Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear YJI: New Yorker Says 'Sorry'

Just after Romensko tweeted the above, we got an email from the author of The New Yorker piece on Tyler Clementi:
Thank you for your letter to the New Yorker, which was just forwarded
to me. You’re right: it would have been better if I'd included
Cresonia Hsieh’s name and affiliation, and I’m sorry that I didn't.
But I'd be sad if anyone detected disrespect in the phrase "an
acquaintance who memorialized Clementi online”. Of course, no
disrespect was intended. Cresonia Hsieh wrote a thoughtful, insightful
piece, and I was very glad to have read it.
With best wishes,
Ian Parker

YJI's response to Ian Parker:
I will forward your response Cresonia. I'm sure your kind words here will help immeasurably.
Aside from our parochial concern about its undervaluing of Cresonia's work, you wrote a fine, fair piece on a troubling subject.
Your answer to our complaint also helps educate the hundreds of young journalists we have around the world about how a reporter can gracefully apologize, even when, strictly speaking, he's not wrong.
Thank you,
Steve Collins, YJI Board President

Dear New Yorker: YJI Deserves Better

To the editor:
In Ian Parker's piece about Tyler Clementi, the work of Youth Journalism International reporter Cresonia Hsieh was seriously shortchanged. Instead of mentioning her name and affiliation, Parker wrote "an acquaintance who memorialized Clementi online."
Tyler Clementi
First off, her piece was much more than a memorial to Tyler. Hsieh was actually wrestling with her memory of Tyler and her own failure to do more to reach out to him.
She also wrote it for Youth Journalism International -- which published it in the online newspaper, The Tattoo -- not on some MySpace page or thinly read blog. We feel rather insulted to be dismissed so summarily.
Moreover, the picture that Parker describes in his piece came to his attention only because Hsieh managed to secure permission for it to run in The Tattoo and nowhere else. Real work went into that, too, again with no credit.
Many thousands of people read Hsieh's work. It won journalism awards. It stands on its own. But it would have been nice for The New Yorker to give her the credit she deserves instead of treating her work as if it were done by some numbskull posting on Facebook.
We routinely give credit to The New Yorker. We deserve at least as much respect in return.
-- Steve Collins
President, Board of Directors
Youth Journalism International

Note to readers:
Parker's piece in this week's issue included this passage:

"An acquaintance who memorialized Clementi online wrote, 'Tyler never said very much or interacted with the rest of the youth group at the church I attended with him.' This post is accompanied by a photograph of Clementi on a church outing in 2007. Sitting on a bus, he is staring at the camera; behind him, a girl is laughing and putting on lipstick. He seems out of step even with his own bright-orange T-shirt, which reads 'Daytona Beach.'"

To see Cresonia Hsieh's piece, follow this link.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From Tahrir To The World, YJI Is On It

Young people celebrating Mubarak's resignation last winter.

Here are the stories YJI reporters have done since the start of the Egyptian revolution and the Arab Spring: 

