The bitter clash between Egypt’s youth and the old

Ethel Moghaddam

The elephantine dilemma facing people in Egypt today is that their state – and society – is old, unbalanced and run by very old people. It is confronted with a problem of massive dimensions but is in danger of alienating the youth, continuing a host of economic problems and creating new ones. The response, therefore, needs to begin with the old people as well.

Two months ago, when the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s grandson Mohamed Badea, the heir to his throne, came to visit us, we asked him to support and propagate the many positive programmes that Egypt has been implementing for the past four years. We asked him to help us convey the message that he and other figures in the palace should give support to young people so that they can realise the benefit of taking this great journey together with them.

The visit of Mohammed Badea in October 2017 brought all our hopes to fruition, but unfortunately, at the end of the visit, there was one thing he and the palace lacked: He missed the very human side of society, especially the young.

On Sunday, with so much historic significance for the country – the visit of the Prince of Wales – Mohamed Badea and the palace took an important step in helping young people to understand the value of what Egypt is doing for them, particularly when it comes to peace and stability.

Today, Mohamed Badea told the audience who gathered at the Presidential Palace in Cairo that he welcomes the visit of the Prince of Wales with all the confidence that he deserves. He said: “I am not here to represent the Palace as president but rather to sit at the service of the nation. I am pleased to hear what Prince Charles has to say. In particular, his vision that Egypt can play a role in the security and safety of all in the region, in protecting women and children, and in dealing with extremism and terrorism, which all of us here in Egypt are involved in fighting against. This kind of advice from a Noble Knight will serve as a great help, for it will no doubt serve to further encourage me to continue with what I have started, and to contribute to a better Egypt and to build the happy future that my country is pursuing to achieve.”

The president and the palace had taken pains to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere in the palace. The public was seated outdoors on the basketball court, which is part of the palace grounds. Large television screens were positioned so that people could watch the visit of the prince. TV pictures had a small mosque backgrounded with flags as well as posters of great Egyptian poets. Banners across the marbled floors of the palace appeared to say “Get well soon, Prince, as we all pray for you.”

Tears welled up in many eyes when Mohammed Badea said: “The president has started a major project aimed at attracting young people, including encouraging them to work, to build the state, to support families, to continue with their studies and to take advantage of all the opportunities that come with being young in our country.”

In answering questions from the Prince of Wales, Mohammed Badea acknowledged that after the mass protests that followed the coup of July 3, 2013, the youth of the country were frustrated. He said they felt out of step with a society that is run by seniors who are spoilt and uninvolved in their daily life.

Mohamed Badea added: “It was therefore the concern of the president, and the palace, to engage young people, to ensure that they had their voices heard and that they are focused on their lives. To do this, we started running programmes which included work and travel opportunities, social projects to encourage young people to follow their dreams, and opportunities for them to get in touch with different social networks. We wanted them to come together and build a society that is compatible with them.

“The state is trying to build on the foundation that my grandfather had given us to reach a new level of achievements by continuing with programs which focus on the youth, on building new schools, and on encouraging job creation and growing the economy.”

Mohamed Badea went on to say: “We are now focusing on the first phase of this big project, where we wanted to achieve stability, and Egypt is getting there thanks to the security provided by the security forces and the good economic policy we are following.”

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