Arab Youth Respond to Osama Bin Laden Death

The May 1 announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden marks the first distraction of Middle East coverage from the unprecedented democratic upheavals currently engulfing the region.  On the day following the historic announcement, a Syrian activist tweeted, “Great, OBL’s dead, now can we get back to revolutions? Mass murder continues in #Syria.” Meanwhile in Bahrain, activists began hash-tagging “#OBL” in announcements of pressing but unrelated human rights abuses – a creative attempt to ride the wave of the Osama Bin Laden twitter storm.

The democratic movements throughout the Middle East are now forging on into their third month, and, with the frightening escalations in regime brutality, youth leaders are more keenly aware than ever of their dependence on the West’s sustained case of Arab Spring Fever.

Though the American audience has been both captivated and ultimately sympathetic to the sight of thousands of Arab youth protestors fighting the good fight, the unremitting media speculation about the role of Islamists in these newly founded power vacuums has undoubtedly tainted the spirit of the revolutions in the eyes of the West.  How radical is the Muslim Brotherhood? Is Iran playing a role in the democratic movement in Bahrain? Will Al Qaeda of the Arabia Peninsula take over Yemen if America’s puppet steps down? These questions, echoed relentlessly in recent months, contrast “stability” with “democracy,” framing the two concepts as the only two irreconcilable possibilities for the future of the Arab world.

Some commentary in Bin Laden news, however, managed to coalesce the two topics and ideas, reflecting on the significance of the al Qaeda leader’s death in the context of these popular regional movements. On Al Jazeera English, Robert Fisk ended his analysis, “Al Qaeda was defeated by the people of the Arab world when they overthrew dictators, which bin Laden had failed to do.”

Is “democracy” or “stability” the only mutually-exclusive possibility for the Arab world? Or are these two ideas, in fact, complimentary, if not, amplifying of the other? And who are these youth protestors? Are they future “terrorists” or visionary state-builders?  Check out what Arab youth activists have to say for themselves – TNGG caught up with a few of the millions, and here’s a glimpse:

 

Mostafa Bedair, a 24-year-old engineer and activist from Cairo, Egypt.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

It’s always affirmative of the higher values one believes in to see someone guilty of cold-bloodedly killing thousands of innocent human beings finally brought to justice. But I can’t help but wonder when – or rather whether – those who are directly responsible for similar atrocities committed in the name of fighting him [Osama Bin Laden] will be held accountable and face the consequences of their actions one day. Maybe then should we be allowed to announce “justice for all”?

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

Being an Arab Muslim, my life has no doubt been highly influenced by him. His ideology not only altered the way we are viewed, but also the way we see ourselves. Seeing the full half of the glass, I believe the internal discussion it triggered will be a step in the right direction, with Arabs and Muslims taking this chance to reinvent themselves and eradicate the underlying reasons that made his emergence possible in the first place.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

I can’t think of a reason why it should bring about any significant changes. Al-Qaeda will not cease to exist over night, and I don’t see the war on terror as a whole ending in the near future. I believe it would be very naïve to expect his death to change anything in the global political landscape, including the relationship between the U.S., EU and the Arab world.

 

Alaa Alkiaini, a 21-year-old student from Amman, Jordan.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

I am so surprised and happy – you can’t even believe how happy I am – you have no idea how hard he made our lives as Arabs after 9/11, the way the world has viewed us. I am so tired of the way the world views us all as Osama bin Ladens, so I hope this view will now end so we can all move forward.

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

The life of Osama bin Laden meant living in fear all the time, it meant the risk of being attacked at any moment, at any time – I worked with foreigners in Amman, Jordan, [at a hotel] which made it even riskier. These terrorists hate us Jordanians most because we live more liberal lives and have peace with America and Israel – so we have been at risk and suffered from horrible terrorism ourselves at the hands of these people.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

I’m sure this will be great for our relationship with the West – we, as Arab countries, have many resources, not just oil and gas, but also many, many beautiful sights and kind people who want to meet people from the West and share our real culture. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda worked to destroy all of this and make the religion of Islam about terrorism, not peace, and created this big gap between the West and Arab countries. I’m so happy that this could change because I think we both have a lot to share with each other.

 

Ali Aljehairy, a 22-year-old cyber activist (@Alhejairy) from Manama, Bahrain whose cousin was recently tortured by the regime.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

This wasn’t a big deal for me because he hasn’t meant much recently. He was under house arrest. Besides, I don’t believe that he has been killed – I think that he was already dead, and Obama just announced this to exploit the death for his second presidency term. If this were true, if they really just shot him in the head, why did they say that they threw his body into the sea? Why didn’t they show his body?

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

He meant nothing. He was an extreme terrorist who distorted the image of Islam, an extremist who made it very difficult for the rest of the Arabs to have normal good lives. He hasn’t influenced my life at all other than negatively.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

I hope that it will change for the better. I hope…

 

Abdul Ben Yusuf, a 23-year-old Libyan rebel who participated in the Feb. 17 protests. He’s originally from Tobruk, Libya, which has long been accused of being an Al Qaeda stronghold.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

We are a little bit busy over here in Libya right now, we must free our own country from extremists right now, but I am happy for America. You are our ally against Gaddafi so we are happy that you are happy. The Americans are a good people who deserve very good lives.

