The Lebanon of Youths
The Lebanon I want for youth is the Lebanon I want for myself, for the young person I was and for the elderly person I will inevitably be, and for all my friends and their families.
What if we can live in the Lebanon we want right now? Not the Lebanon of past generations, the ‘Switzerland of the East’, that cheesy ill-fated nickname of the ’50s, or the Lebanon that will rise from the ashes, the phoenix, the other ill-fated symbol that needs to be retired. The Lebanon of now, with young and old people; men, women and however they identify; residents, refugees, and foreigners; Muslims, Christians, and atheists; those with little money and those with much… the Lebanon of now, the Lebanon of youth, where every day is a day for living, to be enjoyed with friends and family who have not been forced to flee and leave.
The Lebanon I want for youth is the Lebanon I want for myself, for the young person I was and for the elderly person I will inevitably be, and for all my friends and their families. It's a place where all youth have access to a good education. A country of choice, to stay in or return to for vacations, for work, or just for fun. A Lebanon whose mention recalls memories of great food, generous, smart, and cultured people who have a great sense of humor, are nosy with neighbors, live beyond their means, and call themselves ‘life-loving’ people. A Lebanon that feels like home wherever they settle in the world. A Lebanon that brings wonders to visitors and is always welcoming to everyone, especially its citizens.
I know what Lebanon I want for youth. But I chose to also ask youth what Lebanon they want. Now, I want what Alia wants: “A place where human rights are respected and protected, where anyone can live decently and reach their potential. A place where social justice is what governs society. A Lebanon where, as a woman, I can get married without worrying about the Personal Status laws that will discriminate against me. A place with real democracy and where nepotism is punished. Where free education and free healthcare are available for all.”
I want what Myriam wants: “A safe place where everyone is accepted for who they are, no matter their differences. A community where people are tied together with the goal of unity, mutual understanding, and compassion. A Lebanon where Lebanese people bond and connect in their country, not when they leave it.”
I want what Elsy wants: “A greener country, where the cedar is not painted on our flag but is also covering our slopes. A country where ecotourism is the principal driver of the economy. A country where we get our pride back, where people are not segregated by religion but vow patriotism to their country. Where we, the youths, are true agents of the future, unleashing our talent, flying higher than the phoenix who represents us.”
I want what Maria wants: “I dream of a country where I don't question my future every day, where the future is for everyone. A country where I have all I need to succeed and not have to immigrate to another place looking for what my country cannot provide.”
The Lebanon I want for youth is one where Alia, Myriam, Elsy, Maria, and every other youth activist, innovator, and professional gets what they want. A Lebanon where youth are enabled to take the lead in bringing back our belief in this country and its people; restoring our trust in institutions that we know they can build better and lay the foundation for a society built on accountability and social justice.
The Lebanon we all want is one full of youths. One full of life.
Special thanks to Alia Dani, Elsy Milan, Myriam Frem and Maria Abdulkarim for their contributions to the “The Lebanon of Youths”.
About the Author
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more
Middle East Women's Initiative
The Middle East Women's Initiative (MEWI) promotes the empowerment of women in the region through an open and inclusive dialogue with women leaders from the Middle East and continuous research. Read more