23 December 1980 |
|Residence||Al Ain, United Arab Emirates|
|Alma mater||Cairo University (B.S.)
American University in Cairo (M.B.A.)
|Occupation||Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa
|Employer||Google Inc. (on sabbatical)|
Wael Ghonim (Arabic: وائل غنيم, IPA: [ˈwæːʔel ɣoˈneːm]; other transliterations include: Ghoneim, Ghonaim) (born 23 December 1980 in Cairo, Egypt) is an Internet activist and computer engineer with an interest in social entrepreneurship.
In 2011, he became an international figure and energized pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt after his emotional interview following 11 days of secret incarceration by Egyptian police—during which he was interrogated regarding his work as the administrator of the Facebook page, "We are all Khaled Saeed", which helped spark the revolution. TIME magazine included him in its "Time 100" list of 100 most influential people of 2011.
Wael Ghonim was born to a middle-class family on 23 December 1980 in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Abha, Saudi Arabia until he was 13 years old, then he moved back to live in Cairo.
Until 2005 he was Marketing and Sales Manager of Gawab. In 2005, Wael left Gawab to establish Mubasher.info a pioneering financial portal in the region. Wael joined Google Middle East and North Africa as their Regional Marketing Manager in 2008 based at Google Egypt. In January 2010 Wael became Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa based at Google's UAE office in Dubai Internet City in Dubai. During the Egyptian revolution of 2011 Wael took leave from Google to focus on his work in Egypt and the Middle East. He has also been a consultant on the development of the Egyptian e-government portal and a participant in the ongoing political discussion after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.
Involvement in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011
In 2010, Wael Ghonim founded a Facebook page titled, "We Are All Khaled Said," supporting Khaled Said, a young Egyptian who was tortured to death by police in Alexandria. Wael Ghonim used this page in moving and integrating the anti-government protests of the 25th of Jan revolution. He first made an announcement on the page on 14 January, asking members if they were going to plan on taking to the streets on 25 January and do what Tunisia did? In less than 2 hours he published an event entitled: 25 يناير على التعذيب والفساد والظلم والبطالة [January 25: Revolution against Torture, Corruption, Unemployment and Injustice]. This was the first invitation and many others followed. He anonymously collaborated with activists on the ground to announce the locations for the protest.
In January 2011, Ghonim persuaded Google to allow him to return to Egypt, citing a "personal problem". He came to Egypt to partake in the Egyptian Revolution, but he disappeared on 27 January during the nationwide unrest in Egypt. His family told Al-Arabiya and other international media that he was missing. Google also issued a statement confirming the disappearance. Many bloggers like Chris DiBona and Habib Haddad campaigned in an attempt to identify his whereabouts.
On 5 February 2011, Mostafa Alnagar, a major Egyptian opposition figure, reported that Wael Ghonim was alive and detained by the authorities and to be released 'within hours'. On 6 February 2011, Amnesty International demanded that the Egyptian authorities disclose where Ghonim was and to release him.
On 7 February, Ghonim was released after 11 days in detention. Upon his release, he was greeted with cheers and applause when he stated: "We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime."
The same day, Ghonim appeared on the Egyptian channel DreamTV on the 10:00 pm programme hosted by Mona El-Shazly. In the interview he praised the protesters and mourned the dead as the host read their names and showed their pictures, eventually rising, "overwhelmed," and walking off camera. The host followed. In the interview, he also urged that they deserved attention more than he did, and calling for the end of the Mubarak regime, describing it again as 'rubbish'. He also asserted his allegiance to Egypt, saying that he would never move to the United States, the homeland of his wife. Becoming a symbol of the revolution in Egypt, Ghonim stated that he is "ready to die" for the cause.
At the end ..., he gathered himself for a few seconds and tried to make the most of the platform [El-Shazly] had given him. 'I want to tell every mother and every father who lost a child, I am sorry, but this is not our mistake,' he said. 'I swear to God, it’s not our mistake. It’s the mistake of every one of those in power who doesn’t want to let go of it.'"
On 9 February, Ghonim addressed the crowds in Tahrir Square, telling the protesters: "This is not the time for individuals, or parties, or movements. It's a time for all of us to say just one thing: Egypt above all."
Wael Ghonim also made an appearance on "60 Minutes", sitting down with Harry Smith. During his interview he said:
"Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don't know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture."
The scholar Fouad Ajami writes about the revolution:
"No turbaned ayatollah had stepped forth to summon the crowd. This was not Iran in 1979. A young Google executive, Wael Ghonim, had energized this protest when it might have lost heart, when it could have succumbed to the belief that this regime and its leader were a big, immovable object. Mr. Ghonim was a man of the modern world. He was not driven by piety. The condition of his country—the abject poverty, the crony economy of plunder and corruption, the cruelties and slights handed out to Egyptians in all walks of life by a police state that the people had outgrown and despaired of—had given this young man and others like him their historical warrant."
International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual meeting
Wael Ghonim attended the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting in 2011, stating that "I feel like Joe the Plumber," referring to the conservative activist who became a shorthand for populist outrage during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. "When I was coming here, a lot of people were criticizing me for it. The perception is that the IMF was part of the problem. It made these regimes survive and put these countries into debt." Ghonim said he had come to the IMF to represent "people like me who don't understand economics", to which IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn replied, "Wael, you understand a lot more than you say."