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

Libya’s dictator always uses Al Qaeda to scare the West from supporting the Arab people, so I am happy that the West has opened its eyes to this lie in Libya. We are not Al Qaeda, we are the Libyan people, we are the Arab people, and Islam is our religion, it is not terrorism. Now that Bin Laden is gone, I hope the United States will open its eyes to all of the Arab countries who will show that we have much to share – the Arab people and the American people.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

Yes! Osama is dead so now you don’t hate us, America supports the people now in Egypt, in Libya, Syria – inshallah in Bahrain and Yemen – American support for the people, not the dictators any more, means we don’t hate you, so this is the beginning of a very, very beautiful friendship.

 

Maryam Al Sayyed, a 24-year-old women’s rights activist, originally from Sana’a, Yemen. She currently works in Oman.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

You got one, but there are many more to go. Especially since the war on terror created more terrorists! I wish the people of America understood that policies of their government create the environments perfect for Al Qaeda. In Yemen, most people are good people who felt the pain in our hearts at 9/11, but when the U.S. supports our dictator who kills his own people, it makes normal people go extreme. How would Americans feel if their brother or father was tortured and killed for just saying a certain political view?

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

The life of Osama bin Laden gave the U.S. the excuse to use dangerous unmanned drones in Yemen in the name of “Al Qaeda” and “the war on terrorism,” which has killed innocent Yemenis. Al Qaeda has been the excuse used by our dictator to oppress our people and receive backing from the U.S. at the same time. [Bin Laden] has destroyed our country just as the misguided actions of the U.S. government.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

I would hope that the U.S. would now stop the use of unmanned drones in Yemen and Pakistan that kill civilians. What will really change the relationship between the West and the Arabs is if U.S. gets on the side of the Arab people, not the Arab dictators.

 

Fatma Hasawi, a 19-year-old from Tripoli, Libya, who studies in Cairo. Her family has also recently relocated to Cairo to avoid the war, although they are all still involved in the Free Libya movement.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

I am personally happy that the Americans are happy, but I don’t think they understand that their government in the Muslim countries, Arab countries and Afghanistan and Pakistan and other Muslim countries, really hurts the people, which is why Osama bin Laden is popular in the first place.

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

He hijacked my religion. I have family in Western countries who are discriminated against because of terrorism from this crazy man, when most Muslims are just people who have jobs and families. We have normal lives and pray each week like you Americans go to church each week. So I hate that he has been the face of my religion.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

I hope so, but the movements in the Arab world are what is more important right now because it’s not about one person like Osama bin Laden, it’s about millions of Arab people. The movements will change the entire countries of the Arab nations and we will remember who supported our struggle against the dictators. In Libya, we thank Obama, but in Bahrain and Yemen, the Americans should support the people if they want a friendship with those countries in the future.

 

Husra elSaidi, a 20-year-old student from Damascus, Syria, who considers herself an Islamic Socialist.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

Osama bin Laden did a lot of really great things for Muslims around the world in Africa and Pakistan, so I know that this has been a sad time for many Muslims. He stood up for Muslims against the racism and exploitation by the West, so I understand why people are sad.

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

He has been a distraction from the real problems in our country, so I am happy that our leader will not be able to use terrorism as an excuse to steal our freedoms.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

The Arab Spring is more important than the death of Osama bin Laden. Yes, this is big news for us too because he was a revolutionary symbol to some people, but we have mainstream revolutions happening in all of the Arab countries now. If the West believes in democracy for Arabs and Muslims and then leaves our Muslim countries that it occupies, then we will no longer see the West as racist and hating and killing us Muslims.

 

Sharif Ibrahim Sharif, a 19-year-old from Manama, Bahrain.  He’s the son of kidnapped opposition leader, Ebrahim Sharif, the leader of the secular nationalist party. Sharif is currently studying in Michigan.

What’s your response to the death of Osama bin Laden?

I’m am glad that his death has brought closure to so many, but I am a little disturbed by the open celebration of another human’s death. [Bin Laden] was truly a terrible and reprehensible human being, but it still feels wrong to celebrate his death as joyously as we have seen. Personally, I would have preferred a fair trial and corresponding jail sentence, an outcome that would likely not sit well with many, but would affirm the principles and values of the United States and the democratic world.

What did he mean to you? Has his life affected or influenced your life in any way?

His life has not affected mine except helping to spread racism and profiling of Arabs and Muslims. He is a revolting man who has committed mass murder and relished it.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will change the relationship between the West and the Arab world?

I don’t believe so. I doubt Bin Laden was ever really important in U.S. foreign policy or counter-terrorism policy, so it doesn’t seem likely that America’s relations with other nations will change as a result of his death (except possibly in Pakistan itself.) I believe that his death will not mean much in the grand scheme of things, it seems likely that terror groups likely have been functioning independently of him for quite some time.

2 Responses to “Arab Youth Respond to Osama Bin Laden Death”

  1. Zach

    Great article and great reporting. I like how you got some pretty diverse ideas in there, especially from the young socialist woman. I hate to think of what some of the beer-gutted flag wavers in the USA would say in response to her firm beliefs, but more power to her for standing up for it. Thanks for sharing, Anna.

    Reply
  2. Ekbal Uddin

    The reaction of several of the young people interviewed – Jordon’s Alaa Alkiaini, Bahrain’s Sharif Ibrahim Sharif, Libya’s Fatma Hasawi, and even Egypt’s Mostafa Bedair – points more to the triumphal effect of US/Western propaganda and spin on the young activists over there than the views of the Arab/Muslim Street, based on some of the reaction of the masses to the US and Western WOT as reflected in polls/opinions, etc.

    Reply

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