It was terrible to see how upset people were when Wael Ghonim was arrested 12 days ago. At some point I realized he was not just a dude who worked for Google, he was also the person who dared put his name on the line on the We are all Khaleed Said page on Facebook. It has been a huge group for political discussion and organizing. Facebook won’t take pseudonyms, someone had to be the admin – and he seems to have done a ton of admin work.
The We Are All Khaled Said site hosted discussions and ran polls asking its thousands of members what actions to take. It started to come out that Wael was the admin (not something anyone wanted to say in public at first, because what if that got him into worse trouble – if it weren’t already known?) Wael is out of police detention now, just barely out, and here is a subtitled interview with him. It’s incredibly moving to watch. I understand what he says about not being a hero. That’s out of his hands now, though.
Here is the interviewer, Mona El-Shazly, telling the back story of getting to know Wael, checking up on him on the phone, and realizing he was arrested:
Here is the next bit where Wael talks about his thoughts about what’s happening. Keep in mind he barely knows what happened yet since he’s been in jail with no news. This is the heart of the interview. If the embedded link isn’t working, please click through to watch and read it what Wael has to say. It’s important!
There is more to the interview ( not subtitled yet) but it consists of Wael crying a lot and then a slide show of some of the people who died in the protests accompanied by sappy music while Wael cries some more. I felt outraged. I suspect the interviewer did too. Holy fuck, the man just got out of 12 days of jail and interrogation. It’s a bit terrible to realize that for him this is just another interrogation in a contiuum. He’s responding like a person so deeply traumatized. At the end of the video clip, Wael sobs, gets up, and runs offstage.
I understand he doesn’t feel like a hero. The protesters had non violent ideas, and yet over 300 people died. Probably many more – that count is from Human Rights Watch’s poll of 8 hospitals. There are a lot more hospitals in Egypt. But just like no one made him or influenced him and the people on Khaled Said page think what they thought or engage in protest, their leadership or their example didn’t make the other hundreds of thousands or millions of people go out in the street, they did it because they believed in the ideals too and because of oppression.
I wonder if he is right that he convinced the police, secret police, interrogators, high up people in the intelligence system or NDP, that the protesters aren’t traitors and aren’t being controlled by some foreign power. I hope that’s true. It seems possible that it isn’t, and that they had their own reasons for playing good cop and co-opting him as best they could, knowing he’s too influential and well connected (though he doesn’t seem to realize it) for them to just disappear. But it also seems just possible that it’s true. I’m sure he explained very well. He’s eloquent and he’s right.
For days he explained the Internet and “youth” activism and spoke for the political ideals of the people he knows, to a lot of secret police and government oldsters, in the power of people known to torture and kill its citizens for just writing or saying something, while utterly helpless and in jail with no contact with the outside world. That’s huge, and that makes him heroic whether he wants to think of himself as a hero or not. Along with many many others whose goal isn’t to lead but to empower everyone. He put himself on the front lines of the “heroes of the keyboard” and he went to the country and to the protests. I think knowing he was one of the people privileged enough to have a chance when inevitably arrested. He could have stayed home and continued organizing from there. But, it’s unreasonable to expect him to act the part of a hero and leader right on the way out the door before even having a nap! It’s not like he had 20 years in jail to think about it!
I’m only watching from a distance, have nothing to do with Egypt, but have been following this through all the protests pretty closely. I feel like a different person now and like all of it is making me assess myself, my politics, my actions… I don’t mean that it’s all about me. It’s what a revolution does… it makes everyone question themselves.