A generation that has never known a Libya without Moammar Gaddafi, an Egypt without Hosni Mubarak, or a Yemen without Ali Abdullah Saleh has protested their country’s leaders all the same, reminding their countries that the future belongs to them.
Ruddy-cheeked, smooth-skinned, some with bows in their hair or wearing sparkly dresses, and hardly ever more than four feet tall, the “littlest protesters” in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen have often joined their parents in demonstrations over the past few months.
They’ve skipped down the sidewalk as they sung anti-Gaddafi songs, shouted anti-Mubarak slogans while sitting on a shoulder of an adult, or worn headbands that told the world: “I’m the next martyr.” And in Syria, it’s been suggested that a group of children even sparked the uprisings.
In the middle of a protest in front of the White House last week, a Yemeni-American child that could not be more than five years old stood up with a microphone to address a rowdy audience. The crowd hushed as soon as he spoke. He told the audience that his grandparents had told him beautiful his country was, and he longed to go there, but that the way things were going, he would never, ever get to see it.
Watching children protest, it’s hard not to wonder how much they understand what they’re protesting, or how they will feel about it when they are older. Especially when protests get violent. On Feb. 2, many children were trapped in Tahrir Square in Egypt as Molotov cocktails were hurled into the crowd. Many children have died, been injured, or orphaned since the uprisings spread across the Middle East. International NGO Save the Children has estimated that a million children are in danger in Libya.
But in a family-oriented country, in which husband, wife, and children operate as a cohesive unit, it’s also hard to imagine Libyan protesters leaving their children at home. 35 percent of Libya’s population is also under 18, according to UNICEF.
Below are some of the videos and photos that show the role of children in the protests.
This video is said to have been taken at a “children’s protest” in Benghazi, Libya, on April 2.
One child interviewed at the children’s protest told the The Real News Network:“I’m not afraid at all. Even when we leave, I will die a martyr.” A parent said the children’s protest was organized so that the youth could have a voice. “It has nothing to do with herding how they’re thinking,” she told the Real News Network. “Because they understand and they’re seeing everything around them, so they have to play a role.” Watch the interviews here.
Here, school girls sing anti-Gaddafi songs:
In this video, an Egyptian boy is said to be chanting slogans such as “We are not tired! We are not tired! Freedom is not free!”, “Where is the press?! Here are the millions!”, and “Mubarak wake up! This is the last day!”
More photos of children at the protests:
(See a full gallery of “Children of the Revolution” at Foreign Policy.)