The day aims to draw attention to Arab youth issues and celebrate the group’s role in the region’s ongoing development.
Eleven, seventeen, nineteen, and twenty-three: those are the ages of some of the region’s most prominent youth who have taken the world by a storm for their bravery and activism.
And now, they have a day to be celebrated.
Monday, July 5, marks Qatar’s first-ever Arab Youth Day, created by the country’s Youth Affairs Department to celebrate young pioneers and to draw attention to the group’s global issues.
Young people in the Arab region are often not acknowledged enough for their efforts and are usually underestimated by adults around them. However, in recent years, several Arab youth have earned a spotlight for their humanitarian and advocacy causes, hugely contributing to the region’s development and inspiring millions in the process.
For this year’s first-ever Arab Youth Day, here are five influential heroes who deserve to be celebrated for their impact on the region from a young age.
1- El Kurd twins
Unlawful detention and forced evictions did not stop Muna and her twin Mohammed El-Kurd from consistently fighting for their liberation from occupation forces. The inspiring Palestinian siblings are known for their resilience and bravery in the face of brutality—and only at 23 years old.
They belong to one of 27 Palestinian families who face the threat of eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem.
In recent months, the twins gained global notoriety as they fought to raise international awareness about the imminent forced evictions of their people in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood. Their strong presence and fearlessness have made them the voice of an online movement working to end Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Mohammed, who is a writer and a poet, is known for his international advocacy against the Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing. Muna, on the other hand, is a young journalist and one of the Palestinian women leading protests against Israel’s forced evictions.
2- Yusra Mardini
As a child, Yusra Mardini always dreamed of representing her country in international swimming tournaments, but little did she know that the Syrian conflict will completely change her story, and make her a hero along the way.
When she was only 17, Yusra’s house was completely destroyed by Bashar al-Assad’s forces. She knew that the only way for her and her sister to survive was to escape the war and flee to Europe where they hoped to build a better future.
In 2015, Yusra and her sister arranged to be smuggled into Greece on a boat with 18 other migrants, though the boat was meant to be used by no more than 6 people.
During their trip, the dinghy’s motor suddenly stopped working, stripping away all hope of survival. However, being the hero that she is, young Yusra, her sister, Sara, and two other people got into the water and swam while pushing the boat for over three hours until the engine started working again.
Thanks to their bravery, everyone on the boat survived and reached Lesbos safely.
Now, the Syrian refugee is an Olympic swimmer and the youngest UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. She uses her story and voice to advocate for refugees around the world in several international meetings and forums. She was selected to compete at Rio 2016 as part of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team.
3- Nada Al Ahdal
Nada Al Ahdal’s story is one of resilience and determination. When she was just 10 years old, the young Yemeni activist refused to be a victim of child marriage and escaped two different child marriage pacts her parents had organised for her.
She later left her parents and fled to her uncle, where she started her journey to advocate for children’s Rights and share her story with the world to raise awareness. A Youtube video of her narrating her story went viral on social media, winning her the admiration of millions of people around the world who quickly supported her cause.
Her story sparked a discussion of child marriage globally, and her brave and fierce voice influenced the comprehensive national dialogue conference in Yemen to pass and implement a law that criminalises the marriage of minors under the age of 18.
4- Ghanim Al Muftah
Disability is no obstacle for Qatari Ghanim Al Muftah, who has inspired thousands of people and become a well-known philanthropist and motivational speaker at such young age.
Ghanim was born with a rare condition called Caudal Regression Syndrome (CDS), which causes people to be born without the lower half of their bodies. However, that did not stop the young social media celebrity from fighting and living life to the full.
He is most known for his positive attitude and his love for sports, such as scuba diving, skateboarding, and rock climbing. Though his condition would naturally expect him to use a wheelchair, the young icon insists on moving around on his hands because “he believes that he should make use of everything with which he is blessed rather than focus on what he doesn’t have.”
Ghanim was the Goodwill ambassador for ROTA, brand ambassador of Qatar Financial Centre Authority and a UN official speaker.
He is the founder Gharissa Ice Cream, Association of Ghanim, and Ghanim AlMuftah Foundation.
5- Alaa Salah
In December 2018, thousands of people took to the streets of Sudan calling for the fall of the government. Almost every street across the country echoed with loud chants of the protesters as they marched for liberty. However, unlike the other Arab Spring revolutions from years before, this one had one major essence of prominence: women were at the forefront of the protests.
While millions of brave woman took part, one stood out the most with her traditional white thobe and gold moon earrings. Her name was Alaa Salah, and because of her courage and sense of identity, she became the face of Sudan’s famous “Women’s Revolution.”
Alaa Salah is a 23-year-old Sudanese activist who gained worldwide media attention from a picture of her taken during the Sudanese Revolution that went viral, dubbing her as the “Woman in White” or “Lady Liberty” of Sudan. Salah was leading a wide demonstration in Khartoum, calling for the fall of the government when she was pictured stood on top of a car.
Despite her young age then, Salah did not hesitate to stand firm and lead the chants of thousands of people. Because of that, her image is said to have taken the message of the revolution around the world.
Salah is also a member of the Women of Sudanese Civic and Political Group, one of the main Sudanese women’s networks that signed the Forces of Freedom and Change declaration. In 2019, she gave a speech at the United Nations Security Council calling for equal representation in the Sudanese transitionary institutions.