Inside The Egyptian Revolution (By Jessica Elsayed on Jan. 29, 2011)
Egyptians Pin Hopes On ElBaradei (By Jessica Elsayed on Jan. 30, 2011)
Egyptian Protestors Stand Firm (By Jessica Elsayed on Jan. 30, 2011)
Background Briefing (Interview of Jessica Elsayd by Pacifica Radio's Ian Masters on Jan. 30, 2011)
Marching In Egypt: A Firsthand Account (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 1, 2011)
Reflections On A Day Of Peaceful Protest (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 1, 2011)
Egyptian Rutgers Student Has High Hopes For Her Homeland's Future (By Gokce Yurekli on Feb. 2, 2011)
Mubarak's Thugs Turn On Protesters (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 3, 2011)
Larson Calls On Egyptian Youth To 'Stay The Course' (By Celeste Kurz on Feb. 5, 2011)
Amsterdam Joins Anti-Mubarak Protests (By Caroline Nelissen on Feb. 7, 2011)
Two Weeks Into The Revolution (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 7, 2011)
Google Exec Inspires Egyptian Protests (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 8, 2011)
Photos From Alexandria, Egypt Protest (By Farah Nemr on Feb. 9, 2011)
More Photos From Egyptian Protest In Alexandria (By Miran Elleithy on Feb. 9, 2011)
Egyptians Won't Give Up On Freedom (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 11, 2011)
Egyptians Celebrate Mubarak's Resignation (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 11, 2011)
'Egypt Got Its Soul Back Today' (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 11, 2011)
'A New Epoch of Hope' In Egypt (By Lama Tawakkol on Feb. 23, 2011)
Egyptian Youth Reclaim Their Streets (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 24, 2011)
Libya Is The Latest To Catch Fire (By Jessica Elsayed on Feb. 24, 2011)
Qaddafi's Threats Won't Deter A People Yearning For Freedom (By Mehran Shamit on Feb. 25, 2011)
As Mubarak's Ministers Face Trial, A New Egypt Blooms (By Lama Tawakkol on Feb. 26, 2011) 
Cairo's Christians And Muslims Unite (By Lama Tawakkol on March 1, 2011)
Egyptian Youth Rally Behind New Prime Minister (By Jessica Elsayed on March 5, 2011)
Schools Reopen in Cairo (By Lama Tawakkol on March 5, 2011)
Mixed Feelings On Opening Schools In Egypt (By Lama Tawakkol on March 6, 2011)
Egyptian Youth Need To Be Ready To Lead (By Ghada Abelhady on March 16, 2011)
Egyptians Head To The Polls (By Ghada Abelhady on March 19, 2011)
From Revolt To The Ballot Box in Egypt (By Jessica Elsayed on March 19, 2011)
Reporter's Notebook: Emotional Intensity At The Egyptian Science Fair (By Ghada Abelhady on April 13, 2011)
Students Show Creativity And Brainpower at Egypt's National Science Fair (By Ghada Abelhady on April 13, 2011)
Egypt Cheers As Mubarak Faces Trial (By Ghada Abelhady on April 14, 2011)
Video Commentary By Jessica Elsayed: Burka Ban (By Jessica Elsayed on April 15, 2011)
Osama Bin Laden Got What He Deserves, But What Comes Next? (Jala Ayman on May 2, 2011)
Skepticism And Hope In The Middle East (By Lama Tawakkol on May 20, 2011)
Obama's Mid-East Speech Disappoints (By Jessica Elsayed on May 23, 2011)
These Times Have Shaped Me (By Lama Tawakkol on May 24, 2011)
Egypt: Six Months After The Revolution (By Lama Tawakkol on July 29, 2011)
At The Sit-In, Alexandria, Egypt (By Yasser Alaa on August 2, 2011)
Protesting In Alexandria, Egypt (By Yasser Alaa on August 3, 2011)
Egyptians: Correct The Path (By Yasser Alaa on September 10, 2011
Demonstrators: Loosen Military Grip on Egypt (By Yasser Alaa on October 2, 2011)
Protesters Fill The Streets In Alexandria, Egypt (By Yasser Alaa on November 21, 2011)
Alexandria, Egypt: A View Into The Tear Gas (By Yasser Alaa on November 21, 2011)
The Journey Back to Cairo's Tahrir Square (By Lama Tawakkol on November 22, 2011)
A YJI Student Injured In Egyptian Protests (November 22, 2011)
Egyptian Revolution, Take Two (By Jessica Elsayed on November 22, 2011)
Tear Gas And Tents At Alexandria Protests (By Yasser Alaa on November 23, 2011)
Egypt's Door To The Unknown (By Yasser Alaa on December 21, 2011)
Egypt Today: Violence, Confusion, Rumors (By Lama Tawakkol on December 23, 2011)
Egyptian Protests Continue (By Yasser Alaa on December 25, 2011)
The Girl In The Blue Bra Could Have Been Me (By Jessica Elsayed on December 28, 2011)
Egypt's Revolution Isn't Over (By Lama Tawakkol on January 9, 2012)
Proudly Tunisian And Part Of The Revolution (By Ameni Mathlouthi on January 15, 2012)

All of these pieces were done by student reporters, most of them in Egypt. You can help us continue this extraordinary coverage by donating to Youth Journalism International, which offers its training to students for free. Please click on the Causecast link to the right or go to the Donate page on

