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Young Arabs and the army: a strong bond

The Arab youth’s relationship to the army is one of Generation What’s first surprises. The survey now counts 4,500 respondents and is starting to reveal strong indicators. Once again, at this stage of our project, we can only speak here of “trends” rather than “results”.

As we noticed in a previous trend note, 63% of young Arabs say they “trust the army” in their country: 66% in Algeria, 58% in Morocco, up to 74% in Tunisia, and 72% in Lebanon (we could not ask this question in Egypt, and it does not make much sense in Palestine).  

We can cross this data with that from Europe, where 53% of young French also trust the army, 63% of young Belgians, 69% of Dutch, 51% of British, and 56% of the Czechs. On the opposite, only 41% of young Germans trust their army, 44% of Spanish, and 47% of Italians.

These nuances should not mask what’s important: in the Arab world, as in Europe, the national army is the institution that young people trust the most (except for NGOs in Europe).


Should the state maintain a national military service for everyone?

However, young people’s involvement in the army is another story. When asked if “the state should maintain a national military service for everyone”, 51% of the young Arabs who answered to the questionnaire do not agree. In detail: 54% of young Algerians say they “disagree”, and so do 62% of young Lebanese. A short majority of them “agree” in Morocco (52%) and in Tunisia (53%).

We can put this figure in perspective with Europe’s data, where 69% of the youth who answered do not agree (and 61% in France).


Should the military service be for men and women?

A gap all the greater when the respondents are asked whether “compulsory national military service should be (re)introduced for both men and women”. 64% of young Arabs do not agree, 76% in Algeria, 56% in Morocco, 58% in Tunisia and 62% in Lebanon.


Would you be willing to fight for your country if there were a war?

Having said that, young Arabs still believe they would commit to defending their country. Much more than in Europe, the Arab youth would be “ready to fight for their country if there were a war”: 77% of the respondents agree in all the participating Arab countries, against 43% in Europe (and 48% in France). In Algeria, this percent even reaches 88%, 72% In Morocco and 83% in Tunisia.

All in all, it’s not so much the idea of defending their country’s territory or their trust in their country’s army that the Arab youth questions than the military service per se. As if the youth doubted of their usefulness in the military service.

Should a national service be introduced with a non-military option?

What strikes us the most is that the Arab youth widely supports the idea of individual commitment for the nation, the community.

When asked if a “compulsory national service should be (re)introduced with a non-military option (e.g. in humanitarian work, etc.)”, 85% of young Arabs agree – 84% in Algeria, 85% in Morocco, 86% in Tunisia, 76% in Lebanon, and 87% in Jordan. This number is huge, and proves that the idea that the youth is individualistic and only thinks about its personal success is only but a cliché.


We must realize how important these figures are.


  1. On the whole, the Arab youth truly trusts the army – as the European does but in a smaller proportion.


  1. The youth is clearly torn about military servicea small majority of young Arabs wish it were no longer mandatory, which would, in time, lead to having a professional army.   


  1. In any case, women are not well seen in the army. Women themselves do not wish to enroll in it – the results are the same for men (65% of young arabs against a military service for both men and women) as for women (63%).


  1. However, if any Arab country needs people to take up arms to defend their country, the army can count on the Arab youth.


  1. The Arab youth is above all interested in serving its country and its inhabitants, here and now, wherever they are needed. And to support this, 85% of the Arab youth would agree to have a national service that would not necessarily be military (but that could be civic, humanitarian, social, educational or ecological). This is just as much as in France (82% in favor), in Belarus (91%!) or in Switzerland (82%). Oddly enough, this trend is much less present in Germany (only 56% agree), in Italy (barely 33%) or in Great-Britain (53%).


A massive amount of young Arabs and a great number of young Europeans therefore show they would like to take action for the community’s benefit. The idea of a mandatory service tends to strengthen this belief: if no one could escape it, the youth would not consider it as one or two years lost for their personal career, but rather as an experience shared by an entire generation at the community’s service.  

We should keep in mind that this generation is the most educated one of all times. This generation does not brush aside a patriotic feeling and may think it can serve its country better by using its real skills.


We will soon go back to what seems to define this generation: self-willed, generous, very practical and able to make strong commitments.