The Man Who Threw Shoes At George Bush Is Now Running For Office In Iraq
In 2008, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference, and was promptly thrown in jail. Ten years later, the man who threw his shoes at Bush is running for office in Iraq, according to BuzzFeed.
Muntader al-Zaidi was a 28-year-old correspondent for Al Baghdadia, an independent news organization, when he hurled both of his shoes at Bush during a speech in Baghdad and screamed "this is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!" in Arabic. He was quickly tackled by then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bodyguards, and was sentenced to three years in jail for attacking a foreign head of state.
"It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed," al-Zaidi wrote in an op-ed in 2009. "When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure."
According to the New York Times, throwing a shoe at somebody is considered a deep insult in Iraq; the implication is that the person targeted is of even lower status than shoes, which are on usually on the ground and covered in dirt. Some Iraqis threw shoes at the statute of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square shortly before American forces toppled the monument.
Al-Zaidi would later say that he was beaten and tortured during his subsequent imprisonment. But an appellate court later reduced his sentence to one year, according to CNN, and he was ultimately released after just nine months for good behavior, according to Buzzfeed. Al-Zaidi reportedly then left the country — a CNN report from 2009 suggests that he went to Syria — before returning to Iraq in 2011.
Now, he's running for political office. Despite some erroneous reports that he was seeking to become the next Iraqi president, BuzzFeed reports that al-Zaidi is in fact running for the Council of Representatives, Iraq's parliament. But the president of Iraq, along with the prime minister, is elected by the country's parliament, so if al-Zaidi wins, he will have a role in choosing Iraq's next government.
The Iraqi elections are on May 12th. A poll taken in mid-March, before al-Zaidi announced his candidacy, found that 60 percent of Iraqi voters remained undecided on who they'll support. However, incumbent Prime Minister Haidar Abadi's coalition drew the most support in that survey, with 15 percent, followed by the coalition led by al-Maliki at five percent. That same poll found that the most important issue for Iraqi voters is services and the economy, followed by job opportunities and security.
In a 2015 interview with RT, al-Zaidi said that he doesn't regret throwing his shoes at Bush. He added that the protest "was planned in advance," and claimed to possess a video tape that he says would have been published in the event of his assassination. Although he rejected the idea that he's a hero, al-Zaidi did say that he was representing all Iraqis when he hurled his shoes at the president.
"I have already said I’m not a hero," al-Zaidi said. "But I do represent the feelings of the whole Iraqi people. All Iraqi ethnicities and sections went to the streets to say that all of them are like me, Muntadhar. They support what I did because it represents Iraqis, not another state or someone in outer space. I’m an Iraqi and the demonstrations confirmed my people will fight the US occupation of Iraq."