Friday, December 19, 2008

Portrait of a "Shoe-icide Bomber"



Muntadhar al-Zaidi (Arabic: منتظر الزيدي‎ Muntaẓar al-Zayidī) is an Iraqi broadcast journalist who serves as a correspondent for Cairo-based, Iraqi-owned Al-Baghdadia TV. Al-Zaidi's reports often concerned the plight of widows, orphans, and children in the Iraq War.

During a press conference on December 14, 2008, at the Prime Minister's Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, al-Zaidi threw his shoes at United States President George W. Bush. Throwing shoes is an act of extreme disrespect in both the Arab and Islamic cultures.



"This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog," yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards the U.S. president. "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," he shouted as he threw his second shoe. President Bush ducked twice, avoiding being hit by the shoes.


Al-Zaidi was then pulled to the floor by another journalist, before being grabbed by Prime Minister Maliki's guards, kicked, and rushed out of the room. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was hit in the face by a microphone boom sent flying by a presidential bodyguard resulting in a clearly visible black eye.

On December 15, 2008, thousands of Iraqis marched in Baghdad to demand the release of al-Zaidi. Crowds gathered in Sadr City district of Baghdad and called for "hero" Muntadhar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody. There were similar scenes in Najaf. The demonstrators in Sadr City and Najaf alluded to the shoes. Participants in Sadr City "waved shoes attached to long poles" and those in Najaf threw their shoes at a passing United States military convoy. The "vast majority" of viewers of al-Baghdadia who telephoned to the station in order to express their opinions said that they approved al-Zaidi's actions.

On December 15, 2008, al-Zaidi was given a bravery award by Libyan charity group Wa Attassimou, chaired by Ayesha Qaddafi. The group called for al-Zaidi's release. A shoe producer in Turkey claimed that it had made the shoes, and another producer in Lebanon suggested that it might have made them. Many shoes in Iraq are made in China. Al-Zaidi's brother stated, "One hundred percent they are Iraqi-made shoes" and that the shoes were made in Baghdad by a highly-reputed firm called Alaa Haddad. In Syria, al-Zaidi was "hailed as a hero."

A Saudi businessman has offered US$10 million to buy the shoes. "The shoes should be exhibited in a museum as they resemble a rocket that talks on behalf of all Iraqis," read a posting on website of Arabian Business magazine. The Lebanese television channel NTV offered a job to al-Zaidi. NTV said that if al-Zaidi accepted the job offer, that he would be paid "from the moment the first shoe was thrown." Al-Zaidi's family turned down an invitation by the Venezuelan President to come and live in the Latin American country. "We are grateful to President Hugo Chavez. However we are Iraqis, we live in Iraq," Oudai al-Zaidi said speaking on the behalf of his family. Al-Zaidi has also been offered a six-door Mercedes, had a song written about him, had his incident reconstructed in an Afghan comedy sketch, and been offered the hand of a man's 20-year-old daughter in marriage. The young woman Amal Saad Gumaa said she likes the idea of being attached to a man she finds so honorable.

In Lahore, Pakistan, around 150 journalists demonstrated outside a press club to demand the release of al-Zaidi. Al-Zaidi has also found much support on social websites such as Facebook, where he has groups dedicated to him called "I enjoyed watching that Shoe thrown at George Bush", "The Iraqi Journalist who threw his shoes at Bush is my new HERO!!!" The group has members from the Middle East, Europe, Africa and America. Inspired by al-Zaidi's actions, the anti-war group Code Pink pelted shoes at an effigy of U.S. president George W. Bush outside the White House on December 17, 2008.

[Extracted from Wikipedia]


Bush, to his credit, was able to shrug off this public humiliation minutes after the attack by quipping that he thought the shoes were size 10. Personally, I think it would have been much more effective if Muntadhar had flung his unwashed socks at Bush along with his shoes. Here's a classic song from 40 years ago to commemorate this outstanding event...

And, finally, here's a link a friend from Melbourne sent me last week, which takes you to a site where you can practice throwing shoes at Bush!



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