For Arab Youth, Dreams May Be Deferred Protests planned in Saudi Arabia failed to take off earlier this month, yet Saudi youth see themselves as part of a movement that has swept the Arab world. Expectation for change is extremely high — and that worries experts who say there is some danger of dashed hopes.
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For Arab Youth, Dreams May Be Deferred

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For Arab Youth, Dreams May Be Deferred

For Arab Youth, Dreams May Be Deferred

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SIEGEL: As NPR's Deborah Amos reports, even though Saudi Arabia is relatively quiet, young people feel caught up in the drive for change throughout the region.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEBORAH AMOS: From Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a young blogger plays what he believes is his role in the youth revolution.

HASS DENNOUI: This is Hass Dennoui. I'm a Saudi citizen. I've hit the 26,000 mark - or 26,000 hits on the blog.

AMOS: Dennoui produces a popular website that features Arab hip-hop. He's introduced Saudi listeners to Egyptian artists with lyrics that reflect the politics of dissent and the celebration of a youth uprising that overthrew an Egyptian autocrat.

DENNOUI: When you include revolution in it, people get more interested. You can revolt by a song, you can revolt by a picture, you can revolt by an article and that's the beauty of it.

AMOS: Young people didn't march in the streets of Saudi Arabia, but they see themselves as part of a movement that's swept the Arab world, says Tarik Yousef, who heads the youth initiative at the Dubai School of Government.

TARIK YOUSEF: They've not had a moment in the Arab world where they could in fact rally around a particular country or a significant person or a significant accomplishment. This is possibly one of those moments.

AMOS: It's a sign of the long-term significance of the protests, says Riad Kahwaji, he heads a security think tank in Dubai. Kahwaji says the revolts of 2011 are on the same wavelength from Benghazi to Bahrain.

RIAD KAHWAJI: The same chants, the same demands - compare. You're going to have a 99 percent match. So it's the same frustration across the pan-Arab world.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)

AMOS: The common demands are clear. An educated generation wants the right to choose and change their leaders, an end to corruption and they demand jobs. Tarik Yousef documented that discontent. He edited a book of field research that describes the severe limits of Arab economies and institutions to fulfill the demands. The 2009 book is called "Generation In Waiting." The 2011 protests, says Yousef, have changed the stakes.

YOUSEF: The expectations that have been raised, the questions that have been asked, the demands that have been put on the table, this is a profound change in the narrative of how Arabs see themselves, see their countries, see their rulers.

AMOS: In this Saudi neighborhood, the noon call to prayer is thick in the air, but Ahmed Bagadood doesn't even look up from his computer. He's scrolling through the blog he's written since 2009.

AHMED BAGADOOD: SaudiDream.net, it has a slogan of Tomorrow's accomplishments are today's dreams.

AMOS: Dreams, he says, that come from a new sense of patriotism, a term that's come into fashion with young Arabs these days. His demands reflect online petitions signed by reformers.

BAGADOOD: I would like the government to say, okay, citizens, your voice counts. Tell us what you want. We want a true partnership and this has to happen.

AMOS: The question troubles Tarik Yousef. He says reform requires long-term pressure in a region known for incremental and reversible measures.

YOUSEF: I think the biggest threat is loss of confidence, loss of faith, defeated expectations that might settle in after a while.

AMOS: Toppling autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia may turn out to be the easy part. Deborah Amos, NPR News.

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