FULL STORY: Arab Spring Hero
Celebrated broadcaster in Egypt, Mohamed Gohar, stepped away from the bright lights, and used his position to save a group of Coptic Christians from an almost certain massacre. After the ordeal, Gohar came to Canada and for the first time, tells his story to 16×9.
On a cold, blustery winter’s morning entering Mohamed Gohar’s modern house couldn’t be a more welcome way to spend the day. There are tables piled with candles, bowls of nuts and figs, cups brimming with hot Turkish tea and walls filled with colourful abstract paintings by one of Gohar’s children. It seems Gohar has created a little slice of his Egyptian homeland here in this suburban Ottawa house.
Gohar invites our 16×9 crew into his living room to chat. It doesn’t take long for us to get distracted by Gohar’s impressive collection of memorabilia from his more than thirty years working in media throughout the Middle East.
16×9’s Director of Photography, Kirk Neff, can’t help but drool over Gohar’s 1948 Bell and Howell film camera, still in pristine condition. Gohar tells us the camera has captured some of the worst scenes from war zones in the Middle East, as well as the images of major political figures such as Anwar Sadat, Yasir Arafat and Idi Amin.
But, as proud as he is to show us his mementoes, Gohar likes to live in the present – and dream of the future. “There is always a new beginning. I believed all my life that I’m just starting so why not start a new one?”
WATCH: Mohamed Gohar used his position as a broadcaster in Egypt to save a group of Coptic Christians from an almost certain massacre.
It was this entrepreneurial attitude that inspired Gohar to launch 25TV in his home town of Cairo, Egypt – just as crowds were gathering in Tahrir Square calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down. “It was launched the same day Mubarak stepped out 18 days after 25th of January,” said Gohar, who has started more than 40 TV stations throughout the Middle East.
Gohar invested in the spirit and social media savvy of young people demonstrating in the square. Scouring social media, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Gohar identified the people he wanted to work for his TV station. He armed his staff with journalists’ tools and training and sent them out into the streets of Cairo and Tahrir Square to report.
But, on October 9th the revolution landed on the doorstep of 25TV. “It was the longest day of my life,” says Gohar.
It all started with a peaceful march to a street called Maspero, where the state broadcaster building is located near Tahrir Square. The march was staged by Coptic Christians – the oldest Christian sect in Egypt.
The Egyptian army drove two tanks through the demonstrators, running over people and shooting into the crowd. Demonstrators ran into 25TV to hide. Gohar found injured and dead protesters in his TV station.
He also found 17 people hiding in the station’s bathroom on the 13th floor. When the army came looking for the Christian demonstrators, they barged into the live studio while the anchor was on air.
“So…..they went everywhere like mad people crazy people destroying everything and searching everywhere except one door they didn’t open. They opened all the doors. Except one door…where Christians were hidden,” he told 16×9.
After 18 hours of searching for the Coptic Christians the army left 25TV. It was then that Gohar began to sneak the Copts out of the station one at a time, many wearing 25TV t-shirts and carrying cameras.
One year after his heroic act, Gohar had to shut down 25TV. The state jammed his signal and he was receiving death threats. He fled to Canada to set up a new life here.
Recently, Gohar was recognized as a “hero” by Canada’s Coptic Christian community and the Canadian government, but says he is not about to rest on his laurels.
Gohar told 16×9 that every morning when he wakes up, he asks himself, “What can I do today to make the world a better place?” Gohar already has several new media projects in the works, including one with a major Hollywood star.
Despite the setbacks and the accolades, Gohar won’t forget the young people who helped him report on the Egyptian Revolution, and hopes that the spirit of 25TV lives on. “What happened to 25TV is exactly what happened to the Egyptian revolution but it’s not the end, neither for the Egyptian revolution nor for 25TV. Some of… the people I raised in 25 I am sure where ever they go they will still carry the message.”
FULL EPISODE: Global’s 16X9 (February 15, 2014)
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