Wael Ghonim, Google Executive, released after 12 days detention for part in Egyptian protests

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.

Part One:

To see the English subtitles, press the “CC” button in the video player to turn them on.

Part Two:

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”.

Part Three:

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.

Now, in Egypt, the going gets tough

…The tough have already gotten going.

Last night, after Mubarak’s greatly-anticipated pre-recorded speech was broadcast to his nation and to the world, a new wave of pro-Mubarak people (many described as thugs, goons, some told journos they were state employees recruited for the occasion) were suddenly out on the streets of Egypt.

It is now being called the “backlash”… (AJE’s Jacky Rowland, who also said that “the atmosphere is deeply charged”.)

Where were they all week, asked Al-Jazeera’s Jane Dutton? And, the anchor asked the next correspondent up, why now?

“Because of the speech last night by President Mubarak”, Jacky Rowland replied.

The pro-government supporters are chanting: “we had 30 years of stability, and now 9 days of chaos. If one million are against Mubarak, 82 million are for him, We are the silent majority”…

The Egyptian military appealed, in a broadcast television statement, for the protestors to go home and resume normal life.

But, the protesters are saying that they won’t go home until Mubarak and his regime are out, gone.

UPDATE: The worst that can happen in a crowd situation has just happened: clashes after pro-Mubarak demonstrators threw stones at protesters in Tahrir Square: a stampede.

UPDATE TWO: Horses, camels, and donkeys were ridden or driven straight into the crowd at Tahrir Square. Some of the riders were pulled off, and protesters found they carried police ID cards (AJE showed on-air).

UPDATE THREE: More than an hour later, reports are coming that the entrances to Tahrir Square are now being blocked, trapping the protesters who are inside.

The U.S. has now lost its influence on the situation.
The U.S, has now lost its influence on the situation.

Funerals for Friday's dead in Egypt pause protests — momentarily

Funerals will be held today [Saturday] for what now looks like scores of dead, killed in protests against the Egyptian government in cities throughout the country on Friday.

The numbers of known casualties is growing exponentially, as hospitals and morgues release bodies to their families for burial.

The numbers are appalling.

The public warnings given yesterday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then by the White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs — and then by U.S. President Barak Obama himself, following the broadcast of a late-night speech by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak — make it very clear, at least, that the U.S. will not tolerate any more.

Once the numbers of dead become quite clear, it may well be that the U.S. will already have had to cut away from any further support for Mubarak’s rule.

As’ad AbuKhalil posted this on his Angry Arab blog, late last night (he’s in California): According to a “source wants to stay anonymous but I cant evaluate the credibility of the source: ‘A source from within the Presidential Guard has claimed to my friends in Cairo that the army intends to end the protests on Sunday, by any means necessary even if it meant violence and bloodshed. Junta goons are causing chaos in Cairo to claim an unstable situation which will extend until Saturday. Then under the guise of bringing back order, they will “crush them with any amount of force needed!”. The sources are unsure of the American role but believe the Americans will go with it’.” This is published here.

No way the Americans will go with it — despite the clueless fumbling of the Obama Administration in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and in the days of the Tunisia protests, there is no way, no way at all that they will go along with the number of deaths of protesters in Egypt — who, everybody in the world could see, were unarmed demonstrators — that are being reported today.

BikyaMasr newspaper is reporting here that “According to Al Jazeera English, the army has called on Egyptians not to gather in public, a sign some say could result in widespread violence and mass deaths if the military chooses to enforce such rules … The official death toll continues to mount and has been reported to be at least 60 people across the country, in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. Rumors of widespread protests to begin at 3 pm Cairo time have also been reported”.

UPDATE: The internet is not yet back up in Egypt, two days after it was shut down (see below). BikyaMasr, an English-language paper published in Cairo, said at 2 pm on Saturday, via an exchange of Direct Messages on Twitter, that full internet service has indeed not yet been restored. They indicated they are able to publish online because their reporters are calling in stories to people outside, who are posting for them…

BikyaMasr published a report yesterday on how the media is being targetted in Egypt, here. Journalists have been targetted individually, physically, and their equipment has been confiscated or damaged — in addition to the shut-down of communications services nationwide.

On Friday, the U.S. administration — including Obama himself — went very, very strong only on the supression of the internet and social media and more traditional means of communication as well, calling for the immediate restoration of these services, which the American officials said were human rights linked to the freedom of opinion and expression.

An interesting account, “Egypt leaves the Internet” by James Cowie, was posted on the Renesys.com blog on January 27, 2011, and has been updated. This post reports that “in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air … This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow. The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map … This has never happened before …
One of the very few exceptions to this block has been Noor Group (AS20928), which still has 83 out of 83 live routes to its Egyptian customers, with inbound transit from Telecom Italia as usual. Why was Noor Group apparently unaffected by the countrywide takedown order? Unknown at this point, but we observe that the Egyptian Stock Exchange (www.egyptse.com) is still alive at a Noor address. Its DNS A records indicate that it’s normally reachable at 4 different IP addresses, only one of which belongs to Noor. Internet transit path diversity is a sign of good planning by the Stock Exchange IT staff, and it appears to have paid off in this case. Did the Egyptian government leave Noor standing so that the markets could open next week?
Update (17:30 UTC Friday): The Internet routing situation for Egypt continues to be bleak, with an estimated 93% of Egyptian networks currently unreachable. Renesys saw no significant improvements or changes in Egyptian international Internet routing overnight. We have examined the takedown event more closely, looking at the sequence in which Egyptian service providers removed themselves from the Internet … Our new observation is that this was not an instantaneous event on the front end; each service provider approached the task of shutting down its part of the Egyptian Internet separately.
* Telecom Egypt (AS8452), the national incumbent, starts the process at 22:12:43.
* Raya joins in a minute later, at 22:13:26.
* Link Egypt (AS24863) begins taking themselves down 4 minutes later, at 22:17:10.
* Etisalat Misr (AS32992) goes two minutes later, at 22:19:02
* Internet Egypt (AS5536) goes six minutes later, at 22:25:10.
First impressions: this sequencing looks like people getting phone calls, one at a time, telling them to take themselves off the air. Not an automated system that takes all providers down at once; instead, the incumbent leads and other providers follow meekly one by one until Egypt is silenced”… This can be read in full here.