Since the beginning of the reforms in the Middle East, there have been different ways that the people have reacted in an effort to achieve reform. These efforts range from protests of violence and non-violence to delegation forums of reform. The citizens of Jordan have made many efforts to keep their demonstrations peaceful but still push for the changes that the people seek. In June a conference was held at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center in the Dead Sea — at which Jordanian youth to discuss reform.
To Americans, the idea of a youth summit or conference to discuss topics that relate to issues that their generation faces is nothing out of the ordinary. There are many youth groups and organizations that exist solely for this purpose. However, though countries like Jordan do have youth groups, there are not many that are based around political issues. With about 1,300 participants, this was the first conference since political reform in the Middle East began that Jordan has had that focus on pushing the need for participation and input among youth.
The conference started off with a speech by King Abdullah II, the King of Jordan, which focused on the importance of volunteerism and the understanding of civil society. The University of Jordan and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development supported the conference. The forum was supposed to provide support to participants and facilitate freedom of expression. According to posts from participants from the forum, the consensus seemed to be that while the attitude coming into the conference was excitement and nervousness, the end of the two-day forum was more disappointment from the lack of communication and cooperation that most were expecting.
As a Jordanian myself, I am proud to hear that our youth are trying to make changes and are aware of the problems. Living here in Nashville, I see youth participating in demonstrations, forums, conferences and the like, speaking their minds and getting their voices heard. It is a part of democracy, a part of progression, a part of civil responsibility. The youth in every country — no matter size, religion, or political stance — are important. With every new generation the country changes.
I have been living in Nashville for 10 years. And for most of that time, I worked in a local convenience store where I watched children come in over the years, turning into teenagers and then young adults. Some still live in the neighborhood, while others have moved on; all of them, however, are now part of the fate of this society. The same situation that I just described is going on all over the world. The difference is that when the youth become adults, they do not always get the opportunity to participate in the same ways that Americans do.
Progression towards reform in other countries, like Jordan, is slow and old-fashioned. The youth are bombarded by the prior generations’ wants and are somewhat fearful to utilize community organization for fear that it will be seen as retaliation and a threat to the status quo. Some of the issues that Jordanian youth face are corruption in the government, poverty and poor living standards, unemployment, and economic policies. Most of these issues America youth are dealing with as well. I think that this forum was a good experience for the youth of Jordan but it is just a small step.
I would like to see a cross-cultural forum with Jordanian and American youth communicating together to fix issues that the next generation will be facing. One wants democratic reforms; the other can help in assimilating the reforms into their society with ease and better understanding. No matter where in the world youth are, they all have their similarities: They are fresh young minds that are open to new ideas.
Wael Al-Sadi is a Nashville resident.