According to Ghonim, the kind of macroeconomic discussions at the panel were far from the mindset of activists in Tahrir Square:
" Honestly we were just thinking of how to get rid of the nightmare, not to start dreaming. I went to the street because of two things: I hate it when I see people eating from the trash. I work for a corporation, I'm well paid, and a lot of us just sympathized with those people, but they're not willing to pay the price of really helping them out. It's not just me; it's thousands of Egyptians. One of my friends who lost his eye [during the protests] actually drives a Ferrari. He went on the day of 25th. The second was dignity. We wanted our dignity back. And dignity does have an economic aspect. "
He also took issue with Strauss-Kahn's characterization of "mistakes" made by the international community during the Mubarak era:
" It's such an understatement to say mistake. To me, what was happening was a crime. The way the international community was dealing with the injustice and dictators in the region was basically a crime -- partners in crime. "
Ghonim continued his criticism of the IMF's aid to the Mubarak regime and expressed a hope that the days of Egypt relying on international aid would soon be over.
Role after the revolution
Wael Ghonim topped Time magazine’s yearly list of the world’s 100 most influential people. On 26 April, He arrived in New York to be honored at the 2011 Time 100 Gala ceremony where he began his speech with a moment of silence to mark those killed in protests around the Arab world.
Wael Ghonim also received the JFK Profile in Courage Award. On 23 May, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, presented the awards to Elizabeth Redenbaugh and Wael Ghonim, who was named a recipient on behalf of “the people of Egypt.” Kennedy said she could think of no better recipients.
The magazine's annual report stated Ghonim as the primary contributor to the promotion and coordination of the movement of Egyptian youth through "Facebook", adding that Ghonim came to international fame via commercial news outlets word of mouth after his leadership of the Egyptian revolution.
Ghonim's social media feeds and public statements have been attracting increasing criticism. Shortly before the resignation of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Ghonim presented a deal to the Egyptian people according to which Mubarak could have remained in Cairo with an "honorary status." He later appeared on Al Arabiya TV and called the rumor Mubarak-regime propaganda, and added: "I am stronger than Hosni Mubarak. I am stronger than Omar Sulaiman."
From 18 May 2011, a major campaign on Twitter gained momentum with the hashtag #unfollowedghonimbecause, criticising Ghonim for various failings and an exaggerated focus on the Egyptian economy.
He has also been criticised for failing to publicly remedy doubts about the genesis of the We are all Khalid Said Facebook page, which is believed to have had at least one more initiator.
In response to the above criticism, some of Ghonim's supporters have launched a Facebook page, trying to declare him the spokesperson for the Egyptian revolutionaries - a role which, at any rate, Ghonim has consistently rejected. More than 400,000 people have joined the page. Moreover, more than 360,000 people joined his personal page on Facebook and more than 3,000,000 people joined the "We are all Khaled Saeed" page, which is run by him and another administrator, revealed to be AbdelRahman Mansour,.
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- Pepitone, Julianne (April 25, 2011). "Wael Ghonim to leave Google, start NGO in Egypt". CNN. Retrieved 2011-04-25. "Ghonim tweeted on Saturday: 'Decided to take a long term sabbatical from @Google & start a technology focused NGO to help fight poverty & foster education in #Egypt'"
- "An interview with him on Dream TV 2 (in Arabic with English subtitles)". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
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- Al-Anani, Khalil, “The Young Brotherhood in Search of a New Path”, Ikhwahweb: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website, October 6, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-13. “[Y]oung Brotherhood bloggers started engaging in auto-critique and openly began criticizing the movement’s leadership, its organizational structures, and its rigid and out-dated political and religious discourse. Amwaj Fi Bahr al-Taghyir (Waves in the Sea of Change) is the most prominent of these blogs, and was established by the 29-year-old dentist and reformist Mustafa al-Naggarمصطفى النجار. During the 2005 elections, Naggar participated in the Brotherhood’s electoral campaign in the hopes of mobilizing people in support of Islamist candidates. However, he has since expressed disappointment over the Brothers’ poor showing in the elections, and his writing has begun to focus increasingly on how to transform the Brotherhood into a more open movement and a more effective political party. Naggar has been especially critical of the Brotherhood’s political platform, released in August 2007, and he has also attacked the approach of the older generation in dealing with local and regional issues. Naggar’s blog additionally serves as a clearinghouse for links to other blog-based critiques of the Brotherhood. “ Footnotes not included.
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- Wael Ghonim LIVE at India Today Conclave on 19th March 2011 at 12:15pm IST India Today Conclave
- We Are All Khaled Said blog
- Wael Ghonim on Twitter
- Wael Ghonim on Facebook
- Wael Ghonim collected news and commentary at Al Jazeera English
- Wael Ghonim collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Profile: Egypt's Wael Ghonim, BBC News, 8 February 2011
- Detention of Wael Ghonim(?), YouTube
- Photos of Wael Ghonim and information concerning his disappearance
- Wael Ghonim on His Release After 12 Days in Egyptian Jail, Democracy Now!, February 8, 2011
- Wael Ghonim reacts on CNN to Omar Soliman's ABC Interview, YouTube
- CBS "60 Minutes" Talks To The Man Who Has Emerged As The Symbol of Egypt's Revolution, 11min, February 13, 2011
- his favorite song (Wael: "The most amazing song for the revolution")
- The Egyptian Internet Activist Wael Ghonim: The Face of the Egyptian Protest Movement Qantara.de
- Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian revolution, talk at TED conference March 2011
- Wael, one of "TIME 100" people 2011: 5min speech at the gala, and: honoured from M.ElBaradei and short statement