Since early 2011 there have been significant changes in North Africa and the Middle East. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had ruled Tunisia for 20 years, and Hosni Mubarak reigned in Egypt for 30 years. Yet their bravest challengers were 20- and 30-year-olds without ideological baggage, violent intentions, or clear leaders. Political change in these countries inspired activists across the region. Some tough authoritarian governments responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, others with policy concessions, welfare spending, and cabinet shuffles. The groups that initiated and sustained protests had few meaningful experiences with public deliberation or voting, and little experience with successful protesting. These young citizens were politically disciplined, pragmatic, and collaborative. Where did they come from? How do young people growing up in modern, entrenched, authoritarian regimes find political inspirations and aspirations? Are digital media important parts of the contemporary recipe for democratization?
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