Last week, the Saudi Interior Ministry issued a list of 36 terror suspects wanted both nationally an internationally. The list included 19 men under the age of 25. For this reason, most security analysts believe that they were recently recruited, no more than two years ago, that is after the beginning of the American war on the extinct Iraqi regime and president.
Whilst I was looking at the pictures of these wanted young men, I remembered the recommendations of the Fourth Conference for National Dialogue that was devoted to discussing youth issues. The conference produced 30 ideas that were proposed to officials involved. The topics varied from unemployment and encouraging communication between youths of different inclinations, to nationalism and the issue of loyalty to religion. It was also suggested that the youth play a bigger role in the leadership of social institutions as well as extending the use of modern education facilities.
These are good recommendations but they serve and protect only those of the coming generations. The conference failed to find the means to rescue the youth who have already become victims to the terrorist trap. The proposed solutions are suitable for the long-term, however, society presently requires effective short-term solutions.
Educational institutions in Saudi Arabia with their disorganized grading system need more accurate observation from officials. A few days ago, a high school teacher told me that he caught a number of students with a religious tape in which the speaker criticizes a boy who listens to songs. When the boy explained that he finds the music relaxing, the speaker told him that his nerves should explode in defense of God”s cause. Despite the efforts of the government that warns against the tapes, they always seem to find their way into the hands of these juniors. It is shameful that such incidents pass without any investigation or punishment.
On the other hand, however, a teacher from one of the preparatory schools was rebuked for playing the song, ”My Beloved Country” by Saudi singer Tallal Maddah in an early morning class.
Samer Harby, 23 years old, believes that parents have a major role to play in similar cases. "It is impossible that a young man”s ideology would change so abruptly without noticing the developing changes in his behavior. We have lived among these youths and frankly, we sometimes noticed the changes in some of our colleagues."
Harby adds that, "I understand that positive changes may take longer, but there are some internal factors that if acted upon, could protect more of our brothers and friends from slipping onto this path."
Emad Banna discusses another reason that makes the youth an easier target. He said, "There is a characteristic of Saudi youth of which I have no idea where it stemmed from and that is that the Saudi youth will simply listen to and carry out orders. At many times, they act in a certain way only because of someone else”s influence upon them. Their actions are not the result of a personal conviction based on their own thoughts and reflections. Despite this well-entrenched characteristic however, it can be controlled."
Therefore, it is not surprising to find that there are a number of young men under twenty-five years old on the list. Other lists have included even younger men. It is truly sad however, to think that these young men should have been celebrating their graduation or moving onto a higher stage of education. Rather than thinking about where to spend the summer vacation, their poor families are hosting gatherings with other families in the same situation to console each other.