"Dragon Tattoo" Film Is Decidedly European

By Caroline Nelissen
Senior Reporter
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – Based on the first book of the best-selling Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson – and following a succesful Swedish movie adaptation – The  Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher, had a lot to live up to.
As I have never read any of the books – and only watched a few snippets of the 2009 movie adaptation – I was not at all sure what to expect, but I wasn’t disappointed.
The movie follows the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who is asked by a retired executive to investigate the involvement of several members of the Vanger family in the disappearance of his niece in the 1960s.
He is assisted by the unconventional Lisbeth Salander, a skillful young hacker who has been ruled legally incompetent and rides a kick-ass motorcycle.
I was surprised at how well Fincher managed to give his movie a somewhat Swedish feel, even though it is an American adaptation.
In my opinion this is a good thing, as I think no setting lends itself better for this kind of grim story than a desolate and  wintery Swedish island. Moreover, the European atmosphere of the movie is definitely aided by the very sparse use of American accents and the pace at which the plot moves along.
It took quite a bit of time for the story to  finally grab me, as the beginning is pretty slow – except from a few rather graphic scenes involving Lisbeth and her new legal guardian. However, from the moment Blomkvist and Salander finally pair up, it’s pretty captivating. Still, I must admit that I had expected a bit more originality in terms of plot considering the hype surrounding the book and other movie adaptation.
I have been told by some fans to turn to the books to see the story unfold in its amazing completeness – and I definitely intend to do so.
The acting in the movie is great and Daniel Craig delivers a solid performance as the slightly gloomy Blomkvist.
Rooney Mara, who played  was nominated for an Academy Award in the category “Best Actress in a Leading Role” for her role in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo– and rightly so.
With her portrayal of the tough yet vulnerable Lisbeth, she  manages evoke a great deal of empathy for the character, who at one moment can seem disturbed almost to the point of unlikeability, while other times, her unadjusted behavior earned some brief chuckles from the audience – a rare occurrence during this otherwise heavy movie.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

YJI Reporters Welcome Tunisian Newcomer

YJI photo
     At Youth Journalism International's Connecticut headquarters, we like to have a little fun when we're not churning out the news. On Saturday, we had a little get-together to welcome our new student from Tunisia, 17-year-old Ameni Mathlouthi. She is attending high school in Connecticut this year as an exchange student and has already written a piece for Youth Journalism International about her role in the Tunisian revolution a year ago. Students who took part in this rough assignment, which involved consuming chocolate cake, pizza, clementines, chips and cider, are shown in the photo above. From left: Gabi Smith-Rosario, Kiernan Majerus-Collins, Mary Majerus-Collins, Erez Bittan, Ameni Mathlouthi and in front, Yelena Samofalova. All are students at Hall High School in West Hartford.
     Jessica Elsayed, a YJI reporter from Alexandria, Egypt, who is now studying at Denison University, took part in the party via Skype, talking with everyone. In the photo below, Ameni talks with Jessica.

YJI photo

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tucson With Giffords 'Every Step of Way'

By Mariah Pulver
Senior Reporter
TUCSON, Arizona, U.S.A. -- Devastating. Heart wrenching. Life changing. These are all words to describe the fateful day of January 8, 2011. It may not mean anything to you, but to Gabrielle Giffords and everyone in Tucson, Arizona, it does.
Giffords, a veteran congresswoman, calls it “that horrible day."
And the aftereffects of that day – when a gunman killed six people and nearly murdered Giffords -- just keep coming. Today, Giffords announced that she is resigning from her position in Congress to continue recovering.
As a sympathetic admirer of Giffords, I understand and fully support her decision. But as a voter, I am sad. She has done great things for Arizona and it is apparent that she loves representing the people of Tucson.
Gabrielle Giffords
Giffords has consistently been receptive to the needs of the people. Instead of shying away from the tough problems, she tackled them head on. That can be shown by the fact that she fearlessly fights for her beliefs about border security, energy independence, military families and veterans, and small businesses.
To know that someone is going to have to take her position is upsetting. That person will undoubtedly be highly qualified and a great person. But he or she will be no Gabby, as Tucsonans affectionately refer to her.
Although I will feel guilty when I cannot put down her name on my ballot, I understand her desire. Underneath it all, Giffords is just a normal human being who needs time to heal, to remember, and to spend time with her family.
Giffords has already made progress, which is unexpected, but miraculous. If you go to her website and watch her video announcing her resignation, I promise you will be amazed. She is speaking very clearly and is better able to express her thoughts. You could also see her progress on January 2, when she led the Pledge of Allegiance at a memorial vigil.
Progress is wonderful, but she still has more work to do. She doesn’t need people pushing her to take back her position in the House of Representatives when she is clearly not ready. Nobody should expect her to be ready for that.
Instead, we should all send her our thoughts. We should let her know just how much she means to us.
And most importantly, we should tell her that we are all there for her, every step of the way.

