Posts Tagged ‘shoes at Bush’

The Story of My Shoe: My Flower to Bush, the Occupier

September 15, 2009

By Mutadhar al-Zaidi, Counterpunch, Sep 15, 2009

Mutadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi who threw his shoe at George Bush gave this speech on his recent release.

In the name of God, the most gracious and most merciful.

Here I am, free. But my country is still a prisoner of war.

Firstly, I give my thanks and my regards to everyone who stood beside me, whether inside my country, in the Islamic world, in the free world. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act.

But, simply, I answer: What compelled me to confront is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

And how it wanted to crush the skulls of (the homeland’s) sons under its boots, whether sheikhs, women, children or men. And during the past few years, more than a million martyrs fell by the bullets of the occupation and the country is now filled with more than 5 million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. And many millions of homeless because of displacement inside and outside the country.

Continued >>

Precedent for the shoe-throwing protest

December 17, 2008

Al-Zaidi may have been beaten for his outburst at George Bush, but Iraqi journalists are entitled to righteous indignation

Muntadhar al-Zaidi will go down in Arab folklore as the man who dared to throw his shoes at George Bush but his immediate problem is how to recover from the reprisals he suffered after his bold gesture. His older brother, Dargham, has told reporters Muntadhar suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury, and is in hospital.

If true, the reports confirm what the TV clips shown on the Guardian’s website in the aftermath of the incident seemed to suggest. A number of Western news reports referred to Zaidi as “screaming” while he was taken out of the press conference room. They gave the impression he was ranting at Bush. The soundtrack hinted otherwise. It contained a series of agonised yelps and grunts, as of a man being repeatedly kicked and thumped. By then, Zaidi was on the floor, and cameras could not catch him in the melee. But listen to the message of the microphones. It seems to tell a vicious tale.

Who was doing the punching, if that is what it was? Was it Iraqi security men or Bush’s bodyguards from the US Secret Service? Either way, whatever brutality it is now alleged was meted out to Zaidi far outweighs the violence involved in his gesture. This will only serve to add to Zaidi’s status, making him a martyr as well as a hero in large sections of the Arab world, where commentators have been vying with superlatives to describe his action.

The judicial fate that befalls him will also play a role. Will he receive a prison sentence, or released after a few hours, as tends to happen to protesters who throw eggs or tomatoes at politicians in western countries? The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has condemned Zaidi’s action as an insult to a foreign guest, but Maliki – who, of course, has no influence over Iraqi’s independent prosecution service – must know that a harsh sentence will only damage his own new-found reputation as the nationalist who managed to get Bush to agree to a withdrawal timetable.

Zaidi’s coup de théâtre was imaginative, but his readiness to disrupt a high-level US press conference in Baghdad was not unique for an Iraqi journalist. I will never forget the one Colin Powell gave on March 19 2004. As the then US secretary of state took his place at the podium in the Green Zone’s convention centre, Najim al-Rubaie from the newspaper Al-Dustour rose to his feet and read a statement: “We declare our boycott of this press conference because of the martyrs. We declare our condemnation of the incident which led to two journalists being killed by American forces.”

Around 30 other Iraqi and Arab journalists then stood up and followed Rubaie out of the hall. In silence, we watched them leave, as stunned as Powell. It was the bravest collective action I have ever seen a group of journalists take. I have attended press conferences in several dozen countries where reporters – at least, not the lapdog ones – compete with each other in the usual macho way to ask officials tough questions. A collective protest, and taking a stand on an issue? It never happens.

The protest that day in 2004 was over the shooting of a reporter and his cameraman from the Al-Arabiya TV station. They had been driving up to investigate a suicide bomb several minutes after it exploded, but were gunned down by nervous US soldiers at a Baghdad checkpoint. They were not the first reporters to be killed by the Americans in the year after the invasion, so their colleagues’ indignation was not a sudden flare-up; it was more like a slow burn.

Presumably, that was the case with Zaidi. Several dozen more journalists have died in the line of duty in Iraq since 2004. You can see why any journalist would be angry. There’s no other profession that allows a person close and regular access to the world’s top decision-makers in a context that permits plain speaking. Add to that the perpetual daily tension of life in Iraq, the bereavement which so many Iraqis have suffered in their own families, and the humiliation which being occupied by foreign troops causes on a constant basis, the surprise is that it has taken so long for an Iraqi journalist to throw a shoe.

Thousands Demand Release of Iraqi Journalist Who Threw Shoes at George W Bush

December 16, 2008

The Telegraph, UK, Dec 15, 2008

Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George Bush.

Arabs across the Middle East hailed the journalist a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the unpopular U.S. president.

'This is a farewell kiss, you dog, this is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.' (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)]A shoe is raised during a protest against the visit to Iraq of US President George W. Bush, in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday. Dec. 15, 2008. Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, while yelling in Arabic: ‘This is a farewell kiss, you dog, this is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.’ (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security today and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to protest during the press conference.He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence.

Showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse.

In Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City, thousands of supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burned American flags to protest against Bush and called for the release of al-Zeidi.

“Bush, Bush, listen well – Two shoes on your head,” the protesters chanted in unison.

Newspapers across the Arab world printed front-page photos of Bush ducking the flying shoes and satellite TV stations repeatedly aired the incident, which provided fodder for jokes and was hailed by the president’s many critics in the region.

“Iraq considers Sunday as the international day for shoes,” said a text message circulating around the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Many users of the popular internet networking site Facebook posted the video of the incident to their profile pages, showing al-Zeidi leap from his chair as Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were about to shake hands.

