|Born||15 January 1979
|Education||University of Baghdad
|Known for||George W. Bush shoeing incident|
|Notable credit(s)||Al-Baghdadia TV|
Muntadhar al-Zaidi (Arabic: منتظر الزيدي Muntaẓar az-Zaydī)[a] is an Iraqi broadcast journalist who served as a correspondent for Iraqi-owned, Egyptian-based Al-Baghdadia TV. As of February 2011[update], al-Zaidi works with a Lebanese TV channel.
On November 16, 2007, al-Zaidi was kidnapped by unknown assailants in Baghdad. He was also previously twice arrested by the United States armed forces. On December 14, 2008, al-Zaidi shouted, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog", and threw his shoes at then-U.S. president, George W. Bush, during a Baghdad press conference. Al-Zaidi suffered injuries as he was taken into custody and some sources said he was tortured during his initial detention. There were calls throughout the Middle East to place the shoes in an Iraqi museum, but the shoes were later destroyed by US and Iraqi security forces. Al-Zaidi's shoeing inspired many similar incidents of political protest around the world.
Following the incident, Al-Zaidi was represented by the head of the Iraqi Bar Association at trial. On February 20, 2009, al-Zaidi received a 90-minute trial by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. On March 12, 2009, he was sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting a foreign head of state during an official visit. On April 7, the sentence was reduced from three years to one year. He was released on 15 September 2009 for good behavior, after serving nine months of the sentence. After his release, Al-Zaidi was treated for injuries and later said he planned to "build orphanages, a children's hospital, and medical and orthopaedic centres offering free treatment and manned by Iraqi doctors and medical staff."
Muntadhar al-Zaidi was raised in Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad, Iraq. He began working as a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia TV in 2005. He first became known as a victim of a kidnapping by unknown assailants in November 2007. Al-Zaidi has also been arrested twice by United States armed forces. He lives in a two room apartment within central Baghdad. He is of the Shi'a-Muslim faith and also is of Sayyid descent. "One of his best reports was on Zahra, a young Iraqi school girl killed by the occupation forces while en route to school," said Ahmed Alaa, a close friend and colleague of al-Zaidi at al-Baghdadia television who talked to Islam Online. Alaa said al-Zaidi documented the tragedy in his reportage, complete with interviews with her family, neighbors and friends. "This report earned him the respect of many Iraqis and won him many hearts in Iraq," he said. Al-Zaidi once also turned down an offer to work for what he termed "a pro-occupation channel". Friends said al-Zaidi had been "emotionally influenced" by the destruction he'd seen in his coverage of the US bombing of Sadr City. Muzhir al-Khafaji, al-Zaidi's boss at the TV station, describes al-Zaidi as a "proud Arab and an open-minded man." He added, "He has no ties with the former regime. His family was arrested under Saddam's regime." On politics, al-Zaidi said "I’m Iraqi and I’m proud of my country." Friends of al-Zaidi said he utterly rejected the occupation and the civil clashes. They said he believed the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was a "legalization of the occupation."
Sami Ramadani, a political exile from Saddam's regime and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University, wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian that al-Zaidi "reported for al-Baghdadia on the poor and downtrodden victims of the US war. He was first on the scene in Sadr City and wherever people suffered violence or severe deprivation. He not only followed US Apache helicopters' trails of death and destruction, but he was also among the first to report every 'sectarian' atrocity and the bombing of popular market places. He let the victims talk first".
Kidnapping and detention
On Friday morning, November 16, 2007, al-Zaidi was kidnapped on his way to work in central Baghdad. Unknown armed men forced him into a car, where he was beaten until he lost consciousness. The assailants used al-Zaidi's necktie to blindfold him and bound his hands with shoelaces. He was held captive with little food and drink and questioned about his work as a journalist. During his disappearance, al-Zaidi was reported missing by Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory. On November 18, Reporters Without Borders "voiced deep concern" in a statement about al-Zaidi's detention. No ransom demand was made, and al-Zaidi's kidnappers released him still blindfolded, on to a street three days later around 3 a.m. on Monday, November 19, 2007, after which al-Zaidi's brother picked him up. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees mentioned al-Zaidi's kidnapping in a December 2007 report that listed violent incidents in the media, in particular, incidents targeting journalists in Baghdad. According to the report, "journalists and media workers and other professionals continue to be targets for kidnapping and assassination."
