Cairo The young Google Inc. executive detained by Egyptian authorities for 12 days said Monday he was behind the Facebook page that helped spark what he called “the revolution of the youth of the Internet.” A U.S.-based human rights group said nearly 300 people have died in two weeks of clashes.
Wael Ghonim, a marketing manager for the Internet company, wept throughout an emotional television interview just hours after he was freed. He described how he spent his entire time in detention blindfolded while his worried parents didn’t know where he was. He insisted he had not been tortured and said his interrogators treated him with respect.
“This is the revolution of the youth of the Internet and now the revolution of all Egyptians,” he said, adding that he was taken aback when the security forces holding him branded him a traitor.
“Anyone with good intentions is the traitor because being evil is the norm,” he said. “If I was a traitor, I would have stayed in my villa in the Emirates and made good money and said like others, ’Let this country go to hell.’ But we are not traitors,” added Ghonim, an Egyptian who oversees Google’s marketing in the Middle East and Africa from Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.
The protesters have already brought the most sweeping changes since President Hosni Mubarak took power 30 years ago, but they are keeping up the pressure in hopes of achieving their ultimate goal of ousting Mubarak.
Ghonim has become a hero of the demonstrators since he went missing on Jan. 27, two days after the protests began. He confirmed reports by protesters that he was the administrator of the Facebook page “We are all Khaled Said” that was one of the main tools for organizing the demonstration that started the movement on Jan. 25.
Khaled Said was a 28-year-old businessman who died in June at the hands of undercover police, setting off months of protests against the hated police. The police have also been blamed for inflaming violence by trying to suppress these anti-government demonstrations by force.
Ghonim’s whereabouts were not known until Sunday, when a prominent Egyptian businessman confirmed he was under arrest and would soon be released.
Time and again during the two weeks of demonstrations, protesters have pointed proudly to the fact that they have no single leader, as if to say that it is everyone’s uprising. Still, there seems at times to be a longing among the crowds at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the main demonstration site, for someone to rally around.
The unmasking of Ghonim as the previously unknown administrator of the Facebook page that started the protests could give the crowds someone to look to for inspiration to press on.