CAIRO, EGYPT — I have been following the Egyptian pro-democracy blog, Rantings of a Sandmonkey, for years now. I have long wondered about the identity of its author, who describes himself as “a micro-celebrity, blogger, activist, new media douchebag, pain in the ass!” on his blog. I contacted him several times on previous trips to Egypt, requesting an interview, and getting no reply. In pre-revolution Egypt, he was rightfully too scared to talk to a journalist. I suspected that amidst the revolution, while all of pro-democracy Egypt was in Tahrir Square, that he might have the confidence to reveal his identity. It turns out I was right.
I received an email from a man calling himself Sam Adam, claiming to be the author of the blog. He had been beaten up by Egyptian State police on February 3 while delivering medical supplies to Tahrir Square. He said that he got beat up pretty badly, and was in hiding with his family in Heliopolis, a Cairo neighborhood. I got the impression that he was summoning up the courage to go back to Tahrir Square.
I would end up meeting him there three days later, on February 6. He felt emboldened by the bravery of his fellow pro-democracy activists and wanted to come out to the media in order to seek justice for his assailants. He revealed his identity for the first time to Eliot Spitzer on CNN in an audio-only interview. My interview with Sam Adam, a.k.a. the Sandmonkey was his first on-camera interview. It turns out his real name is Mahmoud Salem.
Jaron Gilinsky is a journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Jerusalem. As a freelance video correspondent for Time, the New York Times, and Current TV, he has produced and directed scores of documentaries on a range of international topics. Jaron regularly posts his videos and articles on his personal blog.