Egypt and twitter
By Tracey Dunn 9/2/2011
I had a few social media accounts set up for me during training with tenantspin at FACT (Foundation For Art And Creative Technology) a few years back and really thought nothing of it. tenantspin had started engaging with social media technology and exploring it as artists over ten years ago, pioneers really.
To my surprise I found myself becoming a full time internet activist at the start of the student demo’s, which kicked off on November 30th at Millbank, London when the Tory H.Q. was attacked. I started following people and groups on twitter who were directly involved, like the University College London occupation (@UCLOccupation).
I was now running my own 'news channel' on twitter informing my followers of actions and events; posting reports, photos and videos. When I was asked by Nerve to write a feature on my use of twitter I had planned to use the photo shown here from the Egyptian uprising taken by a young woman. Little did I know my feature would become so personally involved with events in Egypt.
As a journalist it's vital to get permission to use other people's photos so I sent the photographer/tweeter a direct message to ask for it. Events then took a very strange twist when other tweeters realised she had disappeared. Her account was full of messages asking what had happened to her and if she was okay. It felt necessary to make sure the whole world knew what was happening. The Nerve office even got an email from me to ask them to look out for an email from her.
By this point the internet was down although it was possible to get around that. People, including myself, spread (retweeted) the codes for alternative ways to continue an online presence in Egypt. twitter.com set up @speak2tweets where Egyptians could leave a message on a landline which would be then be converted by different volunteers into many languages.’ Egypt Alive' became a vital tool to listen to the audios from those without internet or mobile phone access. Even Aljazeera English on livestream were reading the messages out, including hers.
Finally on February 7th, @F******* (that's what I'll call her) reappeared on her twitter feed with a message which she also sent directly to me "thankx 4 ur concern, I'm fine".
She then sent a further tweet on the same day "dad made me disable my account due 2 ‘too much sudden exposure’ (in his words) & fear of emergency law (see Ghonim who just got released yest)".
She posted: "@F******* have also become literally physically ill from the sadness..guess I'm not strong enough to handle seeing so much death, just too much to handle."
Another tweet came up: "@F******* egyptians really r overly emotional, 3 days ago, husband of a woman I know (******) got a heart attack and died after discussing egypt, can u believe :( ".
She sent me another direct message, which appeared in my feed apologising. It was so harrowing for her.
@Ghonim I discovered was Wael Saed Abbas Ghonim, a 30 year old father of two, working as an executive marketing manager for Google in Dubai. He had set up a Facebook account called "WE ARE ALL KHALED SAID" using the name Elshahheeed (the martyr) named in honour of a 28 year old businessman blogger beaten and burnt to death last June in the streets by two policemen in Cairo.
Wael Ghonim also created the webpage for Mohamed Elbaradei, a Nobel prize winner who returned to Egypt to become one of the main leaders of the opposition.
There were 400,000 members of the Facebook group "WE ARE ALL KHALED SAID" at the time of Wael Ghonim’s kidnapping. It was a small campaign against police brutality and it speaks out about human rights' abuses. It also documented the fraudulent November elections.
Ghonim left his friend's house on January 25th after attending the protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo. He had tricked people at work by telling them he had an urgent personal matter regarding his father and he needed six days off. Really he came so that he could be with all of the people, and at 1 or 2am after leaving his friend's house he was kidnapped and blindfolded by four men from the National Security Forces (Amn Aldawla).
The N.S.F thought that foreigners were behind the uprisings in Egypt but Ghonim told them that the agenda was just love for the country. It was that love that led him to start his internet campaigns. Citizens had been complaining about litter and wanted Egypt to be clean, so Ghonim made a map on the internet of litter spots. He also created the #jan25 event on Facebook for a mass gathering in Tahrir Square.
Imprisoned and blindfolded for 12 days he sang songs and wondered if he was forgotten as his family looked for him in hospitals. The whole world knew he had disappeared thanks to social media technology like twitter.
He told his captors that he was not a traitor and that he wanted Mubarak's National Democratic Party to be abandoned. It had repressed and tortured people for over 30 years. Ghonim kept telling them how much he loved Egypt. Luckily his captors treated him with respect.
Dr. Hassam Badrawl stepped in and rescued Ghonim with his own hands on 7th February. The news spread around the web like wildfire. The first thing Ghonim said on release was "We are not traitors".
Dream TV, a private satellite station, had been in contact with Ghonim before his disappearance so had been reporting about him having gone missing after his best friend Najeeb called and told them. They got to interview him on television just hours after his release and he talked about not wanting anyone to know that he was the admin for the websites. He broke down as he spoke to the female interviewer Mona and said that he didn't put himself in danger. He was just writing on a keyboard. “This is the revolution of the youth on the internet which then became the Revolution of the youth of Egypt”.
He said "Everything that everyone was doing was putting all of our lives in danger. A danger we didn't know what it was from it's beginning to its end. We didn't know, we were just doing. We said we're going to fight, we're going to take our rights."
"We are holders of truth. The truth would come by asking for it. All we wanted the people to say was these are our rights and we're asking for our rights.That’s it."
"The heroes are the ones in the street. The heroes are the ones who were in the protests. The heroes are the ones who gave their lives. The heroes are the ones who were beaten. The heroes are the ones who were arrested and were exposed to danger. I wasn't a hero. What happened to me made me regret that I wasn't with the people. I came from the Emirates to attend the protest. The youth did what they did for the sake of the country and did what the generations before us should have done and couldn't do. We are not activists, or funded by anyone. It's the mistake of those who are in charge of the country and don't want to leave their positions."
Comment left by Tim Salmon on 9th February, 2011 at 16:38
Comment left by michellemckay on 22nd February, 2011 at 11:45
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