Here is the extraordinary interview — that caused a sensation on Twitter — with Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim conducted by Egypt’s Dream TV at 10:00 pm on Monday night (7 February) just after Ghonim’s release from 12 days of detention during the massive protests around Egypt.
Ghonim said he had been blindfolded the entire time, and was agonized over his family’s worrying and suffering, as he was not allowed to contact them or anyone during that time. He also said he sometimes sang to himself. And, he said, he feared he would be forgotten.
He said he had not slept much during his 12 days detention, and not at all for the 48 hours previous to the interview.
To see the English subtitles, press the “CC” button in the video player to turn them on.
When pictures were shown, during the interview, of some of the young men who had been killed since the sustained protests began on 25 January, Ghonim wept bitterly, grieving. He expressed his sorrow to the parents of those killed, then added: “but it’s not our fault. It’s the fault of everyone who hung on power and clung to it”.
Ghonim, as we have previously reported here, was the Administrator for the “I am Khaled Said” Facebook page – put up in memory of a 28-year-old blogger who was accosted by plainclothed security officers at a cafe in Alexandria in June, and was then brutally beaten to death. Ghonim said in the Dream TV interview that “my biggest torment was that people would find out I am the Administrator”.
Yet, he said, what he did was not heroic at all — “I was only using the keyboard”.
“This revolution belonged to the internet youth (the Facebook youth), then Egyptian youth, then the Egyptian people — they are the heroes”.
He said that whenever he was interrogated he “said the entire truth — I am proud of what I’ve done”.
An AP report from Cairo published this evening in the Jerusalem Post gives these additional background details:
“Ghonim’s reappearance gave a clearer picture of the stunning trajectory of the protests, which swelled from the online organizing of small Internet activist groups into the first and greatest mass challenge ever to Mubarak’s rule. Ghonim is an Egyptian who oversees Google Inc.’s marketing in the Middle East and Africa from Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates. He vanished two days after the protests began on Jan. 25, snatched off the street by security forces and hustled to a secret location. Earlier this year, Ghonim — anonymously — launched a Facebook page commemorating Khaled Said, a 28-year-old businessman in Alexandria who was beaten to death by two policemen in June. The page became a rallying point for a campaign against police brutality, with hundreds of thousands joining. For many Egyptians, it was the first time to learn details of the extent of widespread torture in their own country. Small-scale protests over Said’s death took place for months. The Khaled Said group worked online with other activists, including the April 6 movement named after the date of 2008 labor protests and the campaign of Nobel Peace laureate and democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei. Ghonim’s page was “the information channel,” said Ziad al-Oleimi, a pro-ElBaradei organizer. Together they decided to hold a larger gathering on Jan. 25, announced on Ghonim’s page, to coincide with Police Day — a state holiday honoring security forces. By phone and Internet, they got out the word to supporters in Cairo and other cities, but didn’t expect much. ‘We really thought that on Jan. 25, we will be arrested in five minutes. I am not kidding’, said al-Oleimi”. This is posted here.
Meanwhile, the U.S. White House reported, here, that Vice President Joe Biden spoke today to Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman [Suleiman]. According to the notes provided by the White House, “Biden discussed additional steps that the United States supports, including:
* Restraining the Ministry of Interior’s conduct by immediately ending the arrests, harassment, beating, and detention of journalists, and political and civil society activists, and by allowing freedom of assembly and expression;
* immediately rescinding the emergency law;
* broadening participation in the national dialogue to include a wide range of opposition members; and
* inviting the opposition as a partner in jointly developing a roadmap and timetable for transition.
These steps, and a clear policy of no reprisals, are what the broad opposition is calling for and what the government is saying it is prepared to accept”.
Haaretz reported, however, that “The White House faulted Egyptian vice President Omar Suleiman for saying his country was not ready for a democracy, calling his comments ‘unhelpful’. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs made the comment at a daily news briefing on Tuesday”. The Haaretz report is posted here.