Historian Juan Cole maintains that the young activists did lead successful revolutions, defining revolution as a rapid change in social and political institutions and attitudes caused by a social movement.[i] Various social movements acting together create a revolution. Specifically, the radical youth stopped the practice of presidents for life turning power over to their sons as Mubarak was planning to do in Egypt. They disrupted the financial control of the ousted presidents and their allies in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Also, they opened up discussion of political issues and youth unemployment and creation of new political parties. What youth most wanted was karama (dignity), individual rights and freedom similar to social democracy in Nordic countries. Cole said they made “new social and media spaces in which their demands could be voiced.” However, they were naïve to think that deposing an autocrat would change the oppressive system. After the revolutions, they turned their focus from government to organizing thousands of new NGOs, where they continue to use their horizontal and pragmatic organizational skills. He predicts, “They have kicked off what is likely to be a long intergenerational argument.” Because the key problem of youth unemployment hasn’t been solved, they will continue to “agitate for change” having had practice in how to mobilize and network.[ii]
[i] Juan Cole. The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East. Simon & Schuster, 2014, pp. x-xiv.
[ii] Ibid., p. 270.