Im Januar 2011 löste die Ermordung des 28 jährigen Bloggers Khaled Said einen Sturm von Protesten in Ägypten aus, die im Sturz des Präsidenten Hosni Mubarak gipfelten. Ihren Ausdruck fanden die Demonstrationen vor allem auf der Facebook-Seite „We are Khaled Said“. Einer der beiden Administratoren der Seite – Abdelrahman Mansour – hat exklusiv für uns über die Rolle von Social Media im arabischen Frühling in Ägypten geschrieben. Seit dem Start der Seite am 10. Juni 2010 wuchs die Fanzahl von 4.000 nach einer Stunde hin zu 184.000 in zehn Tagen.
Gastbeitrag: Abdelrahman Mansour
Clear Strategy – Engaging People
Unlike most traditional newspapers and social media pages, we decided not to use the page solely as a platform for expressing anger and exposing governmental scandals. From the first post, the page followed a clear strategic plan aimed at putting an end to state violence, to the emergency law, and to media deception. In view of this aim, the method we followed was to engage the page’s fans in simple and safe actions and campaigns that received the approval of most Egyptians regardless of their political views.
„The page played a significant role in inviting people to protest on the January 25th, 2011, the day that marked the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution.“
After the escape of the tunisian President Benali we received many comments on the page expressing their excitement to overthrow Mubarak too. Thus, we changed the title of the Facebook event from “Protests on the Police Holiday” to “A Revolution Against Torture, Unemployment, Corruption, and Injustice.”
The Preconditions in Egypt
During the last years of Mubarak’s era, feelings of anger were spread widely. More than 25 years of corruption had been enough time to inflame Egyptians’ anger and to create a new generation refusing the continuity of these circumstances. The wide violence that accompanied the 2005 parliamentary elections clearly indicated that the regime had control of a strong network of thugs capable of confronting its political enemies with weapons and even murder. The detention of many political figures delivered yet another message to the society’s political elites, namely that anyone aiming to compete with Mubarak would be denied any political future.
The Awakening of Blogs and Social Media
In this closed environment, the Internet was the avenue for creating new horizons. The year 2004 marked the beginning of online activism, with the birth of Blogs in Egypt. Especially after the corrupt parliamentary- and presidential elections, many bloggers expressed a new political voice. The blogs became an important platform for exposing the many human rights violations. Later these blogs became a source of reference for journalists. When Twitter was introduced to Egypt, it became one of the main platforms where Egyptians conducted their political and social discussions. However, it remained popular only amongst activists and university students.
Facebook enters the Stage
The importance of Facebook became evident in 2008 when the April 6th Youth Movement was created as a Facebook group that invited people to stand in solidarity with the workers of Al-Mahala in strikes against the regime. This call was remarkably successful. It reached a large number of Egyptians and gained coverage by the media.
„Most importantly, we learned that Blogs along with their social media followers are capable of creatively expressing their views, forcing their expressions of anger, materialising their views by taking them from the virtual world of the Internet to the ground through real actions, and reaching all kinds of media platforms.“
Facebook becomes the political Plattform No. 1
With the birth of the April 6th Youth Movement, Facebook came to be seen as the most important political platform in Egypt. When Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, former president of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, decided to return to Egypt he was favoured by most Egyptians. Indeed, before returning, he gave several interviews calling for political change in Egypt, which led the ruling regime to launch a campaign against him. During that time, I was in touch with Wael Ghoneim. We used to regularly discuss the political conditions in Egypt, and we decided to help Dr. El-Baradei in his campaign towards change in Egypt. Ghoneim suggested launching a Facebook page to support El-Baradei. We started posting his interviews.
Initially, we preferred keeping our identities concealed, but were later able to inform El-Baradei about the page.
The founding of „We are Khaled Said“
In June 2010, Khaled Said was murdered by Egyptian policemen in Alexandria. This event was striking and frightening. We wondered how a young Egyptian like us could be killed in such a brutal manner. Anger about the murder spread quickly, so I discussed with Wael Ghoneim the importance of exposing Said’s killers. We decided to repeat our earlier tactics, and founded the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook page. The page published insights of Khaled Said’s murder on a daily basis. Our goal was to keep Khaled’s story alive.
„We wanted to make Khaled’s story the story of every young Egyptian.“
Taking the course to the Streets
We received hundreds of messages on the page asking us to continue what we had started. The page became a window through which anyone could see the human rights violations taking place in Egypt.
Despite the fact that we were anonymous, we had received the trust of the page’s fans. The political scene in Egypt was not in need of more names, but of new ideas. The page should be known for its ideas and not for its administrators. We continued to expose violations and abuses by the State.
Engage the Community
And we were thinking about how we could engage the fans of our page without putting them in danger. We did not want to confront or provoke the authorities. So we decided to take our cause to the streets in a new and different way.
We invited the fans of the page to express their anger by wearing black T-shirts and standing along Alexandria’s beach whilst showing their backs to the street.
We invited the members to contact police officers on Facebook to share news about the human rights violations with them.
By the end of 2010 we invited the page’s members to go to the elections and write Khaled Said’s name instead of the name of the National Democratic Party candidate.
Igniting the protests – #jan25
On December 28th 2010, I believed that time was ripe and we should use the 25th of January to protest against the police brutality. The revolution was preceded by a series of events. Our anonymity made our tasks easier to accomplish. We managed to avoid many obstacles like having to rely on media platforms to deliver our ideas. However, the media single-handedly started sharing our mission and activities without us even contacting them. Also, our anonymity encouraged hundreds of thousands of fans to express themselves and demand their rights in the few months preceding the revolution. The availability and use of the Internet in Egypt marked a turning point for the young generation. Through the Internet, we started to write about ourselves and express the needs of our generation. We managed to convey our anger before the revolution. We silently demonstrated in the streets before preparing the slogans of the protests. We went to the streets individually before going back in millions. We wrote on our Facebook walls before writing the revolution’s slogans as graffiti in Egypt’s streets.
The dream of a Change
The Internet has contributed, and still contributes, to the movement of change in Egypt. Many people believe that the counter-revolution also used the Internet to mobilize people and market its ideas and rumors, but this has proved to be only temporary. During revolutionary moments, only strong ideas supporting change can survive. The revolutionary generation in Egypt proved that it will stand firm until the end, until Egypt and the Arab world change completely.
Change beliefts and policies
The „We Are All Khaled Said” experience, which won the 2011 Deutsche Welle award for best online social activity campaign, was an outstanding proof that through collective work, creativity, and anonymity, we can change beliefs and policies. Though the page suspended its activity following the military coup of July 3rd 2013, there are tens of pages like it contributing to long-term change in Egypt.
The role of the Internet in Egypt’s history is far from over. Its temporary retreat does not put an end to this era of online activism. We learned that its power works hand in hand with mobilizing the streets. They both complement each other.