Egyptian protesters feed off Wael Ghonim's passion,Demonstrations in Egypt


Wael Ghonim speaks to protesters in Tahrir square
Egyptian protesters feed off Wael Ghonim's passion
WAEL Ghonim lacks charisma, physical presence or oratorical power.

However, the computer technician has emerged as the human face of the uprising that is rocking Egypt, the first of a new breed of youthful revolutionary leaders who have turned the mouse and the keyboard into weapons powerful enough to destroy dictatorships.

An extraordinary, tearful interview Mr Ghonim had given the previous night went viral, and the Google executive, 30, received a thunderous reception when he appeared before another vast multitude packed into Cairo's Tahrir Square, tens of thousands of them first-time protesters inspired by his words. By early evening more than 150,000 people had joined a Facebook site urging Mr Ghonim to become the voice of the revolution.

In short, this tousle-haired young man, clad in jeans, sports shirt and baseball cap, is a nightmare for President Hosni Mubarak, 82, and a regime that can scarcely comprehend the nature of the force it is battling.
Mr Ghonim, who was released after 12 days' imprisonment on Monday, said that his interrogators "could not believe young guys were doing this. They said the Muslim Brotherhood had to be behind it."

Mr Ghonim lives in the United Arab Emirates and created a Facebook site called "We are all Khaled Said" after the young Egyptian who was dragged from a cafe in Alexandria and beaten to death by the police in June.

Working anonymously, he used the site to encourage the first huge public protest against the regime on January 25. He was snatched on a Cairo street two days later and held blindfolded for nearly two weeks. Hours after his release, he appeared on Dream TV, a popular independent Egyptian channel, and gave such a powerful and moving interview that it may come to be seen as a turning point in the momentous drama unfolding in this country.

Mr Ghonim was clearly exhausted, and not hugely articulate, but his manifest frailty and passion lent his words great force. Over and over he rebutted the regime's accusation that the protesters are troublemakers financed and manipulated by foreign powers.

The protesters were true, patriotic Egyptians, he insisted. "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'," he said.

Told by the interviewer that more than 300 had been killed, he broke down and wept.

The interview had been flagged up on Twitter and Facebook and was watched by millions. It had an electrifying impact on an uprising that entered its third week yesterday and was in danger of stalling in the face of "concessions" by the regime and relentlessly hostile coverage in the state media.

Hundreds of thousands poured back into Tahrir Square yesterday.

"All Egypt cried. It was like a new inspiration for the revolution," said Hisham Mohsen, 20, a medical student.

Many came to the square for the first time, convinced by Mr Ghonim that to do so was their duty. "I wanted to come before, but when I saw the interview I felt I had to. I felt guilty," said Mohammed Mahros, 35, a shopkeeper who brought with him his 10-year-old son and a brother with a placard reading: "Wael Ghonim - In our heads and in our hearts."

The protesters dismissed the latest pronouncements from Omar Suleiman, Mr Mubarak's deputy, who said that a constitutional reform committee had been established and that a "clear road map has been put in place with a set timetable to realise the peaceful and organised transfer of power". The markets were equally unforgiving, with the central bank having to prop up the sliding Egyptian pound. The regime also announced measures intended to stop shares plummeting when the stock exchange reopens on Sunday.

Reinvigorated, large groups of headscarved woman marched around chanting: "Leave, leave, Mubarak." The blood-stained shirts and photographs of "martyrs" killed in the square last week were on display. Young men spray-painted Google, Twitter and Facebook logos on walls and tanks.

Late in the afternoon, Mr Ghonim addressed this deafening sea of humanity. "I'm not a hero. You are the heroes. You're the ones who stayed on this square," he declared. "You must insist that your demands are met. For our martyrs, we must insist." He blamed the deaths on those who prepared to kill to retain power, but said that the revolution must not be used to promote ideologies or settle grudges. The multitude roared its approval. Some wept.

Afterwards, sitting beside Khaled Said's elderly mother, he told journalists: "I liked to call this the Facebook Revolution, but after seeing the people out there I think it's the Egyptian people's revolution. It's amazing."

He continued: "When I created the Facebook page I was a dreamer. Now we're all dreamers, and today one of those dreams is coming true."

Last night the protest appeared to be spreading, with demonstrators erecting a camp outside the Egyptian parliament. They put up a notice saying "Closed until the system falls

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