After his kidnapping, al-Zaidi told Reuters; "My release is a miracle. I couldn't believe I was still alive." The editor of Al-Baghdadia TV described the kidnapping as an "act of gangs, because all of Muntadhar's reports are moderate and unbiased." Al-Zaidi has also been arrested twice by the United States armed forces in Iraq. In January 2008, al-Zaidi was detained overnight by US troops as they searched his residence. The soldiers later offered him an apology.
|Wikinews has related news: Iraqi journalist throws shoes at US president George Bush|
During a December 14, 2008, press conference at the prime minister's palace in Baghdad, Iraq, al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at then-United States President George W. Bush. The throwing of shoes is an act of extreme disrespect in the Arab culture. "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog," yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards Bush. "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," he shouted as he threw his second shoe. Bush ducked twice to avoid being hit by the shoes. Prime Minister Maliki also attempted to catch one of the shoes to protect Bush. Al-Zaidi was 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 knocked over by a presidential bodyguard resulting in a black eye.
Bush said some Iraqi reporters had apologized to him. "Thanks for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me." Bush said, "If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw." When asked about the incident by another reporter, Bush said, "It's a way for people to draw attention. I don't know what the guy's cause was. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it." When later asked to reflect on the incident, Bush said, "I didn't have much time to reflect on anything, I was ducking and dodging. I'm not angry with the system. I believe that a free society is emerging, and a free society is necessary for our own security and peace," he added. "I don't think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.
Al-Zaidi was initially held by the prime minister's guards and was later turned over to the Iraqi army's Baghdad command. The command handed him over to the Iraqi judiciary. Hundreds took to the streets to demand his release. Al-Zaidi could have faced charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister. A conviction of these charges could have carried a sentence of up to two years in prison or a small fine, although it would have been unlikely to face the maximum penalty given his newfound "cult status" in the Arab world, according to a Middle-East observer. An Iraqi lawyer stated that al-Zaidi was likely to get at least two years in prison if he was prosecuted. Al-Zaidi went before a judge on December 17, 2008. He declined to be represented by Khalil al-Duleimi, who defended the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before his execution, and also said he wanted to be represented by an Iraqi lawyer. "I will introduce myself as his lawyer and demand the case be closed and Muntader be released because he did not commit a crime," said Dheyaa al-Saadi, al-Zaidi's lawyer and head of the Iraqi Bar Association. "He only freely expressed himself to the occupier, and he has such a right according to international law." On December 17, 2008, al-Zaidi appeared privately before a judge from within the Green Zone.
Incidents inspired by al-Zaidi
On December 17, 2008, Queens resident and Amtrak employee Stephen Millies, a protestor at a meeting of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City (MTA), tried to throw his shoe at the CEO of the MTA with the statement, "This shoe is for you!" Millies managed to shake off his left shoe before being stopped and detained by MTA Police.
On December 20, 2008, protesters in the Canadian cities of Montreal and Toronto threw shoes at posters of George Bush in front of their respective U.S. consulates to support Muntadhar al-Zaidi, to demand his immediate release, and to celebrate his gesture. The shoe tosses took place in -24 °C weather during protests against the U.S. military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and against Canada's involvement in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. At the shoe toss event in Toronto, Ahmed Habib, a refugee from Baghdad, said "We don't think of Muntadhar al-Zaidi as a criminal but, in fact, we think of him as a hero. The only war criminal is George Bush and his buddy [Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper, so shame on the both of them." At the shoe toss event in Montreal, Québec solidaire leader and MNA Amir Khadir threw his shoes at a picture of president Bush and was later criticized and accused of betraying the "dignity and responsibilities of a[n] MNA."
On December 20, 2008, Ukrainian reporter Ihor Dmitriv pelted a Ukrainian politician with a shoe when he became angered by the politician's sexist remarks. Speaking in NATO accession, Oleh Soskin, said NATO membership was more favored by the Ukrainian women as they were "the more intelligent" part of the body politic. Dmitriv said his attack was motivated by the Ukrainian leadership's "craziness" and said "a shoe is going to become a leading means (for common people) to influence their leaders."
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. Protesters presented their shoes at U.S. Embassies around the world to show their support for al-Zaidi.
On January 12, 2009, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made fun of the incident and "threatened" to throw his shoes at reporters when visiting Couromoda 2009, a shoes event held in São Paulo.
On January 20, 2009 protesters in the United States shoed an inflatable replica of George W. Bush in replication of al-Zaidi's shoe-throwing incident.
