Wael Ghonim’s Dream Interview February 07, 2011
Mona El Shazly:
0:03 – Greetings
Let me tell you a little story
0:06 – A story that happened on Thursday 27 before bloody Friday
0:13 – Let me start from Wednesday
0:15 – Wednesday, in an episode of this program, we thought it will be the last episode of this program
0:20 It was the intention, or the feeling, that this will be the last episode of this program
0:24 – Considering many circumstances that some may know, or feel or they may not know
0:30 – We were speaking of the conditions in the country, and the protests of Januay 25th
And the blockage of the internet and facebook, and the anger sweeping through the youth
0:40 – We had a phone call with a brilliant young man, very savvy with the internet, and facebook
0:47 – And what are the kids, or the youth, and their disgruntled feelings …or their engrossed feelings of a disgust for what happened to them on Tuesday
0:58 – And the severing of their “life line”, which is facebook, which connects them to the world and to each other
1:04 – This young man’s name is Wael Ghonim
1:08 – He made a phone call to us and discussed the technical issues, and clearly was wound-up because he is one of many youth using this tool and was a frequenter of protests
1:20 – And this is something we cannot criticize, and does not stop us from talking to him live on the air
1:28 – After being live with us, the day after, he sent me a text message on my private cellphone
And said, I am sorry that I was, ummm, too excited that I needed to be during my interview
1:40 – So I replied to his message, “Never mind”, don’t worry about it Wael, “Good luck”
1:47 – On Thursday, the 27th, we talked on the phone, because it was known that on Friday there will be massive protests
I was checking on him, we talked, and he told me the internet has been shut down, and he was in a very disturbed state.
We ended the phone call with mutual well wishes, and I told him, ‘take care of yourself Wael’
2:05 – All this is happened under a very casual/normal context, that takes place between … everyone.
2:12 – Friday came along, and they cut communications in Egypt. Hence no one was talking to anyone.
2:16 – there were many people that you don’t know where they are and. It is natural and logical to assume that the communication blockade is the reason why you cannot connect with them.
2:27 – Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday passed, then I was shocked with phone call from an unknown number, not a local number, an international one
2:37 – The man who was speaking, “Miss Mona, my name is Najib, I am Wael’s colleague at Google. Wael has disappeared. Disappeared since Friday.”
2:47 – I asked him “how did you get my number?”
2:51 – He responded “I am his best friend, and I know he made a phone call to your show on Thursday, sometime around 1-2 am . . . So I imagined that you wouldn’t just know where he is, but also could help in reaching him/finding him”
3:02 – I told him Najib . . .
3:05 – Obviously I was suspicious, because I don’t know who is Najib, and I have no idea where Wael is. I was shocked with the news that he is missing.
3:12 – He said “I managed to access his personal accounts (internet), because I am a very close friend and I have his password(s), and I got your phone number, lest you help us”
3:21 – I took the number … I took Wael’s quad name … I must admit, that friend gained my trust, the noble/honorable Mr. Najib, and he is Syrian.
3:30 – He said “Please do not say this to the media, because we do not know where Wael is, we are afraid to speak to the media, in fear that this would hurt Wael or put him in harm’s way”
3:37 – I responded “Don’t worry Najib”
3:40 – Since that day, we have been making phone calls, and trying to connect with any and everyone we can get a hold of regarding this young man who disappeared.
3:48 -The answers were always, “we have not arrested anyone in the first place” or “This name is not in our records”
3:55 – We would ask “could you please look for it/him”, or “maybe you have forgotten some” or “maybe due to Friday’s disruption, some are in your custody and you are unaware”
In truth, we exhausted all efforts, and I know I was not alone in this effort. Many people, not just friend’s of Wael, but people on facebook, and his respectable, honorable colleagues at Google. Untill officially, it was announced that Wael has disappeared.
Since then we started talking frankly/openly about this, and we started asking for the release of Wael, not just Wael, but him and all the people with him. All the people who did not have any wants ambitions and purposes but to participate in peaceful protests calling for a dignified nation.
