Wael Ghonim

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Wael Ghonim
وائل غنيم
Ghonim in 2014
Born (1980-12-23) 23 December 1980 (age 36)
Cairo, Egypt
Residence San Francisco, California, U.S.
Nationality Egyptian
Alma mater
Occupation Group Product Manager
Employer Quora
Known for Playing a prominent role in sparking the Egyptian Revolution in 2011
Awards JFK Profile in Courage Award (2011) [1]

Wael Ghonim (Arabic: وائل غنيم‎‎. born 23 December 1980) is an Internet activist and computer engineer with an interest in social entrepreneurship.[2]

In 2011, he became an international figure and energized pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt after his emotional interview.[3] following 11 days of secret incarceration by Egyptian police—during which he was interrogated regarding his work as one of two administrators of the Facebook page, "We are all Khaled Saeed", which helped spark the revolution.[4][5] In 2011, He was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.[6] Time magazine included him in its "Time 100" list of 100 most influential people of 2011,[7] and the World Economic Forum have selected him as one of the Young Global Leaders in 2012.[8]

Wael is the author of "Revolution 2.0: The power of people is greater than the people in power". In 2012, he founded Tahrir Academy, a technology focused NGO that aims at fostering education in Egypt.[9] In 2015, Ghonim co-founded Parlio, a social media platform that was acquired by Quora in March 2016.[10] He is currently a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.


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. He then moved back to live in Cairo.

He earned a BS in computer engineering from Cairo University in 2004 and an MBA, with honors, in marketing and finance from the American University in Cairo in 2007.[citation needed]

Professional career[edit]

Between 2002 and 2005, Ghonim was Marketing and Sales Manager of Gawab.[11][12] In 2005, Wael left Gawab to establish Mubasher.info a financial portal serving the Middle East region.[11] Wael joined Google Middle East and North Africa as their Regional Marketing Manager in 2008 based at Google Egypt.[citation needed] 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.[13][14] During the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Wael took leave from Google to focus on his work in Egypt and the Middle East. In 2014, Wael joined Google Ventures as an Entrepreneur in Residence.[15] In December 2014, he announced his resignation from Google Ventures, in order to work at a start-up company.[16]


Ghonim's memoir "Revolution 2.0",[17] was published in January 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the U.S. and by HarperCollins in the UK. A reviewer at The New York Times called the book "a touchstone for future testimonials about a strengthening borderless digital movement that is set to continually disrupt powerful institutions, be they corporate enterprises or political regimes".[18]

Involvement in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011[edit]

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 titled "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.

The page also organized interesting activities such as the Silent Stands and the Police Communication Campaign.[19][20]

In January 2011, Ghonim persuaded Google to allow him to return to Egypt, citing "personal issues".[21] He came to Egypt to partake in the Egyptian revolution,[20] 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,[22] reported that Wael Ghonim was alive and detained by the authorities and to be released "within hours".[23] On 6 February 2011, Amnesty International demanded that the Egyptian authorities disclose where Ghonim was and to release him.[24]

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."[25]

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.[26][27] 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".[28][29] Becoming a symbol of the revolution in Egypt,[30] Ghonim stated that he is "ready to die" for the cause.[31]

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."[26]

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."[32]

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."[33]

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."[34]


In 2012, following a book deal he signed, Ghonim decided to donate its proceeds, worth $2.5 million USD, to charity work in Egypt.[35] He founded Tahrir Academy, a nonprofit online collaborative learning platform, which aims at transforming young Egyptians' characters. The goal is future leaders who are critical thinkers. He currently serves as the Chairperson of the foundation.[9]


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.[36][37]

On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, Wael Ghonim was awarded with the Press Freedom prize from the Swedish division of Reporters Without Borders.[38]

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.[39]

Wael Ghonim was ranked the second most powerful Arab in Arabian Business's annual Power 500 of the world's most influential Arabs.[40]

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.[40][41]}

Personal life[edit]

Ghonim is married to Ilka Johannson,[42][43] an American, and has two children, Isra and Adam.[44]


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."[45]

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.[46]

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.[47]

