Today, I interviewed Wael Ghonim (wah-ELL go-NEEM), author of the just published Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power, and the man who steered the Egyptian revolution on Facebook. Reading Revolution 2.0 and speaking with him cleared up a number of questions I had.
1. Where did Ghonim physically do his admin work on his Facebook page?
As a Google executive, he lived in Dubai. But as an activist, he split his time between Dubai and Cairo. And wherever he was, that’s where he’d discreetly take care of admin on the Facebook page that initially made the appeal to Egyptians to turn out at Tahrir Square.
2. Did Google mind Ghonim’s activism?
In the lead-up to Tahrir Square, Google provided Ghonim a lot of wiggle room to do his job with the company and attend to his activism in Egypt. So did his wife, Ilka.
3. Where was Ghonim during the protests?
When the protests began on January 25, 2011, Ghonim was in Cairo, with the crowds at Tahrir Square. Two days later he was arrested, and was in custody for 11 days. When he got out, “I felt like I was captured for eleven years.” Everything obviously had changed.
I asked Ghonim what happened while he was in custody. The first few days he was interrogated by Egyptian security. The interrogators were determined to catch him lying. But he also faced grave misunderstandings on the part of the interrogators, such as their belief that Google and the CIA were working together. That still makes Ghonim laugh, despite his ominous situation in detention. Here’s Wael Ghonim commenting on that.