Zoe Mayers student at Champlain College. Rob Williams, Ph.D., UVM Faculty Advisor
During the 1990’s through 2000’s access to skateboarding and skateboarding equipment in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries was non-existent. It was not until around 2005 when some kids from Alexandria came together to create an online community that could nurture the skate scene in all of Egypt. The lack of acceptance to the sport and lack of product available can be directly related to the Egyptian government and style of rule at the time. Jobs were minimal, economy was in poor condition, and ruling was forceful. The youth of Egypt used outlets such as skateboarding, graffiti, and music to channel external energy and stay both positive and productive. In 2010 and 2011 these niche youth communities fostered an environment of hope and change, in turn becoming the backbone of the Egyptian revolution.
As tension between the regime and the people of Egypt heightened, the government began to fear the power of the people. Under Mubarak’s rule life in Egypt was not easy leading up to the revolution in 2010 and 2011. The economy was grim, living conditions were minimal, and quality of life was low. In 2010, over 40% of Egyptians were living below the poverty line. The low quality of life for everyone living in Egypt is what sparked the need for change. The skateboarding community as a whole was not recognized or appreciated. Skateboarding is a creative outlet that allows people to get outside and do physical activity, interact with others, and escape mentally. Much like skateboarding, graffiti and music also created tight knit communities in which youth was able to express themselves and share thoughts and values with each other about the current social and political climate in Egypt. “Generally the skateboarders and the musicians were so against the ex government and a big part of the revolutions, I must say (Shady Ayman Slipping: Skate’s Impact on Egypt).” Music and art provided outlets for youth communities to express their own political views. Graffiti artists and musicians used their art as way to document crimes and corruption. “Graffiti was a rare sight until two years ago, when artists began documenting the crimes of our regime. The artists—some acting on their own, others as part of an artistic collective—remind those who take political stands that nothing escapes the eyes and ears of our people. They cover their concrete canvases with portraits of activists like Ahmed Harara, who lost both his eyes during protests to see his country free (Smithsonianmag.com).”
The movie Slipping: Skate’s Impact on Egypt provided an internal look at Egyptian underground youth through a lens of creativity. It is an expression of pain due to governmental oppression and the ability to find happiness through positive non-traditional outlets. This Arab Spring was a youth driven movement. “There is no doubt that the youth succeeded in several domains prior to the January revolution. Young people were motivated by the knowledge they gained from the internet and social networking sites about two main issues: how to combat tyranny and human rights violations at home and about non-violent resistance movements abroad (Middleeastmonitor.com).” The state of the revolution arguably could have been non-existent without passionate youth movements.
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