To download the congresswoman’s video, go to:
There are three versions available, including a 300MB high-resolution version for television use.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

As Gingrich Rolls, YJI Is On The Story

Though Youth Journalism International obviously can't send reporters trailing around with the presidential candidates, it is doing what it can to cover the U.S. presidential race. In this picture, for example, YJI Senior Reporter Kiernan Majerus-Collins, left, is right there with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during a recent campaign stop in Iowa. We'll be doing what we can to stay on the story as the Republicans pick a candidate and America decides whether to give Barack Obama another term as president. Keep an eye on our students' work!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"War Horse" Charms Buckingham Palace

Pool photograph

The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge 
at the 

premiere of War Horse last week.

By Noah Kidron-Style
LONDON, England – Last week’s War Horse premiere saw Prince William and Kate Middleton welcome the film to London in aid of the Prince’s Foundation.
Stars such as Steven Spielberg, Jeremy Irvine, Michael Morpugo and of course Joey the horse converged on Leicester Square for an unusually prestigious event, with the reception held at Buckingham Palace.
For all the supposed glitz and glamour of show business, the majority of film premieres today are slightly underwhelming affairs.
After a period of multi-million-dollar parties in the 1980s, studios came to the realization that all they really needed was a picture of their biggest stars smiling on the red carpet.
The premiere itself turned into a slightly awkward ritual where everyone involved sits together in a room unable to discuss the film in any more depth than sycophantic self-congratulation for fear of insulting their collective creative achievements.
However when the War Horse rolled into London it bucked the trend, as any occasion hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – the future king and queen of England – cannot help but become quite an event.
I attended as a last minute stand-in for my stepfather Lee Hall, who co-wrote the film, as he was unfortunately detained in New York. I couldn’t help feeling that his loss was my gain – especially when meeting Spielberg, the legendary film director. 
The guests were invited into a pre-film drinks reception while the stars made their way down the red carpet.
                                                                       Pool photograph
Director Steven Spielberg, Joey the horse 
and actor Jeremy

Irvine at the 
London premiere of War Horse last week.
Here the canapés and champagne contrasted with the first screening I had seen of War Horse held at Disney’s corporate office, at which it was amusing to watch high-powered film producers and stars forced to drink out of Hannah Montana mugs.
Once the royal couple arrived, they were formally introduced to the cast and crew, who had received extensive instruction on how to greet the Duke and Duchess – such as to pronounce “mam” so that it rhymed with “jam,” before taking their seats for the film to begin.
Pool photograph
The Dutchess of Cambridge 
The admittedly partisan crowd gave the film a rapturous ovation, and Kate Middleton was one of many to cry during the emotional tale of a boy tracking down his horse on the western front of WWI. That is despite the future queen admitting to not being the greatest horse lover due to a longstanding allergy.
The attendance of royalty made it perhaps the first time that everyone at a film premier bothered to stay seated throughout the entire credits, cheering as each actor’s name appeared on screen – a nice touch of respect, if one that should happen regardless of the royal presence.
Later at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the cast and guests assembled for speeches by Prince William and Spielberg.
In a grand room decorated by large and rather impressive photographs of the making of War Horse, the esteemed hosts spoke of the significance of the armed forces, of whom more than 600 had attended the premiere in full regalia.
Guests who were chosen to have a meet and greet with the royals were allocated a table at which to wait, while the Duke and Duchess toured the room with the efficiency of a handshaking assembly line.
As the Dutchess, who appears somewhat taller in real life, drew closer a team of servers swarmed around to clear away any debris of any offending food or drink.
She was charming and polite to all comers, and slightly embarrassed at the haste with which she had to move on. Plus most importantly, I remembered to rhyme “mam” with “jam.”  
The War Horse premiere was a throwback to a glamorous era and in this sense mirrored the film itself.
Bold, spectacular, old fashioned and faintly ridiculous, you just had to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Swedish Thriller Is Gripping And Beautiful