Yesterday, we found out that there is a promise that Wael and the people with him will be released
I honestly, did not believe that promise, because until this morning I was calling certain individuals who should be in “the know”, and I would ask them about Wael, and they would say “that name is not in our custody”
But I couldn’t entice this negative feeling in others or to refute these promises in last night’s episode or tonight’s.
Tonight, until 7pm, my phone rang, and the name I have saved on my phone as “Wael Google” appeared.
Wael called me haistly, and I asked him “Are you Wael, or someone has/using your phone”
He responded “No its me, I am Wael”
I asked “What is going on? What happened? What did they do to you?”
I don’t know anything, all I know is that Wael will be with us in minutes to tell us what happened since Friday till today, since he has been arrested, until he was released from State security today.
Wael Ghonim, or “Wael Google” as I have his contact saved on my cellphone will be with us shortly, will be with us shortly and I have no idea what he will say
What is most important, is that he was released and we will listen to him, regardless of whatever he has to say.
Note: When he called, he was sitting in car next to Dr. Hossam Badrawi, who seem to be the reason he was released, after his release was delayed than the time announced.
Stay with us, for an interview that for me combines the personal and the professional sides of my life.
Wael Saeed Abbas Ghonim…I have come to know his full name my heart because of how often we asked about him and searched for him. We just wanted to know if he was dead or alive, in custody or missing.. I had known that his family had a very
difficult time searching for him in hospitals and asking high and low. And suddenly, today, Wael Ghonim was released from state security after having been arrested on friday 28th.
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 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’re the youth that loves Egypt and we did this because we love Egypt and our first call was that we have rights, and rights can never be claimed by destroying property, whether private or public property. Our hope was for people to go out and say I want my right and I’ll take it! That is all!
and so I must pay my respects to these people, because they are the ones who sacrificed their blood.
I want to tell you something..we’ll talk but first..here in Egypt we like to claim heroism. I am no hero. I was asleep for 12 days. The heros are the ones who were in the streets, the heros are those who got beaten up, the heros 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 with these people. I came back from Emirates to participate in this demonstration. I tricked my employer so I can attend the protests in Egypt. I said I had an urgent personal matter I had to attend to, and that I needed 6 days off. I had plenty of vacation days saved up. All ok they asked? I said it’s personal and I came to Egypt for the demo. I came here because we had to be with the people.
I would like, before we discuss things, to clarify some things you might have gotten wrong.
Mona El Shazly: Go ahead Wael.
Wael Ghonim: First of all..Najeeb 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!
Mona El Shazly: Wael..
Wael Ghonim: 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 a 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 Admin. I had hoped no one would find out I am the Admin.
Because I am 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 El Naggar, these people put their lives in serious danger while I typed away on my keyboard.
So please, everyone, there are no heroes! The heroes are the ones on the streets. The hero is everyone of us. There isn’t one of us here that is on some high horse leading the masses. Let no one fool you into thinking that! This revolution belonged to the internet youth, then the revolution belonged to the Egyptian youth, then the revolution belonged to all of Egypt. It has no Hero, no one should steal it’s thunder, we were all heros. That’s the first thing.
Mona El Shazly: Wael, first of all, I know you just came back, I want you to know when you need a break, when you need to catch your breath go ahead, when you need a moment to think..
Wael Ghonim: I haven’t slept in about 48 hours but that’s just me I couldn’t sleep
Mona El Shazly: Why was your first response ‘we are not traitors’? Were they accusing you of that?
Wael Ghonim: Look Ma’am, because we no longer listen to one another, I want to say something first.. This is the season where people use the word traitor against each other. Remember when I called you and I asked you to say the truth, you told me the protestors are pressuring you and the officials are pressuring you. This is the season for accusing everyone of being a traitor! But I want to say something, If I told you now, If I told every one of you now, that I was tortured and beaten up and electrocuted, despite taking off my clothes and showing you no marks of such, you will all believe me. Correct? You’ll believe Because right now I have credibility. But Honestly, this didn’t happen to me.Nothing happened to me since..I was in shock! Since..
Mona El Shazly: You went to the demonstration..
Wael Ghonim: I went to the one on the 25th
Mona El Shazly: what time did we talk was it 1am or 2?
