drugs" in June 2011, that about 9% of Egypt population are addicted, used or just recovered from drugs which represents a colossal challenge to any future government and an obstacle towards any efforts for development. These estimates according to the minister speech are not documented by statistics but are a rough estimate which means that the problem can be even deeper according to many. While an official statistic mentioned that the number in 2007 is 6 million it’s likely to have increased dramatically over those past 6 years due to further stressful economic conditions. The majority of these addicts are young men and women are between the ages 15 and 25 years. It’s noteworthy to mention that this percentage is bigger than the populations of some central European countries like Austria or Switzerland which signifies the magnitude of this ordeal.
It’s also ironical that even at the height of the religious frenzy in Egypt throughout the past 2 decades the number of addicts is on a constant rise which is also parallel to similar rise and increase in crimes of all sorts. Religion wasn’t the answer as the preachers of Political Islam groups claimed for decade since their aim was more political than reformatory towards society and the end result is a society and youth population that is suffering from high degrees of identity crisis, intolerance and tendency towards violence instead of the opposite.
It’s customary for all Egyptian governments throughout history to interfere where they shouldn’t be interfering for example in matters of personal freedoms, religion and censorship of media but they are usually lax concerning matters of Public health, services and paving the way for economic growth. Decades of negligence for the youth in Egypt led them to forfeit their dreams and aspirations while seeking them in foreign lands. They seek what they have missed in their homelands of security, dignity and stable living conditions. The country that was once the Mecca of immigrants from all around the world before 1952 is now in a reverse trend of exporting immigrants towards others countries. The once fertile land of the Nile that fed the ancient world is hardly sufficient to feed its own people with its rich agricultural legacy.
The need for the country to open the doors for further local and international investments couldn’t be more urgent for the 2011 revolution did nothing for the youth so far except deepening their unemployment problems and widening the gap between them and their western world counterparts in terms of living standards , education ,etc..
The foreseeable future for young Egyptians still seems bleak especially with the current Islamists in power who seek nothing but full dominance of their faction on the Egyptian state which will witness further struggles that is likely to end in either a long term struggle between Islamists or secularists or the failure of Islamists to deliver any of their promised paradise to the youth who elected them in 2011 and 2012 elections. These elections which witnessed a lot fraudulent acts yet it brought to the Islamists to lead the political scene based on their false promises of prosperity and salvation for the younger Egyptians, have brought them nothing so far except misery and a deepened sense of failure.
These same Egyptians who feel they have been duped and bamboozled by Islamists are the main force behind the current opposition. They are set to rectify the mistake they have done of electing Islamists by ousting them and on top of them the President Mohamed Morsi who represents a lot of failed hopes and undelivered promises post the revolution.
Egypt is no country for young men and the country has long miles to go to reach a state where Egyptian youth could acquire and attain their lawful rights for a proper life that matches their counterparts in the modern world. That will not happen immediately but the society, the government as well the youth themselves will all be crucial elements in tackling each of the above mentioned problems one after the other in order for Egypt to once again restore its long lost status as a magnet for the creative minds from all over the world and for its youth to take part in its long rebuilding process.
Governments despite being mainly responsible for taking responsibilities beyond their capabilities cannot solve the youth problems on their own. It will take a collaborative work between government, schools, universities, research centers, sports clubs media outlasts, and businessman and most importantly families to alleviate the burdens imposed on the Egyptian youth.
It’s still unknown if the Egyptian revolution will be a savior to the Egyptian youth or not as so far their lives has been more complicated than before it but at least now they have a better medium to express themselves than before in a hope that one day, the government and society would start remedying what decades of negligence had done to the Egyptian youth.