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[liberationtech] Wael Ghonim interview

elham gheytanchi elhamucla at
Mon Feb 7 21:14:02 PST 2011

just read this about him:
A New Leader For Egypt's Protesters? - By Blake Hounshell
CAIRO — Twelve days ago, Wael Ghonim posted a chilling message on his 
Twitter account. "Pray for #Egypt," he wrote. "Very worried as it seems 
that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are 
all ready to die."
And then he disappeared.
One day later, a huge, angry crowd -- choking on tear gas and braving fire 
hoses, rubber bullets, and live ammunition -- overwhelmed thousands of 
black-helmeted riot police and surged into Cairo's central Tahrir Square, 
setting the stage for a standoff between protesters and President Hosni 
Mubarak that is well into its second week.
Ghonim, a Dubai-based Google executive who hadn't been seen or heard from 
since Jan. 27, was freed on Monday, Feb. 7, after an international 
campaign for his release. "Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for 
it," he tweeted shortly after 8 p.m., Cairo time.
Ghonim appeared Monday evening on Dream 2, a private channel owned by 
Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, and gave a devastating, emotional 
interview that cut deeply into the image the Mubarak regime has been 
trying to paint of the protesters.
Looking deeply shaken, his eyes haunted and voice breaking, Ghonim 
insisted, "This was a revolution of the youth of all of Egypt. I'm not a 
Gaining strength throughout the interview, Ghonim said he wasn't tortured, 
but was kidnapped by four armed men, blindfolded, and questioned 
relentlessly about how the protesters pulled off the uprising (they "had 
no idea," he said). But later, when the host showed photographs of young 
Egyptians who have lost their lives over the last few weeks, Ghonim wept 
openly and then walked away, saying they died "because of those who cling 
to power."
Many people here had speculated that Ghonim was the administrator of the 
"We Are All Khaled Said" Facebook page, set up to commemorate a 
28-year-old youth who was brutally beaten to death on June 6, 2010, by 
police at an Internet cafe in Alexandria. It was the page's call for 
nationwide demonstrations across Egypt -- along with the spark provided by 
nearby Tunisia -- that lit the flame of revolution, activists say. What 
was so effective about the Jan. 25 protest was that "it was a clear call 
to action," said Nasser Weddady, civil rights outreach director for the 
American Islamic Congress in Boston. "Everybody wants to stop torture."
In the interview, Ghonim admitted for the first time that he was indeed 
the voice behind the page -- though he said repeatedly that it was others 
"on the ground" who made it all happen. "I have been away for 12 days."
Ironically, by kidnapping, detaining, and then releasing Ghonim -- 
instantly turning him into a nationwide celebrity -- the regime may have 
just created an undisputed leader for a movement that in recent days has 
struggled to find its footing, seemingly outfoxed by a government skilled 
in the dark arts of quashing and marginalizing dissent. Within minutes of 
his interview, his personal Facebook page had surged in popularity, and 
the tweets were coming so fast that #Ghonim briefly became a trending 
topic on Twitter.
Ghonim's reappearance comes at a critical time for the protesters. Now 
that the galvanizing moment has passed, it's not clear where their 
movement goes from here. It's one thing to build a coalition against 
police brutality, something Egyptians of all classes have suffered from 
for decades; it's quite another to rally people around more complex 
demands, such as constitutional reform or media oversight. And after a 
week of nonstop propaganda on state television against the protesters -- 
painted simultaneously as dangerous Islamists and Israeli agents -- it's 
not even clear that an overwhelming majority of Egyptians want Mubarak out 
immediately, as the folks in Tahrir insist.
For the protest movement, decentralization is at once the source of its 
power and its potential Achilles' heel.
The organization that administers the square itself, it's important to 
understand, is a completely separate entity from the various other 
Facebook groups, political parties, and other movements that often get (or 
take) credit for the uprising. Ahmed Naguib, 33, a member of the 
1,000-plus strong Tahrir organizing committee, told me that few of the 
volunteers who man the barricades, seek to root out regime infiltrators, 
staff the increasingly well-stocked field hospitals and pharmacies, and 
bring in supplies are "political" types -- as is the case with the roughly 
100-member steering committee that more or less makes key logistical 
decisions. Many if not most of these people didn't even know each other 
before last week -- and they aren't necessarily activists. The ad hoc 
organizers have resisted efforts by some groups to secure representational 
seating in the inner circle of the steering committee, Naguib told me.
It's true that some of the youth groups are in communication with the 
"Wise Men" -- the self-appointed council of elders that has offered itself 
up as a go-between with the regime -- but others complain that they have 
little visibility on those discussions and distrust an initiative that 
smacks of selling out those who gave their lives taking and defending the 
square. But the youth groups don't necessarily represent the unaffiliated 
masses in the square, either. Nobody I've spoken with, moreover, 
recognized the handful of "January 25 youth" who met briefly with Vice 
President Omar Suleiman on Saturday, nor the "Coalition of Angry Youth" 
who gave a news conference on Sunday, to give their view of the 
Meanwhile, splits are emerging even within groups. Over the weekend, when 
the Army began moving its tanks further into the square in a bid to push 
the protesters south of the Egyptian Museum, dozens of young members of 
the Muslim Brotherhood rushed to lie in front of the tracks -- over the 
objections of a senior Brotherhood official. At a news conference on 
Sunday, senior leaders of the Islamist movement stressed repeatedly that 
they had "no special agenda," a clear attempt to head off criticism of 
their decision to negotiate with the regime.
Inside Tahrir, different groups are gradually staking out separate 
geographic areas, with the Muslim Brotherhood dominating the megaphone at 
the southern end of the square, while the socialists have assembled an 
entire speaker system a few dozen yards west, and various smaller groups 
are sprinkled elsewhere.
"Everybody here is organizing," said political analyst Hisham Kassem, "but 
there's nobody to negotiate with. We have no control over the square, and 
they don't either."


Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2011 20:14:55 -0800
From: marycjoyce at
To: liberationtech at
Subject: [liberationtech] Wael Ghonim interview

This interview with Wael Ghonim is absolutely critical to those hoping to understand the digital aspect of the protests in Egypt.  Wael is the formerly imprisoned admin of the "We are all Khaled Said" Facebook group (also a Google employee) who is an influential figure in the democracy movement.
Founder | The Meta-Activism Project  |
Digital Activism Consultant |
Mobile | +1.857.928.1297

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