Wael Ghonim: Yes yes
Mona El Shazly: It was round that time
Wael Ghonim: I was kidnapped … Inside State Security prison, I was treated really well. It was so strange! They treated me with so much respect. I met some really intellectual people in jail, they were all 100% certain that we were traitors, working for others, either brainwashed, or funded by some entity directing us. Telling us where to go, what to do, what to post online.
You know, nothing hurt me, my mom and dad were given a hard time, but that didn’t hurt me, what hurt me was when an officer suspected I was a traitor.
He later changed his mind. But we’re not traitors! We love Egypt! If I was a traitor I would have stayed by the swimming pool in my house in the UAE, and enjoy my life, get paid, get raises, what’s the problem? Should I say what others are saying? Let it burn! Is it our country? It’s theirs! That’s what I’d say if I was a traitor! We’re not traitors! One of the things I’m proud of is that I went home knowing that I convinced these people that we’re not traitors. I know what I’m saying and I know they are now convinced that the only motive we had was our love for our country.
At first they had a hard time believing what it means for a bunch of youth activists, like I used to call them, facebook kids, that’s what they used to call us at the beginning during the Khaled Said protests. ‘Those noisy kids on facebook’
They didn’t believe that these “facebook youth” are the ones who went out in their tens of thousands on January 25th. We believed it! The people who worked…Again..I was just a signal.. a cue telling people to move. Some people worked so hard, they are the ones who have to talk to you and tell you how they planned and how they decided to initiate the demonstrations and how they’ll manage to coerce everyone to keep it peaceful and how they’ll protect everyone! How people will walk the streets and clean them! All of this was considered! But what I wanted to say is this…
Mona EL Shazly: Wael, catch your breath… Wael this is not an interrogation you don’t have to swear or to repeat that you love this country or that you’re not a traitor.
Wael Ghonim: Unfortunately, unfortunately, wait a sec.
Mona El Shazly: Hold on, let me.
Wael Ghonim: No No I’m sorry wait. let me tell you something!
Mona El SHazly: go ahead
Wael Ghonim: This is the era where people who have good intentions are considered traitors. Do you know why? because people now believe that there’s bad at the core of everything! and that isn’t true! On the 25th, I personally saw…I was proud to be an Egyptian on the 25th! There were thousands of girls and not a single case of sexual harassment! There was a simple man who just decided to pick up the garbage! there were stoplights that no one touched or destroyed! People would shout at anyone with a baton and ask him to drop it!
Mona a brick fell at my feet because someone just thought of throwing it! Those people they accused of destroying, yes they were there! the uneducated..do you know when they started acting out? When they were shot with rubber bullets and beaten up and pushed around. I jst want to say again, we’re now in an era… people were wondering what am I doing on that facebook page! My social life was destroyed My wife was going to divorce me because I didn’t spend time with her, and now some guy comes along and calls me a traitor, certainly he’s getting paid. There were many helping on that page and now they’re being called traitors too..
What I want to say is this. We love our country, and we refuse any other accusations. Just like we refuse to accuse others of such things.
Mona EL Shazly: Wael I want to remind you of something you might have forgotten. We must be logical, security service aren’t the only ones who know everything..the young man who called me at the end of 2010 to tell me “we’re starting an initiative to clean egypt, to create a map to mark where unmanaged garbage is…” do you remember Wael? “for officials to realize it and send someone to clean the areas toppled with garbage” I told you I support you but also mark the clean areas as motivation….a person who thinks this way for his country can never, ever want to harm it.
Wael Ghonim: I want to say I so optimistic before the 25th. And today, I am overwhelmed with optimism and I can’t believe what the people have managed to do! Today, people have proven that theyre…I was telling the officers in my interrogation..I want just one person to argue..I said it to D r.Hossam..you said I was with Dr.Hossam right?
I am thankful to everyone who tried to help get me released. I am not ungrateful it’s just…It is just not right…not right..that my dad..who has lost an eye..and could lose the other any day…spent 12 days without knowing where his son is!
