Rana Sweis


Digital media empower Middle Eastern youth

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Revolutions in the Middle East have been powered by young people using new technology.

Young people, who make up 30 percent of the region’s population, have played a dominant role in protests and political upheaval by documenting events with cell phones, the Internet and social media.

“Children and young people have been at the heart of the Arab Spring. They play a key role in instigating it, using the power of social media to rally their peers and mobilize support,” said Shahida Azfar, UNICEF Regional Director for MENA. “But they have also been among its first victims.”

For example, the lack of access to information from Syria has forced the media to depend on photos taken by ordinary citizens and amateur recording of bloodshed in obscure neighborhoods and streets.

Many children also continue to be caught in the crossfire. At UNICEF’s annual Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Media Forum, Khaled Ezz Al Arab of the BBC and Najwa Kassim of Al Arabiya spoke about child protesters in Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.

When Sayed Ahmad Sayed, a 14-year-old boy, was shot in Bahrain, graphic videos - many taken by cellphones - revealed his bludgeoned head. The photos and videos were disseminated and large photos of the boy were paraded in one of the largest street protests. His friends made YouTube videos and disseminated them before and after the protests.

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