CAIRO: Freed Egypt activist Wael Ghonim arrived at the epicenter of anti-regime protests in Cairo on Tuesday where he lauded hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who welcomed him as a hero.
Protesters surged towards him, many weeping, clapping and shouting: “Long live Egypt, long live Egypt!”
The young Google executive 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.”
He was more succinct on his Twitter feed (@Ghonim): “Dear Egyptians, Failure is not an option.”
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 Jan. 27 during protests in Cairo.
Google’s 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.
At an impromptu press conference later, the 30-year-old Ghonim, said it was impossible to call the uprising a “Facebook revolution.
“After seeing the people right now, I would say this is the Egyptian people’s revolution. It’s amazing.”
And he praised his fellow demonstrators as “dreamers.”
“We are all dreamers. Actually when I created that Facebook page event, I was a dreamer and I believe all of us were dreamers,” he said.
“Egyptians deserve a better life. Today one of those dreams has actually come true, which is actually putting all of us together and … believing in something.”
Ghonim appeared in an emotional 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.
Mubarak, who came to power in 1981, has ruled for Ghonim’s entire life. AFP correspondents said the demonstrations against his regime on Tuesday were the largest since the revolt began on Jan. 25.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators crowd Cairo’s Tahrir square on Feb. 8 in the largest protests since the start of a revolt against President Hosni Mubarak. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)