Anti-government protestors take part in continued demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir square in 2011
Anti-government protestors take part in continued demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir square in November 2011. Young Egyptians wishing to keep their revolution alive have come to Cyprus to share their experiences with activists from 28 European and Middle Eastern countries attending a civil society forum. © Odd Andersen - AFP/File
Anti-government protestors take part in continued demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir square in 2011
Caroline-Nelly Perrot, AFP
Last updated: October 11, 2012

Young Egyptians keen to keep the revolution alive

Young Egyptians wishing to keep their revolution alive have come to Cyprus to share their experiences with activists from 28 European and Middle Eastern countries attending a civil society forum.

The activists, all in their 20s, in February last year witnessed the popular uprising sparked by fellow countrymen their age which in under three weeks ended the 30-year reign of president Hosni Mubarak.

But they remain determined, and are involved in a number of projects aimed at mobilising youths and building a vibrant democracy in the country whose government is currently dominated by Islamists.

"Since the revolution, people feel empowered," said Emad Shahat Karim.

"They have recovered a sense of pride and dignity -- but civil society still needs to be developed," said the young man, who hopes to establish a platform for sharing and sorting information concerning human rights violations.

"The question is: is this revolution going to last?," asked Sally Mohsen, another activist attending the Nicosia conference.

Her enthusiasm is contagious, inspiring many fellow activists from among the 200 participants at the forum organised by the Cypriot civil society network Peace it Together that is taking place until Friday.

Working with the Egyptian Foundation for Youth, launched in Alexandria shortly before last year's revolt, Mohsen tries to channel the boundless energy of young Egyptians by offering volunteer activities.

"Many young people want to volunteer, especially since the revolution," Mohsen said.

"We are trying to build on that enthusiasm and turn it into a lifestyle... to make sure they feel empowered."

For youngsters who were previously disinterested in politics and now "feel responsibility" to be involved, there are many activities, such as education workshops or voluntary NGOs working with them, Mohsen added.

Youth movements which mobilised in early 2011 through social networks such as Facebook were never really empowered before the anti-Mubarak revolt.

"We need good networking and funding to keep up the spirit of revolution," said Ahmed Fathelbab, co-founder of an agency that makes short films and cartoons, including pro-democracy campaigns.

He wants to create a website where NGOs, social groups and advertisers will recruit young designers, filmmakers and other freelancers who can showcase their work. He plans to get into film production himself one day.

"Media tycoons from the Mubarak era are still there. Especially in cinema," he said, giving the example of a film on the relationship between Christians and Muslims which was denied funding.

For these youngsters the Egyptian revolution is far from over.

"The revolution is not over," said George Ishaq, former coordinator of the Egyptian opposition movement, Kefaya (Enough), which was very active in the uprising.

"We have broken the culture of fear. Now we need to bring a culture of sharing, to build democracy," he said.

Several of the countries that witnessed the Arab Spring had "centralised power and the young have no experience of democracy especially at the local level," said Francesco Rosa of the Foundation For the Future, a regional organisation promoting democracy.

He urged them to follow the former Soviet Union countries which learned by "trial and error" how to lead a transition, and to draw on the experience of Bulgaria, for example, which successfully converted to democracy.

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