WASHINGTON: Released after 12 days in custody, Egyptian cyber activist Wael Ghonim kissed the soldiers who had kept him blindfolded and given him the occasional beating.
“I removed my blindfold and I said, ‘Hi,’ and kissed every one of them,” the Google marketing executive for the Middle East said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired Sunday. “All of the soldiers.”
“And, you know, it was good,” said Ghonim, who emerged as a leader of the street protests which brought down President Hosni Mubarak. “I was sending them a message.”
The 30-year-old Ghonim said the beatings were “not systematic.”
“It was individual based, like, and it was not from the officers,” he said. “It was actually from the soldiers.
“And I forgive them, I have to say. I forgive them, because one thing is that they were convinced that I was harming the country,” he said. “I’m sort of like a traitor, I’m destabilizing the country.
“So when he hits me, he doesn’t hit me because… he’s a bad guy. He’s hitting me because he thinks he’s a good guy,” he said.
Ghonim, who started a Facebook page, “We Are All Khaled Said,” that has been credited with helping mobilize the demonstrators, said the protests which led to Mubarak’s ouster would not have happened without online social networks.
“If there was no social networks it would have never been sparked,” he said. “Because the whole thing before the revolution was the most critical thing.
“Without Facebook, without Twitter, without Google, without You Tube, this would have never happened,” Ghonim said.
“One of the strategic mistakes of this regime was blocking Facebook,” he continued.
“Why? Because they have told four million people that they are scared like hell from the revolution – by blocking Facebook.
“They forced everyone who’s just, you know, waiting to read the news on Facebook, they forced them to go to the street to be part of this,” he said.
Ghonim said he had received death threats and been accused of being a spy and a traitor.
“But I think, in the next few days, when all the black files of the regime are going to be out for everyone to read and see, and, you know, we know about the money that was stolen from this country things are going to get better,” he said.
Ghonim was asked by 60 Minutes what other authoritarian leaders should be thinking after the protests in Egypt.
“He should freak out. He seriously should freak out,” he said.