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“The Heroes are the Ones in the Street”: Google Exec and Facebook Activist Wael Ghonim on His Release After 12 Days in Egyptian Jail

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Twelve days after being snatched from the streets of Cairo, Wael Ghonim was released Monday from secret detention. He is being hailed as a hero by the pro-democracy movement for administrating a Facebook page key to organizing Egypt’s unprecedented pro-democracy uprising. In his first interview after being released, Ghonim told Egyptian TV, “I never put my live in danger while I was typing away on the internet. The heroes are the ones in the streets. This revolution belongs to the internet youth.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The only journalist known to have been killed during the Egyptian uprising was honored on Monday in Cairo. We’re going to talk about him in a minute, but first we’re going to continue on this theme, sparks of a revolution. We don’t know how many protesters have still been jailed by Egyptian authorities. On Monday, authorities released one of the most high-profile detained protesters, Google executive Wael Ghonim. He was secretly detained 12 days earlier. Ghonim was an administrator to a Facebook page used to organize Egypt’s unprecedented pro-democracy uprising. He spoke to Egyptian TV channel Dream 2 after being released from jail. We turn to an excerpt of that interview.

MONA EL SHAZLY: Welcome back, Wael.

WAEL GHONIM: Thank you.

First of all, I want to tell everyone, everyone, all the mothers and fathers who have lost a child, I am very sorry for your loss, and may God accept them as martyrs, whether they were regular citizens or officers or policemen. Anyone who has died is a martyr. I don’t want to say I’m sorry, because the people who thought of this demonstration never thought of breaking a thing, let alone kill a human being. We are the youth that loves Egypt, and we did this because we love Egypt, and our first call is that we have rights. And these rights can never be claimed by destroying property, whether private or public property. Our hope was for the people to go out and say, “I want my rights,” and that’s it. That is all. And so, I must pay my respects to these people, because —

I want to tell you something. We’ll talk first, but in Egypt, we like to claim heroism. I’m no hero. I was asleep for 12 days. The heroes are the ones who were in the streets. The heroes are those who got beaten up. The heroes are those who got arrested and put their lives in danger. I was not a hero.

Sadly, what happened to me made me regret not being here with these people. I came back from the Emirates to participate in the demonstration. I tricked my employer so that I could attend the protest in Egypt. I said I had an urgent personal matter I had to attend to and that I needed six days off. “Everything OK?” they asked. I said it was personal, and I came to Egypt for the demonstration. I came here because I had to be with the people.

I would like, before we discuss things, to clarify some things you may have gotten wrong.

MONA EL SHAZLY: Go ahead, Wael.

WAEL GHONIM: Well, first of all, Najib is my friend from the Emirates. And secondly, he’s not Syrian.

MONA EL SHAZLY: Oh, I’m sorry. His dialect led me to assume he was Syrian.

WAEL GHONIM: He’s Jordanian. Do you know why I’m making this point clear? Because we’re not traitors. We’re not traitors, Mona. We love Egypt.

We are not working with anyone with a set agenda. Some of us are very rich. We live in great homes and drive great cars. I don’t need anything from anyone, and I never wanted anything from anyone. Everything that was done always endangered all of our lives, danger which we knew no end to. We don’t know. We’re just working. We said we’ll fight for our rights and for our country. This is our country. Every single one of us who was at risk wasn’t doing this for personal agenda. The people who moved and the people who planned, they don’t want anything. I don’t want anything.

Do you know? My biggest torment when I was in prison was knowing that people will find out I am the administrator. I had hoped no one would find out that I am the administrator, because I’m not a hero. I was only using the keyboard, Mona, on the internet. I never put my life in danger. The real heroes are the ones on the ground, those I can’t name. But many of the people you met, like Mustafa and Nagar, these people put their lives in serious danger, while I was typing away on the internet. So, please, everyone, there are no heroes. The heroes are the ones in the streets. The hero is every one of us. There isn’t one of us here that is on some high horse. Let no one fool you into thinking that. This revolution belonged to the internet youth, and the revolution belonged to the Egyptian youth.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Google executive Wael Ghonim, released yesterday after being detained 12 days earlier.

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