09/22/2022, 11.07
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Young Arabs do not believe (anymore) in democracy

This was revealed in the 2022 edition of the Arab Youth Survey. Thousands of young people aged between 18 and 24 in the MENA region were interviewed. In 2009, the democratic system was a priority for 92%. Today, stability counts more; religious and cultural identity prevails over globalised society. China is a better and more reliable reference than the US. The weight of the Arab Spring and wars. 



Dubai (AsiaNews) - The vast majority of young Arabs aged between 18 and 24 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are convinced that democracy, as a model of government, cannot work. They are also convinced that 'stability' is much more important for the area than the possibility of enjoying freedoms and rights, at least as they are conceived in Western societies.

This is what emerges from the 2022 Arab Youth Survey, an annual in-depth study that shows a radical change from the past: in 2009, in fact, when there was still no talk of the Arab Spring, war in Syria or Isis, 92% of those interviewed considered it a "priority" to live in a democratic nation. 

The survey drawn up by Asda'a Bcw, an agency with headquarters in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), more than 200 employees and offices in 15 countries, annually outlines the evolution of societies in the Middle East and North Africa region, with a special focus on young people.

For the 2022 edition, 3,400 young men and women were surveyed, representing all countries in the region. 64% agreed that democracy is "incompatible" with the region; the figure rises to 72% if nations such as Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq marked by conflicts and polarisations between political alignments are taken into account, while it drops to 52% for the Gulf. 

The vast majority of young Arabs, 82% of respondents, say that working for stability in their country is more important than fighting to promote democracy.

Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, speaks of a 'logical' result considering what young people in these countries have experienced. 

The scholar adds, "given what they have experienced of democracy, I can totally understand that young people would actually prefer a much more stable regime" more than a shaky democracy, given also the unsuccessful attempts and conflicts triggered in Iraq, Egypt and Syria. 'When they hear the word democracy, that is their association,' she concludes. 

Returning to the research, almost two thirds (65%) believe that preserving religious and cultural identity is more important than creating a globalised society, a figure that rises to 75% in the Gulf.

35% see the rising cost of living and unemployment as the biggest obstacles facing the region, while the Palestinian cause and the Israeli occupation is perceived as a priority by only 29% of the young people surveyed. 31% blame NATO and the US for the war in Ukraine (and exonerate Russia), while 37% do not know what to answer.

More than half (57%) say that the UAE is the country they would like to live in, putting them at the top of the list for the 11th year in a row. Over the past five years, China is seen by young Arabs as a stronger and more strategic ally than the United States (78% of preferences).

However, it should be noted that although there is a negative perception of the democratic model, at least 63% of the respondents say they benefit from greater rights and freedoms as a result of the uprisings and street protests of recent years. Even in the Gulf, 68% of young people believe they "enjoy more rights" than in 2010. 

Looking to the future, a cautious (and highly variable) optimism emerges: 54% are confident that they will have a better life than their parents, the highest figure recorded in recent years. However, if among the Gulf countries it reaches 72%, considering the Levant nations it drops to a paltry 47%. 

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