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Web-Exclusive ReportFebruary 08, 2011 19:58

Cairo: The New Face of the Revolution

ABOUT Charles M. Sennott

A longtime foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe, Charles M. Sennott is the executive editor of GlobalPost and is reporting for FRONTLINE from Egypt for a broadcast that will air on Feb. 22.

John Moore/Getty Images

CAIRO - The Egyptian revolt found its face today.

It's the face of a Google executive with a small goatee who ignited the youthful demonstrations that changed the Arab world with a simple call to action on his Facebook page.

His name is Wael Ghonim. And his tearful account on national television of his arrest and detention by security forces for the last 12 days riveted the country and steeled the nerves of an estimated 250,000 protesters who flocked to the square in what seemed the largest crowd to date.

Their collective demand that President Hosni Mubarak step down was made perfectly clear by the chant in Arabic that rises up from the crowd: "Leave, leave, leave."

After being released last night from prison, Ghonim came to Tahrir (Liberation) Square today and took the stage before a swelling crowd today, saying, "You are the heroes. I am not a hero, you are the heroes. As long as you are standing here, you are a hero."

He expressed a deep sorrow for the thousands who've been injured and the 300 killed in the demonstrations.

"I saw young people dying and now the president has a responsibility to see what the people demand," he said.

Ghonim was thrust into the spotlight today of a protest movement that is in search of a leader.

So far his role has been in creating the social network that sparked what many are now calling a revolution. He was behind a Facebook group that called on Egyptians to be inspired by the revolution in Tunisia that toppled a dictator. He called on all Egyptians to come to the streets and stand up against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year reign is now teetering on the edge of collapse.

Ghonim's powerful testimony seemed to energize the protest movement, which pushed its way past an army checkpoint to bring the crowd right up to the footsteps of parliament.

They are edging closer to the halls of power, and yesterday it was increasingly apparent that this protest movement is gaining momentum.


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posted february 08, 2011

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