Yemeni Teenagers Fear the Unknown

National Yemen

By Esra’ AlNajjar

Teenagers are hard to deal with when they are happy and relaxed and have a bright future ahead of them, let alone when neither the present nor the future promise them anything. While teenagers around the world have a chance to dream, plan and build a future, Yemeni teenagers are abandoned in the middle of nowhere. With a deteriorating political situation and an alarming security condition, teenagers in Yemen are starting to lose hope. They are becoming miserable, resentful and harder to control. This is probably because the outlet they need, considering their critical stage in life, is blocked due to the country’s situation. There are no outings, no gatherings and sometimes they are not even allowed to go to school.

The events that Yemen is going through at the moment have had a negative impact on teenagers. At the time when teenagers around the world are living their lives to the fullest potential, Yemeni teenagers are watching the news day and night. The news, which is generally terrible, burdens them with negative feelings and demolishes their hopes for a better future. Teenagers also fear the actions made by decision-makers because they believe that those decisions cause more chaos and paralyze them further. For instance, it has become common for schools to cancel scheduled trips and activities because one party or another decided to carry on a demonstration. So for the safety of the students, the trip is usually cancelled or postponed.

Parents in Yemen are the greatest sufferers when it comes to dealing with their teen children. Teenagers need to have a life full of adventures and experiences. Parents on the other hand cannot grant them this since the situation of the country doesn’t always allow it. They hardly allow their kids to go out for fear of being exposed to any security situations including shootings, bombings, kidnappings or sudden riots. The rejection of the teens’ need to go out and have some fun usually affects them negatively, so in order for parents to avoid this, they are forced to compromise and eventually settle for dealing with anxiety rather than suppressing their children’s desires at such an age.

Wadeea’ Ali, a mother of a 15-year-old says, “The political chaos that the country is currently undergoing didn’t affect my daughter as it much as it affected me. My daughter is very adventurous and doesn’t bother to take care of herself; and so I am faced with tension and anxiety every time she leaves the house.”

Teenagers are generally known by their hard character and the desire to fight about anything and everything. In Yemen, they have found a new subject to quarrel over. They have managed to split between supporters and opposition. Each will insist on their opinion without understanding or accepting the other party’s opinion. This usually leads to breaking friendships and even family bonds. Abd Al Kareem AlEzzi himself has experienced this. I have a friend who happens to be very fanatic about the vision of a certain political party and I have had a deep dispute with him because he would not respect my opinions. This has eventually affected our friendship,” he said.

The rapidly changing atmosphere around Yemeni teenagers also had its share in affecting them. Despite their age, they are not ignorant to the changes that have taken place since the beginning of the crisis back in 2011. The conditions are no longer the same as it used to be; things are changing and not always for the best. For example, they didn’t fail to notice that school guards have been transformed from ordinary security guards to tribal ones.

In their narrow perspective, which might also turn out to be true, Yemen seems to have no future. This has split Yemeni teens into two categories. The first are those who are hoping to have a life outside the country through immigrating by any means provided. “My three siblings find the idea of “immigration” a very tempting one and have lost whatever scant bit of patriotism they have, which I find sad and frustrating,” says Maysa Al Aqil. The second are those who plan no future at all. Some would only think it to be a waste of time to actually dream when things are deteriorating on daily basis. Often we hear the phrase “If Yemen proves to have a future,” at the end of conversations.

The economical crisis that the country is facing has affected Yemeni society financially. Governmental positions and institutions are mostly out of work. Embassies and foreign oil companies have started evacuating, leaving a dramatic number of unemployed Yemenis. Moreover, parents have started withdrawing from elite schools because they can no longer afford the expenses. All this has in turn affected teenagers negatively since their allowances and expenses have become limited. With the natural growing need of teens, this could be hard to live with, making teenagers even harder to handle.

Regardless, some positive effects can still be seen. First, living in such a troubled situation has helped build teenagers’ characters, and toughened them up in case they had to travel for educational purposes and face the world alone. They have learned to respond quickly in case something happens and with a sort of maturity. Secondly, they also started forming opinions and considering political leadership as part of their future careers. This has reduced the shallowness that teenagers around the world are usually acquainted with.

The current situation doesn’t seem to be improving; parents as well as teenagers are worried. Anxiety is spreading and it is getting harder to feel hopeful again.  Parents, however, should play an important role in changing their teens’ prospect towards the situation. They should work on occupying them with certain activities that could distract them and turn their attention away from politics. They can also discuss the situation with them in a more positive way and help them develop a brighter outlook towards an uncertain future.