On February 2, 2009, a German protester threw his shoe at Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao as he gave a speech at Cambridge University. The shoe landed on stage a few feet from the premier and the protester was quickly hustled away by security guards.
On February 5, 2009, Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan was hit by a protester's shoe while speaking about the 2009 Gaza War, the shoe throwers reportedly chanted "murderer!" and "intifada!".
On March 17, 2009, Canadian protesters in Calgary used shoes as props during their demonstrations, even going so far as to create a "shoe cannon".
The incident has also inspired several online shoe-throwing games, and on the Late Show with David Letterman, the "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" segment included flying shoes aimed at other presidents (via digitally-altered stock footage).
On 7 April 2009, Union Home Minister of India P. Chidambaram was shoed by Jarnail Singh, a Sikh journalist during a press conference in Delhi. Singh, who works at the Hindi daily Dainik Jagaran was dissatisfied with Chidamabaram's answer to a question on the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
On 16 April 2009, Indian Leader of Opposition and Prime Ministerial candidate of National Democratic Alliance, L K Advani was shoed by his own party member, Pawas Agarwal, a former district vice-president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Katni Town in Madhya Pradesh.
On 8 October 2009, a single shoe was hurled at Clifford May as a protest by a student named Muhammad Hussain who is also the class representative of his class at Karachi University I.R. Dept. Pakistan.
On 4 November 2009, John Howard, the former Australian prime minister, was delivering a speech about leadership in the new century at Cambridge University when an Australian student called him a racist before taking off his boot and throwing it in his direction.
On 23 October 2009, supporters of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threw their shoes at opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi as he visited Tehran during the 2009 Iranian election protests. A fight broke out between supporters of Ahmadinejad and Karroubi and one of the Ahmadinejad supporters threw a shoe at him, which hit him in the face and resulted in his turban falling off.
In December 2009, al-Zaidi was himself ironically shoed by another Iraqi journalist in Paris, who accused him of "working for dictatorship in Iraq". The incident occurred while al-Zaidi was speaking about his experiences during the Bush shoeing and its aftermath.
In February 2010, a 26-year-old Kurd with Syrian citizenship tried to shoe Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Sevilla, the shoes however missed Erdogan. While throwing the shoes the man called "long live free Kurdistan."
On 7 August 2010, Shamim Khan threw a shoe at Asif Ali Zardari, the President Of Pakistan in his address to the Pakistani community at Birmingham. Shamim Khan said that he threw his shoe at him because Pakistan is fighting with the worst flood, and its aftermath, in eighty years and President Zardari was enjoying a week-long trip in Europe instead of being with his people. Shamim Khan is being treated as national hero in Pakistan due to ongoing hatred against President Zardari in Pakistan. The NBC series Kings imitated the shoe throwing incident in the episode "The New King (Part 2)".
On 11 September 2010, an angry protester threw a shoe at the Greek Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou just moments after he had left the opening of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki, Greece.
On 25 October 2010, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard dodged shoes thrown at him live on Australian television Q&A from anti-war protester and environmental activist Pete Gray. This is Howard's second experience with a shoe-throwing protester.
Al-Zaidi humanitarian foundation
Following his release, al-Zaidi went to Geneva and announced that he had started creating a humanitarian agency/foundation. The aim of the agency would be to "build orphanages, a children's hospital, and medical and orthopaedic centres offering free treatment and manned by Iraqi doctors and medical staff." His lawyer said that al-Zaidi "hopes to surf on the wave of support he has gained to do some good."
Theatre, film and art
Mahesh Bhatt produced a play entitled "The Last Salute", directed by Indian director Arvind Gaur and starring Imran Zahid. It was written by Rajesh Kumar and based on Muntadhar al-Zaidi's book. Pooja Bhatt and Mahesh Bhatt announced the making of a film based on the play. "Bush-Maliki News Conference. Baghdad, December 2008", a drawing by Dmitry Borshch, has been exhibited at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, DePaul University, Brecht Forum and is included in the Catalog of American Portraits, maintained by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery (United States).
- The Last Salute to President Bush, December 2010
a. ^ Alternative transliterations used in Western media: Muthathar, Muntadhar, Muntadar, Muntazer, Muthathi; al-Zeidi also transliterated as "Zeidi" is an Arabic name, meaning abundance or growth or "one who progresses and makes other people progress."
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Zeidi … stood throughout the 90-minute trial in the court building …
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