Egypt's 'Facebook Girl' eagerly awaits possible Nobel Peace Prize
If Egyptian organizer Esraa Abdel Fattah wins the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow, it could reinvigorate Egypt's flagging activists. But some say it could overstate social media's role in Egypt's revolution.
Esraa Abdel Fattah was once known as Facebook Girl. In 2008, the young activist helped organize a Facebook page calling for a national strike that some see as one of the seeds of Egypt’s revolution. When she was arrested and held for 18 days because of her role, she became a symbol of resistance to the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.Skip to next paragraph
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So it was only fitting that it was on Facebook that she saw the news last week that she had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, along with April 6 Youth, an organization that grew out of the 2008 strike, for the roles they played in the mass mobilization of Egyptians that led to the revolution.
Her first action after digesting the Facebook message was to call her mother, who didn’t believe her. “She said ‘No no, you are lying, you are kidding,’ ” says Ms. Abdel Fattah, who is eagerly awaiting tomorrow's announcement. If she is crowned this year's Nobel peace laureate, she says, it would mean bringing home one of the world's most prestigious awards not just for herself, but on behalf of all the Egyptians who rose up and toppled their dictator.
IN PICTURES: Egyptian protests
“I feel that it is for Egypt,” she says. “If I win this, if any Egyptian wins this prize, it will be for Egypt's revolution. It's for the Egyptians in the street.”
If Abdel Fattah or the other Egyptian nominee, Wael Ghonim, takes home the Nobel prize, it could be a bright spot in what has become a bleak post-revolutionary landscape for Egyptian activists. The majority of Egyptians have stood by as the military that promised to guard Egypt’s revolution has instead been censoring newspapers, raiding satellite television stations, beating and imprisoning protesters, extending the hated emergency law, and drawing out the timeline for the transition to civilian rule, leaving activists bitter and disappointed.
Abdel Fattah says that international recognition of activists like herself and others in the April 6 movement would also restore their reputation and disprove the military’s accusations that groups like April 6 are foreign agents seeking to undermine Egypt’s stability. But at home, her nomination has already touched off criticism, with some Egyptians complaining it de-emphasizes the grassroots nature of the uprising and overplays the role of social media.
Confident and gracious
Though Abdel Fattah is eagerly awaiting the announcement tomorrow, she’s also afraid – worried about the weight of responsibility that success would bring.
But she has little time to dwell on such worries. Sitting in her office at the Egyptian Democratic Academy, wearing a canary-yellow scarf, she fields phone call after phone call, dividing her time between planning political awareness activities with the Academy, promoting women’s participation in politics, tweeting, and preparing for a likely run for parliament herself with the Democratic Front Party.
The 33-year-old talks a mile a minute in English, and even faster in Arabic. She doesn’t look like a powerful woman, but she exudes confidence. She is gracious, but also assertive.