The emergence of a young Google marketing manager has brought new energy to the protests in Egypt, which have entered their third week. Who is Wael Ghonim?
Ghonim is a 30-year-old Egyptian whom authorities allegedly detained in late January for his efforts to organize an online campaign that kicked off the protests in Cairo and Alexandria.
Ghonim was the anonymous administrator of the widely popular Facebook page We Are All Khaled Said, which is in honor of a young Egyptian allegedly beaten to death by Egyptian police in Alexandria last June. The page now has close to 600,000 supporters.
The Google manager also used Twitter to rally young Egyptians. On the day of his detention, he tweeted: "Pray for . Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die
Authorities snatched Ghonim off the streets on Friday, Jan. 27, and then held him for 12 days. He was blindfolded for most of his detention and threatened with torture.
Soon after his release on Monday, Ghonim gave an emotional interview to Dream TV, a private Egyptian channel, in which he called for the protests to continue. (Scroll down to watch the interview.)
"This is the revolution of the youth of the internet, which became the revolution of the youth of Egypt, then the revolution of Egypt itself," he said.
"I'm not a hero. I slept for 12 days. ... The heroes, they're the ones who were in the street, who took part in the demonstrations, sacrificed their lives, were beaten, arrested and exposed to danger."
Near the end of the interview, as photographs of protesters killed during the demonstrations appeared on the screen, the young man broke down in tears.
"I want to tell every mother and every father, truthfully, of the people who died," he said while crying, according to a translation by The New York Times. "I am so sorry. I swear to God, it's not our mistake, it's the mistake of those who are in charge of the country and don't want to leave their positions."
Here is the entire interview with subtitles.
In his first tweet after his disappearance, on Feb. 7, he wrote: "Freedom is a bless[ing] that deserves fighting for it. "
On Tuesday, the day after the interview, Tahrir Square again filled with demonstrators, many of them saying they felt inspired after watching Ghonim on television.
At one point, Ghonim addressed the crowd at Tahrir Square, telling demonstrators, "We won't give up."
Ghonim's mother told CBS News after his release: "I want to put a sign on my chest that reads, 'I'm the mother of a hero.'"
Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government demonstrators also marched to the steps of Egypt’s parliament late on Tuesday, bypassing a cordon of tanks preventing their movement from Tahrir Square, Cairo’s city center, according to GlobalPost Cairo correspondent Jon Jensen.
Armed personnel carriers and soldiers from Egypt’s military were quick to regroup, setting security lines around the newly formed protest, Jensen wrote late Tuesday.
Since his release, Ghonim has been hailed as a hero on Twitter and Facebook.
His Twitter statements range from powerful calls to action to sentimental sayings to witty banter.
In the past 24 hours he has given various updates:
"Thanks @ for all the efforts you did in "searching" for me. Today "I'm feeling lucky" that I work for this company."
And Wednesday morning: "Dear Egyptians, Failure is not an option "
Here are the videos of the interview:
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