Google Exec Inspires Egyptian Protests

Protesters in Alexandria, Egypt on Tuesday. (Farah Nemr/YJI)

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – The passion and tears of a newly freed Egyptian activist helped drive today’s demonstrations.

Wael Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing in the Middle East and North Africa – and a heartfelt Egyptian activist – was released yesterday from the custody of government police.

Ghonim had been missing for the past 12 days and his parents and wife didn’t know where to start looking.

Ghonim started a Facebook group called “We are All Khaled Said,” dedicated to a young man who was dragged out of a café in Alexandria and beaten to death by police in June.

Using the page, he anonymously created the “event” of a protest on the 25th of January, helping to spark the demonstrations that began that day.

Last night Ghonim appeared on television on a popular TV show and spoke about his imprisonment. He told the host, who is well liked in Egypt, about how he was blindfolded for the past 12 days.

The effects of trauma still lingered in this young, successful man as he tried to pull himself together to tell Egypt his story.

Ghonim’s first and foremost request was, “I am not a hero.”

He insisted more than once that the youth are the real heroes of the revolution. Those who sacrificed everything to be in Tahrir Square are the real heroes, he said, while he merely used a keyboard.

But what I and many like me know is that, although we wish we could honor his request, he is without a doubt Egypt’s new savior.

As he cried on air, all of Egypt cried.

Ghonim sobbed heavily as the presenter showed him pictures of the Tahrir Martyrs for the first time. Within minutes of the interview, the video spread across the web along with stories of how he made every household cry and vow to devote itself to the revolution.

His tears doubled the number of protestors today. In Alexandria, what was thought to be a million people were soon two million, if not more at some points in the day.

Wael Ghonim embodies the true spirit of a passionate Egyptian. He is young, wealthy, successful and more, yet living in Dubai, where he is not in any way directly affected by the poor Egyptian conditions that many believe are driving the protests.

He is a simple man, with a simple dream that all of Egypt shares – freedom.

Jessica Elsayed is a Senior Reporter for Youth Journalism International. YJI’s Farah Nemr took the photograph.
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