By Gokce Yurekli
NEWARK, New Jersey, U.S.A. -- The story of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has captivated audiences twice already with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium novels and their Swedish film adaptations.
The Swedish film by director Niels Arden Oplev opened to critical acclaim from international as well as American critics. So it came as a surprise that despite the success of the series, David Fincher decided to create his own adaptation.
Personally, I had very high expectations for this film given Fincher’s other amazing movies such as The Social Network and Fight Club.
Now that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is available in theaters, it is safe to say that it is a beautifully shot and gripping film with terrific performances from every actor and actress involved.
Daniel Craig plays Mikhail Blomkvist, the investigative journalist in Sweden called in from a remote island by a mysterious industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to solve the decades-old mystery of his missing niece. Blomkvist is aided by an assistant, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a sly hacker with piercings, tattoos and a terrible haircut.
There is more to the plot than that — so much that two long trailers were created to familiarize audiences who haven’t read the book or seen the Swedish film.
Yet one of the drawbacks of the film is that it is difficult to follow the progress of the investigation. It is a film that demands your full attention and it’s almost two and a half hours long.
So pick a comfortable seat.
The most unique character in the film is Lisbeth. She’s an angry, violent, isolated computer hacker. You are drawn to her character from the beginning and you miss her terribly in the scenes she’s not in.
Her performance could be enough to nab Mara an Oscar nomination.
Finally, the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. It’s eerie, dark, and haunting. Snow, ice, and black trees create this suitable chilly backdrop for this terrifying mystery.
Hollywood, beset by escalating marketing costs, is retreating into sequels, remakes or films based on bestselling novels.
Even though this film is based on a novel, it still manages to be creative and original in its execution. Other than a disappointing ending (which I won’t give away), the movie is definitely worth watching. I highly recommend it.
One last thing:  the film is not age-appropriate for any but the most mature viewers. Some scenes are definitely not suitable for the younger audience. Parents beware!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Proudly Tunisian And Part Of The Revolution

By Ameni Mathlouthi
Junior Reporter
I wasn’t supposed to be in the crowd of protesters on the streets of Tunis last year, but my desire to be part of my country’s historic revolution pulled me there anyway.
Tunisians who rose up against former president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, scared him into leaving the country on January 14, 2011, and it wasn’t long afterward that I began to join their protests.
Concerned for my safety, my mother and my uncle told me not to go to the demonstrations, but I couldn’t resist. Just a little detour from my usual walk to the bus after school took me right to the center of the action on a busy street near the capital’s central train station.
I started going to the protests in February as a student in Tunis. At the demonstrations, I saw police officers, their faces covered with black cloth, pounding protesters with nail-studded clubs, and arresting anyone they could reach. Tear gas hung in the air. It makes it hard to open your eyes or breathe. It burns and water only makes it worse.
You feel like you are about to die, but it doesn’t kill.
The police didn’t appear to care about who was suffering. The crowds were made up of people of all ages and included workers heading home, travelers, students and the unemployed. Not everyone was there to protest. Some were just passing through.
Most of the protesters seemed to be there to honor a friend who had been killed, sometimes writing the names of the martyrs on the walls of buildings.
I had heard from friends that the news coverage of the protests wasn’t an accurate portrayal of reality, and I wanted to see for myself what was happening. 
I learned that being out in the streets, being part of the event, is not as scary as staying home.  I felt safer in the crowd than I did in my house.
Outside, I could see what was going on and I could run in any direction. Because I am a girl and was wearing a student backpack, I felt the police would not bother me, and they didn’t.
Shannon Zimmerman /

Crowds run from the clouds of tear gas 
during an aggressive move by police
At home, I heard shooting and people running outside. Live television coverage of intruders made me afraid someone would break in and hurt us.
And being in the middle of the demonstrations made me part of them. I felt it and lived it.
In March, I witnessed something even worse.
I was going home from the American cultural center where I was studying English, but couldn’t take the metro, the Tunis subway train. It was closed because of the protests.
I had to walk to the station, then take the bus from there. It was cold, windy day. I could see the crowd around the station and everybody coming out.

