Behind #Jan25: Young Egyptian ‘Digital Activist’ Speaks

Photo: Egyptians use their mobile phone to record celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak from power, on Feb. 12, 2011. (Getty Images)

It’s been a historic past few weeks for Egyptians across the globe. Ahmed Zidan, a 23-year-old reporter living in Cairo, witnessed and documented most of it. While the majority of his days were spent offline among the crowds in Tahrir Square, it was the activity happening online that Ahmed believes helped revolutionize the revolution.

According to Ahmed (pictured), the foundations for #Jan25 were laid before Wael Ghonim’s Facebook page surfaced. When Egypt’s leaders began to limit the political freedoms of its citizens, many took to the internet to express their dissent. “The first stage [was] the increase in people’s awareness, driven solely from the internet. Egyptians were creating virtual movements, parties and think tanks in order to get around the political oppression,” he explained.

“This [awareness] created an internet movement, a social media movement…Wael Ghonim’s page was a co-factor,” Ahmed continued. “Cyber-dissidents called for this revolt.”

Then the Egyptian people–and the world–watched history unfold. After 18 days of demonstrations and unrest in Cairo’s streets, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak ended his 30-year rule, to cries of jubilation from his citizens. Speaking with Act moments after hearing the news, Ahmed deemed #Jan25 “the first true internet revolution.”

Celebrations on the ground were matched with celebrations online–as Twitter streams were filled with 140-character proclamations of victory, pride and exhilaration:

While Ahmed is overjoyed by this significant concession by Egypt’s leaders, he, like many other Egyptians, insists there is still work to be done.

So what’s next? “Radical change to the Egyptian constitution. We should have a powerful constitution, a secular and powerful one,” he believes. “[Then] the presidential terms would be limited to two, the Emergency State will be lifted, the State Security Intelligence would cease to exist. The freedom of speech, freedom of internet, freedom of expression, freedom of protest and freedom of access will be guaranteed by the constitution.”

He is confident that social media will continue to play a role in seeing these demands met:

“It’s our time now for fair and free Egyptian democratic elections…I’ll use the internet as I’ve always used it: as a gigantic tool that magnifies my voice. But this time I believe it’ll be different, because the change we thought before #Jan25 was very far is now looming in the horizon.”

You can learn more about Ahmed Zidan and read coverage on the uprising in Egypt on Mideastyouth.com. While there, check out his new social change music portal, Mideasttunes.com.

take action

Stay informed

Stay informed

Get real-time updates directly from the young people fueling the #jan25 revolution

take action

Tweet Your Support

Tweet Your Support

Let Egypt's youth know you stand with them; tweet your support using the hashtags #jan25 and #egypt