Reluctant Revolutionary

By Giglio, Mike | Newsweek, October 31, 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Reluctant Revolutionary

Giglio, Mike, Newsweek

Byline: Mike Giglio

Google's Wael Ghonim was the face of Egypt's revolution. Now the fight is failing--and he's out of sight.

During Egypt's revolution last January, Google executive Wael Ghonim quickly became the face of the Arab Spring. Using the handle El Shaheed, or "the martyr," he anonymously ran a Facebook page that was a lightning rod for protesters. After getting arrested and outed in dramatic fashion as the regime crumbled, Ghonim became a global sensation, revered by protest movements from Syria to Wall Street.

But Ghonim, an introverted techie at heart, has had an uneasy time in the spotlight. His high profile has provoked a tide of verbal attacks in Egypt. "Wael has been vilified," says Wael Khalil, a fellow activist. Counter-revolutionary forces and even regular Egyptians disparage him on all sorts of contradictory charges: he's an American infiltrator, an Israeli spy, an Islamist, a traitor.

"Everything people say affects him," says one friend. "He doesn't know what's expected of him. It's sad."

Ghonim has even become estranged from the revolutionaries who once named him their symbolic leader. Some think he has taken too much credit, while others slam him for not doing enough to oppose the military regime that has seized power.

Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Ghonim has retreated from the forefront of the revolutionary scene. He refuses to speak on the record with foreign journalists, and even his dealings with Egyptian media are sparing and tightly controlled. He was rumored to be up for the Nobel Peace Prize recently but, according to a fellow activist, hoped he didn't win. "The last thing I need is to be more isolated," he told the activist.

Ghonim's Facebook page, too, has moved to the sidelines, seldom putting its weight behind the various protests that have continued, with fading momentum, to occupy Tahrir Square. "It went from being instigator to spectator. Why?" says Adel Iskandar, a visiting researcher at Georgetown who has engaged with the page since its early days.

In the days before the first protests on Jan. 25, Ghonim vowed to stay anonymous no matter what happened. He knew anonymity was the great strength of his page.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Reluctant Revolutionary


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?