One year later, Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who stoked revolution in Egypt, tells his story

January 25, 2012

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Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing manager who was a key protest organizer.
Egyptian Wael Ghonim, center, a 30-year-old Google Inc. marketing manager who was a key organizer of the online campaign that sp

Wael Ghonim, center, a Google marketing manager who was a key protest organizer.

In an interview with Worldview’s Jerome McDonnell, Ghonim lifted the veil behind Egypt’s historic year of change. He said that the revolution would have happened without his actions, and also defended the slow pace of progress on the country’s new path toward democracy.

Last year, Egyptians began filing into Tahrir (or liberation), Square, first by the thousands— and then by the hundreds of thousands.

Ghonim’s activism — both online and on the streets — was critical in stoking the fire that toppled President Hosni Mubarek.

Ghonim: The revolution had to be leaderless

Ghonim discussed the anarchic nature of the protests, which he helped organize anonymously through a Facebook page. Named for an Egyptian beaten to death by local police in broad daylight, the “We Are All Khaled Said” page became the driving force behind the protests. “I was very surprised to see a lot of people going to the street – thousands doing it – without knowing who’s behind the invitation,” he says. “People believed in the cause and did not really care about the person [organizing].” He insists the revolution would not have unfolded to the same extent any other way.

Ghonim defends slow progress on democracy-front

Ghonim also defends the pace of progress in Egypt, where Islamists now hold a majority of seats in Parliament. “People revolted so that Egyptians can be empowered to make their own choices about whom they want to be representing them,” he says, reminding listeners that ‘“Egypt is recovering from about 30 years of corruption and more than 60 years of military rulers.”

The 31-year-old also revisits the uprising itself, in which an increasingly emboldened citizenry used social media to amplify the impact of street protests. He says what happened in Egypt reflects a new world order. “In the past, the people in power used to make all the decisions,” he said. “We’re seeing all of these movements around the world trying to do the same activities. World leaders need to start realizing that there need to be more grassroots activities, more bottom-up rather than top-down approaches in dealing with the people’s problems.”

Ahmed Rehab, the Egyptian American director of Chicago’s Council on Islamic Relations, also takes part in this conversation. Wael’s new book is Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People is Greater than the People in Power.