Content What We Do

Esin Erkan

US Public Radio Series

Airing from 2003-2018, America Abroad is an award-winning documentary radio program distributed by Public Radio International (PRI) and broadcast on public radio stations nationwide. Each episode takes an in-depth look at one critical issue in international affairs and U.S. foreign policy.

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Sudan has been at war with itself for decades. Arab Muslims in the north have long dominated Christian and animist Africans in the south. But, in a referendum scheduled for January 2011, southerners are expected to vote for separation. And the divorce may not be pretty. The south will take water, land, and about three quarters of Sudan’s oil with it. That’s one of many reasons the north opposes the divorce, and why there’s fear of a return to conflict. 

A generation ago, young Arabs went to the streets to protest repressive governments. Now, they hop on the information highway – blogging and tweeting their discontent. They upload music, download protests. But this generation is up against rulers who know a thing or two about staying in power – and they are keeping the kids in check. It's an old battle on new ground – young activists fight to express themselves as Arab governments find better ways to outflank them. 

“Stand by, there will be the giant sucking sound, if we are dumb enough to have this jammed down our throats!" – Ross Perot in 1992

Sitting in limbo is where many young Arabs find themselves today. Nearly a quarter of Arabs under 30 are jobless. Long gone are the days of a guaranteed government gig, and the private sector is far from filling the gap. Today, Arab youth are searching for work and waiting for weddings. Some just want to leave the region – and its long unemployment lines – altogether. At best, unemployment and flagging Arab economies lead to a generation of bored and frustrated youth. At worst, economic conditions create a breeding ground for extremism and instability. 

The Arab world has the largest youth bulge on the planet. Millions of young people are living in a pressure cooker of social, political, tribal, and religious forces. We visit Jordan and Egypt and speak with young Arabs in America about their struggles with identity, and how globalization, Islam, and a turbulent region are shaping how they look at themselves, and the world. 

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