*** Boys' Youth Groups : countries Middle East and North Africa

Boys' Youth Groups: Middle-East and North Africa

Figure 1.--Egypt is the hear of the Arab world with the largest population. We see somth youth groups in Egypt, mostly Scouts, but the movement as in other Arab countries was very small. Girl Guiding was virtually non-existent. This is the Zagazio Primary School Boy Scout Group in 1929. As far as we can tell, it was not very common for Egyptian primary schools to have Scout troops. Hopefully Egyptian Scouters can tell us more.

We have relatively limited information on youth groups in the Middle East and North Africa. They appear to have been relatively limited activities. There are various reasons for this. From the beginningh, Scouts were a middle-clss movement. The small Middle-Eastern middle-class and endemic poverty thus limited youth group activity. We note that youth groups were also associated with European colonizers are minority groups like Arminians, Greeks, Jews and others. Interest was slower to develop among the Arab, Persian, and Turkish majorities. For much of the 20th century the principal group was Scouting. And the Scouting groups were largely middle-class organizations and commited to a program generally in keeping with the princles of Baden-Powell's Scouting movement which included both avoiding political commitments and a world wide international fellowship. Provisions of the Holy Koran incouraging Muslims to associate primarily with other Muslims were generally ignored. Since World War II and the independence of the Arab countries, this has begun to change. Some countries have prohibited Scouting, viewing it with suspision as too Western. Other countries have founded national youth groups aimed at supporting the regime in power. And political movements within countries have founded their own youth groups, sometimes using the term Scouting. The groups tend to have highly political agendas including training children for terrorist activitive and even suicide bombing.


We do not know much about youth groups in Algeria. As far as we can tell, interest in the Boy Scouts and Guides was not as strong in the French colonies as was the case in the Middle eastern countries where Britain was an important influence anf this despite the fact that the French colonial presence was much more extensive than in the Arab countries influenced by Brritain, with the exception of Palestine. The French presence was especilly strong in Algeria which the French attempted to actually settle.


Egypt is the hear of the Arab world with the largest population. We see somth youth groups in Egypt, mostly Scouts, but the movement as in other Arab countries was very small. We have very little information on Egyptian youth groups. It appears to have been limited to the urban middle class. And minority groups (Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and others seem to have embraced the idea more than the aran majority. The only group we have found any information on at this time is the Scouts. The Egyptian Scouting movement was founded about 1912. HBU has unfortunately been able to find virtually no information on Egyptian Scouting. Antonis Benakis, son of a rich Greek cotton merchant and philanthropest Emmanuel Benakis, was the founder of both the Greek boy scouts in Egypt, but also of the Egyptian scouts. We are not sure just when they were founded, but believe it was about 1912. Some Scouting activity has been reported earlier including groups affiliated with the short-lived World Order of Scouting. This group was the earliest World Scouting organisation. The Egyptian Scouts were presumably also influenced by British Scouts as Britain had a strong presence in Egypt until the 1950s because of the Suez Canal. We are unsure to what extent Egyptian Scout groups were integrated. We note a separate Jewish group in 1920. Egypt is the most populace country in the Middle East and probably has the largest Scout movement in the area.



Iraq had a Boy Scout movement. There were also nationalist groups. Saddam Hussein's Bath Pary had a youth group called the Asfald Saddam (Sadam's Lion Cubs).


Describing the Israeli youth movement is somewhat complicated. This would include not only the modern Isreli organizations, but organizations formed before Israel became independent in 1948. In this regard, these organizations are often associated with the British protectorate of Palestine. The British gained control over Palestine from the Ottoman Turks during World War I (1917-18) and governed under a Laegue of Nations trusteeship. This can thus be confused to the modern usage of Palestine which is associated with Arabs. We also will list here the international Zionist youth movements which developed in Europe during the 20th century.


Lebanon has an active Scouting movement. Scouts have a positive image both because of the activities it offers boys and girls, but also because of the important relief work it has carried out duting emergencies like the Cicil War. As a result, Hezbollah puts a Scouting facade on its youth movement, the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts.




We do see some uniformed youth groups, mostly Scouts and Guides. We do not yet have much information on youth movements in the Middle East, including Palestine. The Scouting movement ws sharply splintered along religious lines, in part because the school system inherited from the Ottimans was structured in that way. We have some limited informtion on the Ottoman era. Scouting activity began during the last years of the Ottoman era (1912). There was limited youth group activity. We also have begun to work on youth groups during the British Mandate period. There was a very significant expansion of youth groups during this period. The British significantly expanded the state school system. The British involvement in Palistinian education meant that Palestine had the strongest Scout movemenent in the Middle East. And Arab Muslim Scouting troops were organized in many of the new schools. A factor here was the very active youth group programs pursued by the Jews in Palestine. We have some limited information about Palestinian Scouts. The YMCA was also active fir Chrustian boys. .





Youth groups in Turkey first appeared during the Ottoman period, mostly just before World War I. We see Boy Scouts otganized by PE teachers in schools (1909). We have not yet found evidence of Girl Guides in the Ottoman era. The Scouting efforts were put on a hold during the Balkan Wars (1911-13) and World War I (1914-18). This probably reflects the British image still associated with Scouting. We do see a substantial Turkish nationalist group being organized beginning just before the World War I. Much of this effort was associated with World War I. After the war and the foundation of the Turkish Republic (1923) we see a renewed effort to organize a Scouting movement. We note Scouting activities beginnuing to be organized nationwide in the schools (1926). We are not sure what impact the rise of the NAZIs had. Scouting had a British tunge to it. And Trukish officials may have been hesitant to become deply invested in it abs the conflict betwenthe Allies and Grmans shaped up. After World War II and the defeat of the NAZIs, in which Turkey did not participate, there seems to have been an interest in promoting Scouting along European lines. Ahmet Han, the Director of Scouting, and Muhittin Akdik, the Director of Education in İstanbul, put together a European tour. They visited France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, countries with strong Scouting movements. They studied study Scouting activities and the way it was administered. Their idea was to expand Turkish scouting along modern lines. Sıtkı Sanoplu helped found the Cub Scout program (1950). Cub packs existed in the coeducational primary schools, and were themselves coed, but boys and girls were placed in separate sixes, or dens. Almost all the Cubmasters were women, like British akelas. J. S. Wilson, Director of the Boy Scouts International Bureau, began a tour of Asian scouting (1952). As part of his tour he visited with Cub Scout packs, Scout troops and Girl Guide companies in noth İstanbul and Ankara. The Ottoman Empire and the Young Turks who helped found the Turkish Republic had an interest uniting the ethnic Turkish people of Central Asia . They dreamed of a vast Turkish state extending from Anatolia into Central Asia. It was one reason for the Armenian Genocide. Thus after the implosion of the Soviet Union (1991), there was some interest within the Turkish Scouting and Guiding Federation to help found Scout movements in the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, allmof which had ethnic Turkish populations. The existing Young Pioneer Movement had imploded along with the Soviet Union. Nothing came fom this, however, in part bcause the Government authorities in those new countries saw Turkish Scouting as Turkish meddling in their affairs. The Scouting and Guiding Federation of Turkey was legally associated with the General Directorate of Youth and Sport. This was changed to an autonomous status (Februry 2007).

United Arab Emirates

We do not yet have much information on youth movements in Palestine. We have some limited information about UAE Scouts.



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Created: 4:04 PM 2/4/2008
Last updated: 1:07 PM 5/18/2018