Shannon Zimmerman /

The Tunisian Army didn't get involved
I was pretty much the only one going toward the station. I was bundled in my winter clothes and could barely hear people saying to me, “Are you crazy? Don’t go there.”
I just kept on going, because until I met a helpful soldier from the Tunisian Army, I didn’t know what was going on inside the train station.
Shannon Zimmerman /
Outside of the main Metro connection
He started his duties at 10 p.m. but he was on the street early, around 7 p.m., because of the transportation problem. At first, I didn’t stop walking to listen to him. I was walking faster and faster, and he wasn’t in uniform, but when he showed me his ID, I stopped.
The soldier told me that protests were going on at the station and tried to convince me not to go there. I knew he was trying to be kind, but I wanted to see it for myself, and I thought the trains might start again.
So he walked me to the station and there I saw people getting attacked by the police with tear gas. I saw officers throw small cans into the underground station and into the trains themselves – closed areas – to force the people out of there.
It was dark and loud, but overhead, I saw a bright light and I could hear shooting. It was from police up above in helicopters. I got into the train where I couldn’t see anything or breathe because of the gas, so I had to run out of there, the army guy still following me.
We ran into a gathering of protesters a few minutes away. On the way, I saw young boys, perhaps about 11 years old, throwing rocks towards the police, who were far away. It was cold, and they were wearing just tee shirts. But I don’t think they noticed because they were red with sweat.
I stopped and asked them why they were throwing rocks. They said that Tunisia was their country, and that they had the right to be out there, that they wanted to live their history and get rid of the old government.
With no way to get home, I used the soldier’s phone to call my uncle and asked him to pick me up. After about an hour, he called back to say he couldn’t get closer because of the police roadblocks in the area. So he had to park a bit far and walk to get me from there.
Photo provided

Aymen Abderrahmen in a crowd of 
protesters early in the Tunisian revolution
That night, three people died from getting shot, the government said, but I don’t remember how many were injured.
I joined the protests again in May. That time, I went with my American drama teacher, Shannon Zimmerman, and a group of Tunisian friends, Aymen Abderrahmen, Mourad Brahmi, and Ynez Hedy.

Shannon Zimmerman /
Protests started in mid-morning in front of the National Theater
Together, we were taking part in a play about the revolution. After rehearsal, we went downtown to the protest that was already going on near the national train station, which links Tunis to cities outside the capital region.

Shannon Zimmerman /

Tear gas at the train station
Because of the vast amount of teargas outside, we went inside the station and looked for places to hide. We even tried the bathroom, but there were so many people, it was impossible.
When the police finally entered the station, about 40 of us fled into a waiting room overlooking the platforms to watch what happened. We saw all young men were rounded up with kicks and clubs and taken away by police.
Shannon Zimmerman /

Police enter the train station
One policeman noticed us and he ordered us to sit down as the police moved through and dragged out anyone who looked the least bit suspicious.
The police beat anyone who protested his innocence.
Shannon Zimmerman /

Police at the train station
One of those taken away could not have been more than 12 years old. He was with his mother.
Another brave woman took a risk and claimed a young man was her own son – he wasn’t – to spare him from what she feared the police would do. Luckily, after brief questioning, they let him go with her.
Overall we were trapped in the train station for almost three hours. I’ll never forget the cries of the children in the station or the fear and insecurity that people felt.

