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Arab Youths Find Their Voices in International Debate Program

Apr. 11, 2013 | Al-Monitor

As young people in the Middle East learn to enjoy the newfound freedom to express themselves, a project called Young Arab Voices is training youths to articulate their opinions and debate on a competitive level.

After the fall of regimes that for decades had cracked down on anyone who dared speak out against them, citizens of countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt found themselves suddenly free to speak their minds. But especially for the youth who had grown up without a memory of a time before Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Moammar Gadhafi or Hosni Mubarak, it turned out not to be easy to figure out what to say.

“We had no right to think, to talk, to do what you wanted,” 23-year-old Tunisian Asma Hriz told Al-Monitor. “Even when talking in your home, your mom would say; ‘hush, they will hear us.’ And if you talked to close friends, there was the fear that he or she would talk to the regime and your whole family would be in danger.”

But now, Hriz explained, Tunisians are talking about politics, the economic situation and religion everywhere. But as the freedom to express oneself is a new thing, it also causes frustration about what to actually say and how.

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