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 that, at any rate, Ghonim has consistently rejected. More than 400,000 people have joined the page.[48] 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.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Contreras, Russell (2011-05-24). "Egyptian activist gets JFK Profile in Courage Award". Arab News. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  2. ^ Pepitone, Julianne (25 April 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' 
  3. ^ An interview with him on Dream TV 2 (in Arabic with English subtitles). Youtube.com. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  4. ^ "Google worker is Egypt's Facebook hero". Financial Times. 9 February 2011. 
  5. ^ Swaine, Jon (11 Feb 2011). "Egypt crisis: the young revolutionaries who sparked the protests". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  6. ^ "Nobel Peace Prize may recognise Arab Spring". 
  7. ^ "Wael Ghonim: Spokesman for a Revolution". Time. 21 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "Young Global Leaders of 2012". 
  9. ^ a b "Nabadat – Tahrir Academy". Community Times. 2 February 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "Quora’s first acquisition is Arab Spring instigator’s Q&A site Parlio". TechCrunch. 30 March 2016. 
  11. ^ a b "(in Arabic)". Alarabalyawm.net. Archived from the original on 7 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  12. ^ "Re: Feasibility of advertising revenues (Online Advertising Discussion List Archives)". O-a.com. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  13. ^ "Update: Google MENA Marketing Head Wael Ghonim Apprehended in Egypt, Please Help Locate Him". ArabCrunch. 2011-02-02. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  14. ^ "Mr. Wael Ghonim". MENA ICT Forum. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  15. ^ "Egyptian democracy activist Wael Ghonim joins Google Ventures". Fortune. 
  16. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (23 December 2014). "Wael Ghonim, famous Egyptian protester, departs Google Ventures for startup life". VentureBeat. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  17. ^ Ghonim, Wael (2012). Revolution 2.0 : the power of the people is greater than the people in power : a memoir. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-547-77398-8. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Spring Awakening: How an Egyptian Revolution Began on Facebook". The New York Times. 2012-02-17. 
  19. ^ "Google man Wael Ghonim emerges as the face of Egypt protests". International Business Times. 2011-02-09. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  20. ^ a b "Wael Ghonim " AnarchitexT". Anarchitext.wordpress.com. 2011-03-27. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  21. ^ "Profile: Egypt's Wael Ghonim". BBC News. 9 February 2011. 
  22. ^ Al-Anani, Khalil (6 October 2009). "The Young Brotherhood in Search of a New Path". Ikhwahweb: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website. 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-Naggar. 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. 
  23. ^ "Confirmation?? Rt @fustat: Mostafa Alnagar: Wael @Ghonim is alive & detained. We have promises that he will be released within hours". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-08. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Fears for Google employee in Egypt". Amnesty International. 2010-05-31. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  25. ^ May, Theodore, "Regime won't halt, but rallies must, Egypt's VP says", USA Today, 9 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
  26. ^ a b Fahim, Kareem; Mana El-Naggar; Liam Stack; Ed Ou (9 February 2011). "Emotions of a Reluctant Hero Galvanize Protesters". The New York Times. p. A14. 
  27. ^ Mackey, Robert (2011-02-08). "Subtitled Video of Wael Ghonim's Emotional TV Interview". The New York Times. 
  28. ^ "Live blog Feb 7 – Egypt protests". Al Jazeera Blogs. 8 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  29. ^ "Google: Exec held in Egypt protests has been freed, United States General News". Maktoob News. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  30. ^ Husain, Ed (9 February 2011). "Ghonim electrified Egypt's revolution". CNN. Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  31. ^ King, John (9 February 2011). "Ghonim: 'I'm ready to die'". CNN. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  32. ^ "Wael Ghonim addresses thousands in Tahrir Square (video)". The Guardian. London. 9 February 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  33. ^ "Ghonim: "Our Revolution Is Like Wikipedia"". techPresident. 2011-07-01. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  34. ^ Ajami, Fouad (2011-02-12). "Egypt's 'Heroes With No Names'". The Wall Street Journal. 
  35. ^ "Wael Ghonim's New Book Revolution 2.0 Will Benefit Charity Work In Egypt". MTV. 
  36. ^ Richard Stengel (29 April 2011). "A TIME Gala and A Royal Wedding". Time. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  37. ^ "Wael Ghonim tops Time's 100 most influential – Politics – Egypt". Ahram Online. 2011-04-21. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  38. ^ "Wael Ghonim recieves [sic] press freedom prize from the Swedish section of Reporters without Borders". Embassy of Sweden Cairo. 3 May 2011. Archived from the original on 9 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  39. ^ Contreras, Russell (2011-05-24). "Egyptian activist gets JFK Profile in Courage Award". Arab News. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  40. ^ a b Anil Bhoyrul (23 March 2013). "Prince Alwaleed the world's most powerful Arab". Arabian Business. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  41. ^ Mohamed Abd el Fattah (27 March 2011). ""Arabian Business": Wael Ghoneim's second most influential Arabs". Allvoices.com. Archived from the original on 3 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  42. ^ Laura Collins (12 February 2011). "Wael Ghonim: the voice of a generation". TheNational. 
  43. ^ Ghonim, Wael. Twitter, 12 Feb 2011. Web. 15 August 2011 https://twitter.com/Ghonim/status/36118972063690752
  44. ^ Alexia Tsotsis (7 February 2011). "Wael Ghonim's First Interview After Jail Release". Techcrunch.com. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  45. ^ "Ghonim: Mubarak Must Go "Immediately"". CBS News. 2011-02-11. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. 
  46. ^ Curt Hopkins (20 May 2011). "#unfollowedghonimbecause: Egyptians Use Twitter to Criticize Revolutionary Leader". readwrite. 
  47. ^ Belabbes Benkredda (24 May 2011). "A Tale Of The Lone Hero". The European. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. 
  48. ^ "Facebook page Authorize. Ghoneim". Facebook. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  49. ^ Linda Herrera (25 January 2013). "Meet AbdelRahman Mansour Who Made 25 January A Date to Remember". Jadaliyya. 

External links[edit]