Why did all this happen?
After 23 years of corruption, 23 years of stolen rights and 23 years of restriction, people had had enough from the government.
They had been waiting for change for long time. Somebody had to take the initiative, to take the first step to bring a better future.
Someone needed to bring light to Tunisia and spring to the Arab world.
The Arab Spring, the Jasmine Revolution – it all started with 26-year-old fruit and vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi.
Bouazizi was from Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, a city located in the central part of the country. On December 17, 2010, he set himself on fire after a policewoman slapped him and ordered him to pack up his street cart. He didn’t have a license, but it was the only way for him to support his family.
He was not complaining about having to resort to selling fruit to support his family. But he could not handle this insult to his dignity. He died January 4, 2011 in the hospital, 18 days after his self-immolation.
U.S. State Department
With Bouazizi still in the hospital, demonstrations began breaking out in response. On December 24, 2010, people took to the streets in Sidi Bouzid, and in the following days, protests spread to the Menzel Bouzaiene part of Gafsa, the Ben Gardane part of Medinine, Al-Qayrawan, Sfax and Sousse, all the way from the center of the country to Tunis in the north.
Although the police were firing on protesters, and the president warned that he would punish those who use violence, the people did not back off. More than 1,000 people took to the streets and many protesters were organized on Facebook and Twitter.
By January 14, 2011, about 76 people had died in the protests, though the government’s estimate was only 23. That day, the government declared a state of emergency and Ben Ali promised to dissolve the parliament and hold legislative elections within six months.
But by that evening, was on a plane to France. France turned him away, so he went to Saudi Arabia, where he remains.
Presidential responsibilities were passed to the speaker of the parliament, Fouad Mebazaa.
The demonstrations that started out of respect for Bouazizi and for universal human dignity rapidly turned to general protests against the government.
People called for wholesale change. They demanded democracy, freedom of speech and religion, job opportunities and social equality.
So many websites, including YouTube, were blocked in Tunisia. Facebook and Hotmail were monitored.
Nobody dared to say anything about the president or his party or even talk about it on the phone, because all the lines were monitored and people got arrested for talking about him.
The government-controlled news media was working in favor of the government’s interests regardless of the facts. In some cases, the media hid the facts, downplaying Bouazizi’s death, and trying to make people believe that there were fewer needy people than there really were, and promoting the view that the government was doing its best to make life better for people.
In school, social studies books show only pictures of the president visiting hospitals, giving donations or shaking hands with the poor. There are pictures of the new train station or a new machine at the hospital to show students how much he was doing to improve the country.
We students were never were allowed to discuss our politics in class because teachers were afraid of being fired.
Even though Tunisia’s official religion is Islam and that is stated in the country’s constitution, the government closed the mosques, opening them only for about 15 to 20 minutes, five times a day when they are supposed to be open all the time.
In addition, names of people who prayed the required five prayers in the mosque were listed and reported to the government and they were sent to jail.
Even as a middle school student in 2009, I witnessed religious persecution at my school, Ibn Sina.
I was sitting in math class taking a test when the headmaster of the school came in and dragged one of the students out of class by her head scarf, just because she was practicing Islam by wearing the hijab.
Every girl in school who covered her hair had to remove it and sign a paper saying that she would not wear a scarf the following day. That didn’t happen just at my school, but at many.
Administrators always stood by the front door of the school, especially on exam week, picking the girls who covered their hair. They then forced them to take the scarf off themselves or have it removed with no respect and in front of everybody in school.
The Islamic outfit was considered inappropriate dress during Ben Ali’s day. Women were not able to be in public wearing religious clothing or they would be pulled into police stations and forced to take the hair cover off.
Sometimes policemen would uncover a woman’s head on the street, and take their national ID card from them.
Religious people who had enough money to leave, did.
Men who stayed in the country and continued to practice their religion openly spent more time in jail, enduring torture, than out of it. Plus, they had to shave their beard.
Tunisia is a Muslim country, but the government was intent on building a secular nation. It always encouraged people to move away from religion.
YJI photo
Youth Journalism International's
Ameni Mathlouthi in Tunisia
But people in Tunisia believed that it could be a better country, and because of that, they protested.
And when police were killing demonstrators, even more turned out. 
They did not think about getting shot or hurt.
They thought about making life better for the country and easier for them.
Demonstrations continued until July, when preparations began for the national elections held October 23, with official results announced November 14.
Now Tunisia’s newly elected leaders are working on the county’s new constitution, and my country’s future looks brighter.
After the revolution, one thing that really changed was that everyone started talking politics – something we hadn’t been able to do freely before. Even little kids could tell you what happened because they were witnesses, and the shooting kept them awake at night.
Click here for a video of Ameni Mathlouthi talking about her experiences during Tunisia's revolution.