“This is a farewell kiss, you dog,” al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

Al-Zeidi was immediately wrestled to the ground by Iraqi security guards. The incident raised fears of a security lapse in the heavily guarded Green Zone where the press conference took place. Reporters were repeatedly searched and asked to show identification before entering and while inside the compound, which houses al-Maliki’s office and the U S Embassy.

Al-Zeid’s tirade was echoed by Arabs across the Middle East who are fed up with U.S. policy in the region and still angry over Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.

Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the influential London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote on the newspaper’s website that the incident was “a proper goodbye for a war criminal.”

The response to the incident by Arabs in the street was ecstatic.

“Al-Zeidi is the man,” said 42-year-old Jordanian businessman Samer Tabalat. “He did what Arab leaders failed to do.”

Ghazi Abu Baker, a 55-year-old shopkeeper in the West Bank town of Jenin said, “This journalist should be elected president of Iraq for what he has done.”

Hoping to capitalise on this sentiment, al-Zeidi’s TV station, Al-Baghdadia, repeatedly aired pleas to release the reporter Monday, while showing footage of explosions and playing background music that denounced the US in Iraq.

“We have all been mobilised to work on releasing him, and all the organisations around the world are with us,” said Abdel-Hameed al-Sayeh, the manager of Al-Baghdadia in Cairo, where the station is based.

Al-Jazeera television interviewed Saddam’s former chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi, who offered to defend al-Zeidi, calling him a “hero.”

In Najaf, a Shiite holy city, some protesters threw their shoes at an American patrol as it passed by. Witnesses said the American troops did not respond to the protesters and continued on their patrol.

Al-Zeidi, who is in his late 20s, was kidnapped by Shiite militias on Nov. 16, 2007, and released three days later. His station said no ransom was paid and refused to discuss the case.

Violence in Iraq has declined significantly over the past year, but daily attacks continue to occur. The truck bomb that killed five police officers Monday also wounded 13 others, said Iraqi police.

Hours earlier north of Baghdad, a female suicide bomber knocked on the front door of the home of the leader of a local volunteer Sunni militia and blew herself up, killing him, said Iraqi police.

The police officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the press.

Iraqi journalist emerges as hero of resistance

December 16, 2008

An Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush and called him a dog emerged yesterday as an unlikely hero among angry Arabs across the Middle East, who embraced his chosen weapon as a symbol of resistance.

A US military patrol in Najaf was pelted with shoes by Shia protesters, as crowds gathered around Iraq brandishing footwear and demanding the release of Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the television reporter whose attack on Bush at a Baghdad press conference on Sunday made him the toast of the radical Arab press.

Columnists noted that the gesture is a sign of particular contempt and recalled how Iraqis had removed their shoes to beat the statue of Saddam Hussein when Baghdad fell in 2003. In Bush’s case, the shoes have started flying even before he relinquishes his grip on power.

The US president’s valedictory tour of the two main fronts in the “war on terror”, Iraq and Afghanistan, was aimed at enhancing his legacy as he approaches his last month in office. But all the optimistic talk of progress on the battlefield was overshadowed by Zaidi’s surprise attack.

Both shoes missed their target – one went high, the president ducked the other – and Bush did his best to laugh the whole incident off. “I saw his sole,” he joked. But Bush is unlikely ever to escape the image of him cowering behind a lectern watched by an unruffled Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. The humiliating scene will doubtless be played and replayed whenever his Iraq record is assessed.

The 28-year-old journalist at the centre of the storm appears to have made his name. The world saw Zaidi’s shoes fly and heard his cry: “That is a farewell kiss, you dog.” Last night, the shoes were being held as evidence and Zaidi was being questioned, facing a possible two years in prison or a hefty fine for insulting a foreign head of state.

Zaidi’s employer, al-Baghdadia, an Iraqi network with headquarters in Egypt, warned in a statement: “Any measures against Muntadhar will be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime.” And a head of steam seemed to be building behind a movement to have him freed as an embodiment of Iraq’s suffering.

Zaidi, an Iraqi Shia, has had the common Iraqi experience of being caught between the warring parties. He was kidnapped while walking to work just over a year ago by suspected al-Qaida members. In the weeks that followed he was detained by Iraqi forces and then American troops, as a terrorist suspect.

His brothers said it was done on the spur of the moment, but his colleagues at al-Baghdadia said he had been planning it for months. One unnamed journalist even told the New York Times website it was Zaidi’s “dream to hit Bush with shoes”. If so, the dream came half true. The shoes missed, but the throw struck deep.

Back in the news

This is not the first time Muntadhar al-Zaidi has made the news rather than simply reported it. Just over a year ago the young Iraqi Shia journalist was kidnapped as he walked to work and held for more than 48 hours. On his release he said his captors, who were suspected of being al-Qaida members, had questioned him about his work and beaten him. In January he was detained by American troops searching his building but released after a day with an apology. There was some evidence yesterday that Zaidi’s dramatic gesture against George Bush had been premeditated. Colleagues at al-Baghdadia television network where he has worked since 2005 described him as a “fervent nationalist” who hated all things American. Some al-Baghdadia employees told a French press agency that Zaidi had planned the assault on Bush for months. The reporter’s brothers said his act was one of principle, and not aimed at the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, aware that the crime of insulting the Iraqi state carries with it a potentially heavy sentence.

“Muntadhar did not mean to insult Maliki or the Iraqi government,” one of the brothers, Dhurgham al-Zaidi, told Reuters television. “Muntadhar has in his heart a message of every Iraqi which he wants to convey to the occupiers represented by the person of US president Bush and he did it to convey it.”

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