Why?! why? You want to arrest me? there is law! arrest me. Tell me what I’m accused of, interrogate me. It’s your right! call my family, tell them..but what I want to say is that at least those who interrogated me had the country’s best interests at heart. Those who interrogated me, and I can’t tell what their intentions are but I was blindfolded for 12 days, I heard nothing nor saw anything.I was just telling Hamza Nemra,I was so desperate I used to sit and sing to myself..I had no clue what’s happening in the streets. I didn’t know if they demonstrated again. I wondered if they retreated..I wondered if they forgot me, if anyone would ask for my release. I didn’t know, no one told me anything. I didn’t know a single piece of news!
They have security precautions I don’t know, this isn’t my point..what killed me the most was that my wife in UAE didn’t know where I am, my mother in Egypt didn’t know what happened to me, my disabled father in Saudi Arabia didn’t know where I was. They knew where I was! This was the simplest thing they could have done, it wouldn’t have compromised anything, even if you suspect me, bring out all the evidence you have! I said the entire truth! Thank God. I didn’t know if they had proof but I said everything because I was proud of what I did and I was prepared to pay the price. What I want to say now is…
Wael Ghonim: this is not the time to settle scores. There are a lot of people I’D like to settle scores with, even personally, I wish I could get my rights from a lot of people. But this is not the time to settle scores, it’s not the time to divide up the cake, allright.
There are a lot of politicians who will understand what I’m talking about – it’s not the time to divide up the cake. For those people dividing up the cake right now – this is not the time to divide up the cake.
Thirdly, this is not the time to impose ideologies. I’m saying this personally, I still haven’t spoken to the people on the page. By the way, I’m not Faris, nor…the secret behind the success of the page is that before any decision was taken, we’d take a survey and everyone would give their opinions, and the opinion of the majority would prevail. I’m speaking now as Wael who just got out of prison, who was blindfolded and couldn’t see a thing, didn’t know anything. I just got out at 7 or 8 today, I got out and stayed with the Minister of the Interior, people! I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, of everyone who went to a protest, because the Minister of the Interior was sitting in front of me as an individual, the same as me. He spoke to me as though he was strong and I was strong, not like I was a silly kid or a wild young man, or paternalistically. That is something he as a person deserves respect for. I still don’t know anything, but to be objective, I respect it anyway. But I’m proud of the young people, because they did this.
They are the ones that caused Dr. Hossam Badrawi to take me home so he could talk to me.
I just wanted to tell you about my conversation with Dr. Hossam Badrawi…
Mona El Shazly: Let’s pause to catch our breath, and we’ll get back to you. And drink something because you haven’t eaten anything since you get back from…from…State Security.
0:00 – Mona El Shazly: Did you know anyone died?
0:02 – Wael Ghonim: Yes, they told me in the…
Mona El Shazly: I mean…when you got out?
0:06 – Wael Ghonim: No, not as soon as I got out…before I got out, they told me during the last investigation. They told me about the events, they told me everything that happened.
0:13 – Mona El Shazly: (To camera) The truth is, that’s the first thing Wael asked me about. He asked, what are we going to do? There are honourable and famous people in this country, and maybe they think it’s not the right time to talk about this; as soon as they heard of the the idea of this mania, or that it was possible to contribute in some way, not to calm the situation or to flatter one party at the expense of another – they felt it to be their duty. Those people who died were our children and brothers, and they had no personal ambitions, and the photographs we showed earlier (shows photographs) say so…did you see these photographs, Wael?
0:49 – Wael Ghonim: No, I haven’t seen a single one.
0:51 – Mona El Shazly: They’re on the screen now. Youth like blossoms, blossoms in gardens. They are the ones who went down, they wanted nothing…don’t cry, Wael.
Wael Ghonim: (Cries)
1:16 – Mona El Shazly: These people didn’t want to head political parties, or people crushed by poverty and the world seemed bleak to them. They went out for the sake of Egypt, for the sake of the country and said what the generations before us couldn’t do, we can. We are not activists, or funded by anyone, we just want to say we love this country. If it wasn’t for my not being at liberty to state that names, or a specific name, have said directly that financial compensation, or in some other way, is present and ready. I can’t say anything more because I’m not at liberty to.
2:08 – Wael Ghonim: I want to tell every mother and father that lost a son, I’m sorry but it’s not our fault (cries). I swear to God it’s not our fault! It’s the fault of everyone who held on to power and clung to it! (cries). I want to leave. (Gets up and goes off screen)