Wael Ghonim

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wael Ghonim
وائل غنيم
Wael Ghonim in 2014
Born (1980-12-23) 23 December 1980 (age 42)
OccupationGroup Product Manager
Employer(s)Google, Quora
Known forPlaying a prominent role in sparking the Egyptian Revolution of 2011
AwardsJFK Profile in Courage Award (2011) [1]

Wael Ghonim (Arabic: وائل غنيم [ˈwæːʔel ɣoˈneːm]; 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 galvanized pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt after his emotional interview[3] following 11 days of secret incarceration by Egyptian police. During these 11 days, he was interrogated regarding his work as one of two administrators of the Facebook page, "We are all Khaled Said", which helped spark the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.[4][5] Time magazine included him in its "Time 100" list of the 100 most influential people of 2011,[6] and the World Economic Forum selected him as one of the Young Global Leaders in 2012.[7]

Ghonim is the author of Revolution 2.0: The power of people is greater than the people in power (2013). In 2012, he founded Tahrir Academy, a technology focused NGO that aims to foster education in Egypt.[8] In 2015, Ghonim co-founded Parlio, a social media platform that was acquired by Quora in March 2016.[9] He is currently a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.


Ghonim was born to a middle-class family on 23 December 1980 in Cairo, Egypt, and grew up in Abha, Saudi Arabia. When he was 13 years old, he 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 2008.[10]

Professional career[edit]

Between 2002 and 2005, Ghonim was the Marketing and Sales Manager of Gawab.[11][12] In 2005, Ghonim left Gawab to establish Mubasher.info, a financial portal serving the Middle East region.[11] Ghonim joined Google Middle East and North Africa as its Regional Marketing Manager in 2008 based in Google Egypt.[13][citation needed] In January 2010, Ghonim became Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa based in Google's United Arab Emirates office in Dubai Internet City in Dubai.[14][15] During the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Ghonim took leave from Google to focus on his work in Egypt and the Middle East. In 2014, Ghonim joined Google Ventures as an Entrepreneur in Residence before resigning in December to work at a start-up company.[16][17]


Ghonim's memoir, "Revolution 2.0",[18] 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".[19]

Involvement in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011[edit]

In 2010, Ghonim founded a Facebook page titled, "We Are All Khaled Said," in support of Khaled Said, a young Egyptian who was tortured to death by police in Alexandria. Ghonim used this page in moving and integrating the anti-government protests of the January 25 Revolution. He first made an announcement on the page on 14 January, asking members whether they were going to plan on taking to the streets on 25 January and do what Tunisia did. In less than two 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 of several invitations to the page. He anonymously collaborated with activists on the ground to announce the locations for the protest.

The page also organized other activities such as the Silent Stands and the Police Communication Campaign.[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 program 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 becoming "overwhelmed" and rising to walk off camera. The host followed.[26][27] In the interview, he urged that the protesters deserved attention more than he did and called for the end of the Mubarak regime, describing it 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]

His final statements at the end of the interview were, "I want to tell every mother and every father who lost a son, I am sorry, but this is not our mistake" and "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]

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 US$2.5 million, to charity work in Egypt.[35] He founded Tahrir Academy, a nonprofit online collaborative learning platform, aiming to transform young Egyptians' characters. The goal is to create future leaders who are critical thinkers. He currently serves as the chairperson of the foundation.[8] In 2015, the academy halted its activities because it was no longer able to secure funding.[36]


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.[37][38]

On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, Wael Ghonim was awarded with the Press Freedom prize from the Swedish division of Reporters Without Borders.[39]

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.[1]

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 during the Egyptian revolution.[40][41]

Personal life[edit]

Ghonim was married to Ilka Johannson (div. Nov 2011),[42][43] an American, and has two children, Isra and Adam.[44]


Ghonim's social media feeds and public statements attracted criticism in 2011. Shortly before the resignation of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Ghonim presented a deal to the Egyptian people in which Mubarak could have remained in CAIRO with an "honorary status". He later appeared on Al Arabiya TV and called the rumor as Mubarak-regime propaganda, adding, "I am stronger than Hosni Mubarak. I am stronger than Omar Suleiman."[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]

