Those youths have been at the forefront of the fight for change, battling Egyptian police, forcing the fall of Libya's second city, Benghazi – even providing the spark for all these protests when a Tunisian college graduate set himself ablaze in mid-December after being harassed by the police over his vegetable cart.
But faced now with the most significant and abrupt transformation since Arab borders were drawn by victorious European powers after World War I, the new revolutionaries of the Middle East are pushing through the barrier of fear only to find a diverse constellation of needs, demands, and problems on the other side.
For example, episodes of continued unrest in Tunisia, the very nation that inspired the chain reaction of protests, show the enormity of what still needs to be done, says Sadok Belaid, a veteran law professor in Tunis, the capital.
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"These young people are demanding things that are very simple, and I think very reasonable," says Mr. Belaid. Declaring that the interim government "will accede to the will of the people" in all matters, and speed toward an assembly, may ease opposition.
The election of a general assembly representing the whole country – not just a few political parties – to draft a new constitution is the top priority, he adds, followed by the overhaul of economic policy to address "urgent needs."
But applying such changes in Tunisia is already proving difficult.
Egypt might have an easier time forging democratic success, with its history of an organized opposition – despite tough crackdowns against the largest, the Muslim Brotherhood, among others – and an active civil society and institutions.