CAIRO – Freed Egypt activist Wael Ghonim arrived at the epicentre of anti-regime protests in Cairo on Tuesday where he was welcomed as a hero by the crowd of hundreds of thousands.
The crowd surged towards him, many weeping, clapping and shouting: “Long live Egypt, long live Egypt!”
The young executive at Google was released on Monday after security services snatched him from the street 12 days ago and has been hailed as a hero of the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak.
“I’m not a hero, you are the heroes, you’re the ones who stayed on this square,” Ghonim told the crowd.
“You must insist that your demands are met. For our martyrs, we must insist,” he said, before being cut off by the crowd chanting: “We want the regime to fall.”
Ghonim was already an anonymous champion of the opposition — working as a cyberactivist mobilising pro-democracy protests through a popular Facebook page — when he was arrested on January 27 during protests in Cairo.
Google’s 30-year-old marketing chief for the Middle East was then held blindfolded by the Egyptian security service for 12 days and has been thrust into the centre of events since his release.
He appeared in an interview on Egypt’s Dream 2 television channel, and his powerful reaction has since become an Internet hit in Egypt and beyond and a vital recruiting tool for the protest movement now entering its third week.
“I was blindfolded for 12 days, I couldn’t hear anything, I didn’t know what was happening,” he said, recounting his ordeal, which inspired expressions of concern from around the world.