Ghonim has also been criticized for failing to 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 launched a Facebook page in mid 2011, trying to declare him the spokesperson for the Egyptian revolutionaries, a role that Ghonim has consistently rejected. More than 400,000 people 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 Said" page, which is run by him and another administrator, revealed to be AbdelRahman Mansour.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Contreras, Russell (24 May 2011). "Egyptian activist gets JFK Profile in Courage Award". Arab News. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  2. ^ Pepitone, Julianne (25 April 2011). "Wael Ghonim to leave Google, start NGO in Egypt". CNN. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 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. Archived from the original on 18 February 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Google worker is Egypt's Facebook hero". Financial Times. 9 February 2011. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  5. ^ Swaine, Jon (11 February 2011). "Egypt crisis: the young revolutionaries who sparked the protests". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 25 December 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Wael Ghonim: Spokesman for a Revolution". Time. 21 April 2011. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  7. ^ "Young Global Leaders of 2012". Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Nabadat – Tahrir Academy". Community Times. 2 February 2014. Archived from the original on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Quora's first acquisition is Arab Spring instigator's Q&A site Parlio". TechCrunch. 30 March 2016. Archived from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  10. ^ "AUC Today". www1.aucegypt.edu. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  11. ^ a b "(in Arabic)". Alarabalyawm.net. Archived from the original on 7 February 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  12. ^ "Re: Feasibility of advertising revenues (Online Advertising Discussion List Archives)". O-a.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  13. ^ "Wael Ghonim and Egypt's New Age Revolution". Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Update: Google MENA Marketing Head Wael Ghonim Apprehended in Egypt, Please Help Locate Him". ArabCrunch. 2 February 2011. Archived from the original on 9 February 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  15. ^ "Mr. Wael Ghonim". MENA ICT Forum. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  16. ^ "Egyptian democracy activist Wael Ghonim joins Google Ventures". Fortune. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  17. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (23 December 2014). "Wael Ghonim, famous Egyptian protester, departs Google Ventures for startup life". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Spring Awakening: How an Egyptian Revolution Began on Facebook". The New York Times. 17 February 2012. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  20. ^ a b "Wael Ghonim " AnarchitexT". Anarchitext.wordpress.com. 27 March 2011. Archived from the original on 2 July 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  21. ^ "Profile: Egypt's Wael Ghonim". BBC News. 9 February 2011. Archived from the original on 18 May 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  22. ^ Al-Anani, Khalil (6 October 2009). "The Young Brotherhood in Search of a New Path". Ikhwahweb: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011. [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 8 February 2011.[dead link]
  24. ^ "Fears for Google employee in Egypt". Amnesty International. 31 May 2010. Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  25. ^ May, Theodore, "Regime won't halt, but rallies must, Egypt's VP says" Archived 2 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 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. Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  27. ^ Mackey, Robert (8 February 2011). "Subtitled Video of Wael Ghonim's Emotional TV Interview". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  28. ^ "Live blog Feb 7 – Egypt protests". Al Jazeera Blogs. 8 February 2011. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  29. ^ "Google: Exec held in Egypt protests has been freed, United States General News". Maktoob News. Archived from the original on 10 February 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  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. Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  32. ^ "Wael Ghonim addresses thousands in Tahrir Square (video)". The Guardian. London. 9 February 2011. Archived from the original on 1 February 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  33. ^ "Ghonim: "Our Revolution Is Like Wikipedia"". techPresident. 1 July 2011. Archived from the original on 8 March 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  34. ^ Ajami, Fouad (12 February 2011). "Egypt's 'Heroes With No Names'". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 12 October 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  35. ^ "Wael Ghonim's New Book Revolution 2.0 Will Benefit Charity Work In Egypt". MTV. Archived from the original on 3 January 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  36. ^ "Tahrir Academy NGO halts its activities". Mada Masr. Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  37. ^ Richard Stengel (29 April 2011). "A TIME Gala and A Royal Wedding". Time. Archived from the original on 4 February 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  38. ^ "Wael Ghonim tops Time's 100 most influential – Politics – Egypt". Ahram Online. 21 April 2011. Archived from the original on 26 May 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  39. ^ "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 8 July 2011.
  40. ^ a b Anil Bhoyrul (23 March 2013). "Prince Alwaleed the world's most powerful Arab". Arabian Business. Archived from the original on 1 February 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  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 8 July 2011.
  42. ^ Laura Collins (12 February 2011). "Wael Ghonim: the voice of a generation". TheNational. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  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. Archived from the original on 13 September 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  45. ^ "Ghonim: Mubarak Must Go "Immediately"". CBS News. 11 February 2011. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  46. ^ Curt Hopkins (20 May 2011). "#unfollowedghonimbecause: Egyptians Use Twitter to Criticize Revolutionary Leader". readwrite. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  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 8 July 2011.
  49. ^ Linda Herrera (25 January 2013). "Meet AbdelRahman Mansour Who Made 25 January A Date to Remember". Jadaliyya. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.

External links[edit]