Arab youth claim ISIL is biggest challenge in Middle East

Regional youth also highlighted issues of terrorism, unemployment and civil unrest



Young people across the Middle East have identified the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as the biggest challenge facing the region, according to the 2016 edition of the Arab Youth Survey.

The annual survey, published by public relations firm Asda’a Burson-Marsteller on Tuesday, was aimed at discovering insights on young people’s views on politics, economy, social issues and media consumption. It showed that 50 per cent of the 3,500 polled believe that the rise of ISIL is the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East, followed by threat of terrorism, unemployment and civil unrest.

Some 77 per cent said that they were concerned about the rise of ISIL, while 78 per cent said they would still not support the group if it did not use so much violence. A further 76 per cent stated that they do not believe ISIL will ultimately establish an Islamic state in the Arab world.

The lack of jobs and opportunities was named by 24 per cent of people as the primary reason some young people are attracted to ISIL.

The survey was conducted at the start of 2016, interviewing people aged 18 to 24 from 16 countries in the MENA region. These include the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen.

Other statistics show that 44 per cent of Arab youth believe there are good job opportunities in the area they live, while 47 per cent believe Sunni-Shia relations have worsened in the past five years, and 52 per cent believe religion plays too big a role in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is viewed as respondents’ biggest ally in the region, with 31 per cent, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 28 per cent and the United States with 25 per cent.

The legacy of the Arab Spring continued a downwards trend, falling from 38 per cent in 2015 to 36 per cent in 2016, down from 72 per cent in 2012. Some 53 per cent of people believe promoting stability in the region is more important that promoting democracy.

For the fifth year running, young Arabs view the UAE as the top country to live in, with 22 per cent, followed by the United States with 15 per cent and Germany with 11 per cent. Safety and security was cited as the top aspect people most associate with the country, followed by a growing economy, wide range of working opportunities and generous salary packages.

The UAE was also seen as the top country in which people would like to start a business, with 24 per cent.

The 3,500 young people were also asked whether their leaders should do more to promote the rights of women. An overwhelming 67 per cent of people agreed.

Falling oil prices was another angle of the survey, with 66 per cent of people saying they are concerned by the issue – a figure that rises to 80 per cent in nations belonging to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. That said, 78 per cent still believe energy should be subsidised by their governments.

More young Arabs now get their news online than from television or print media, with 32 per cent reading news online daily, compared to 29 per cent watching TV and 7 per cent reading newspapers.

Social media also figured strongly, with 62 per cent of respondents using WhatsApp on a daily basis, and 55 per cent using Facebook, 33 per cent using YouTube, 28 per cent using Twitter and 28 per cent using Instagram.

The survey was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, which interviewed participants between January 11 and February 22, 2016. Those interviewed were 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female.

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