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Young 'kept at distance'

YOUNG people in Bahrain are not trusted enough to realise their full potential in civil society, a youth activist said.

National Democratic Action Society (NDAS) member Mohammed Mattar said that a generation divide between young people and those in charge exists and looks like it will keep growing.

"Of course all political societies want to have young people in them, but we are marginalised," he said.

They use us to carry out what they decide, but they do not include us in the decision-making process.

"History has shown that major changes tend to be instigated by the energy of youth. So clearly we have a greater role to play."

Mr Mattar also condemned Bahrain's newly passed societies law for not allowing membership in political organisations below the age of 21.

"In most countries, the minimum age is 18 and they are trying to lower it even further," he said.

"In other places, the minimum age to stand for candidacy for a political position is 25, but in most parts of the Arab World it is still over 30."

He was speaking on the second and final day of a civil societies conference being held in parallel with the upcoming Forum for the Future, which brings together the foreign ministers of the G8 and the broader Middle East and North Africa.

The event at the Gulf Hotel was attended by civil societies and human rights activists from around the world.

Mr Mattar said that a similar situation exists in business organisations as well.

"The people in charge try to keep the younger people under them down, preventing them from achieving positions of authority - perhaps because they think that we don't have the ability or experience to do the job," he continued.

He added that there are similar prejudices among different faiths, sects, genders and lineage.

Mr Mattar also said that the Arab World suffers from a lack of good role models for today's youth.

"There are no strong leaders who can unite the Arab World like former Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser," he said.

"Nowadays, the role models are limited to sports stars or, even worse, pop stars like Nancy Ajram."



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