The 2011 Uprisings Gave Millions Of Arab Youth A Reason To Live

Fireworks light up the sky above Cairo's Tahrir square during continuing protests against Egypt's military rulers late on Nov
Fireworks light up the sky above Cairo's Tahrir square during continuing protests against Egypt's military rulers late on November 24, 2011, as members of Egypt's ruling military council rejected calls to step down immediately, saying it would amount to a 'betrayal' as anti-military protests entered their seventh day. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Five years after the Arab uprisings, Dr. Sally Toma, an Egyptian psychiatrist and one of the leading figures of the January 25, 2011 movement, sums up the fate of the Tahrir generation: "Most of us have been imprisoned, vilified...Many have left, many of us are exhausted. Today, a large number of activists are trapped in their own traumas."

The emotional trauma experienced by many is now overshadowed by widespread tragedy in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen. The specter of ISIS haunts the region. Still, the Arab revolutionary moment gave birth to a new generation. Toma says that many people in Egypt feel that "they were born on January 25, 2011."

And today, the groups of young people who took to the streets in 2011 and 2012 make up the heart of these Arab countries.

Egypt's youth fought for freedom, Bahrain's youth have been silenced, and Syria's youth are oppressed. The same generation that marched in the streets of Arab cities five years ago is bound to determine the future of the region. How could it not, given that 60 percent of the population in the MENA region is under the age of 30?

In Morocco, Hamza Alioua describes how he witnessed his father fleeing the violent crackdown on a protest in the popular neighborhood of Sbata in 2011.

He later promised himself: "I will never run away." He was 15 years-old then. He is currently part of a youth movement advocating for the reform of the educational sector. The organization resembles the "20th of February Movement" that led the 2011 protests and forced the Moroccan monarchy to bring about constitutional change. Today, Hamza and the student organization are relocating the fight to the field of education, advocating against the wave of privatization in the sector and the resulting growing inequalities.

In Tunisia, Bouhid Belhadi was not much older than Hamza when he fought the authorities in his hometown of Hammamet, in December 2010. A few weeks later, Ben Ali's regime was overthrown. Now an active member of the Shams Association, he bravely pushes for the legalization of homosexuality and the recognition of the rights of sexual minorities in Tunisia. He struggled with discrimination as a teenager, and now, he faces serious risks for his political engagement.

"Tunisia still has a long way to go," he has said, but he insists that the future of his country will be built by him, civil society, and other Tunisian Human Rights organizations.

After the magical momentum of the uprisings, the Arab Spring generation was brutally yanked from the dream. These uprisings have turned into nightmares that have collapsed states -- such as in Libya, Yemen and Syria.

Ironically, the younger generation is now being blamed for the spiraling of these "revolutions," even though they never actually held political power.

Zahra Langhi is an academic and activist fighting for women's rights in Libya. Like many of her fellow countrymen and women, she called for "A Day of Rage" on February 17, 2011. She quickly got dragged into the wave of violence that struck her country. Since then, she has doubted the effectiveness of her initial participation.

According to Langhi, paving the way for a better future in Libya will only be possible with more compassion.

In Syria, the most horrific bloodbaths and the millions of refugees currently overshadow the massive movement that took place in 2011. Disillusioned but determined, Syrian artist Ibrahim Fakhri admits that he doesn't know what the outcome of the March 15 revolution will be, and that he has grown exhausted by the ongoing tragedy.

Nevertheless, the 2011 uprisings gave Fakhri and millions of others a reason to live, a reason to hope. Every day, it is the bravery and the memory of the martyrs that push Ibrahim to work on his art.

This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.