Real Hero of The People, Muntazar Al Zaydi A True Brave Hero for Iraqi People 

Hero, what is a hero? How do you define heroism? Can everyone be a hero? Well, that is something you don’t ask yourself everyday, do you? 

Do you need to go to war to be a hero? Or do you need to save hundreds of lives? Do you need to go Jihad to claim hero status? Do you need to be a president to be known as hero? 

For me, everyone is a hero for themselves. A child is a hero for his parents. Parents are hero for their children. A husband is a hero to his family. A faithful wife is a hero to her husband. A teacher is a hero to his students. Youths are hero to their nation. A true president is a hero to his people. A faithful believer is a hero to his religion. 

Now what define heroism? What is an act of heroism? Heroism is when you stand up for what is right when no one else stand for it. Heroism is when you fight for people who are under oppression. Heroism is when your heart is shaking and trembling, seeing that truth is being attacked. 

Now, would you stand up for the people you love? Hell yeah! 

Bush Shoeing Incident 

Muntadhar Al Zaidi seen when throwing his shoe to President Bush. Image via the guardian.

Baghdad, 14 December 2008, A day that will not be forgotten by USA president at that time George W. Bush, who was attending press conference in a country which has been destroyed by his soldiers and weapons since 2003.

Bush didn’t realize what could happen to him during press conference. Despite being surrounded by top secret service men, a brave iraqi journalist shouted and then threw his shoes onto him. He was later known as a hero in the eyes of Arabs around the world. His name is Muntazar Al Zaydi.

Muntazar Al Zaydi A True Brave Hero for Iraqi People 

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.

Muntadhar Al Zaidi seen throwing his shoe from different angles. Image via Reuters

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.

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 and then jokes, “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.

A Price to be Paid

According to witnesses, al-Zaidi was “severely beaten” by security officers after he had been dragged out of the room following the shoe-throwing incident. 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.

Protester demanding Al Zaidi to be released. Image via the guardian. 

Hundreds took to the streets to demand his release. His family reports that it has received many threatening phone calls ever since the incident.

The United States Secret Service and the Iraqi Police took custody of al-Zaidi. Al-Zaidi was tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were confiscated as evidence.

Al-Zaidi was interrogated by Iraqi and U.S. agents to ascertain whether anyone paid him to throw his shoes at Bush. In an interview with BBC News, al-Zaidi’s brother, Durgham al-Zaidi, reported that Muntadhar al-Zaidi suffered a broken hand, broken ribs, internal bleeding, and an eye injury. Durgham al-Zaidi told Al Jazeera that his brother was tortured. He was having serious injuries during his detention.

On March 12, 2009, al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years of prison for assaulting a foreign leader; under the law he was charged under, he could have faced up to 15 years in prison for assaulting a visiting head of state during an official visit.

On April 7, 2009, the sentence was reduced to one year from three years. He was released on September 15, 2009 claiming that he had been systematically tortured during his time in jail and one of his front teeth was seen missing.

Al-Zaidi said that he had been beaten with electric cables and iron bars and immersed in cold water. On 19 October 2009, while in Switzerland where he expected to have medical treatment for his injuries, he stated, “I suffered a great deal. I still have problems with my teeth, back and other parts of my body where I was tortured.” Al-Zaidi also declared, “I am free again, but my homeland is still a prison.” On September 15, 2009, al-Zaidi stated “I am not a hero, and I admit that … I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning.”

In testimony before the court, al-Zaidi described his growing frustration as Bush spoke about his victories and achievement at the press conference where the shoe was thrown. As Bush listed the gains made in Iraq during the mid-December news conference, al-Zaidi said he was thinking about the sanctity of mosques being violated, the rape of women, and daily humiliations.

Al-Zaidi said Bush’s “bloodless and soulless smile” and his joking banter provoked him. “I don’t know what accomplishments he was talking about. The accomplishments I could see were the more than 1 million martyrs and a sea of blood. There are more than 5 million Iraqi orphans because of the occupation…. More than a million widows and more than 3 million displaced because of the occupation.” al-Zaidi said.

” I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons.” al-Zaidi said he was tortured, beaten and given electric shocks during his interrogation. Supporters who rallied in front of the court said al-Zaidi should be praised for standing up to Bush rather than punished for his actions.

Al Zaidi is hugging his sister upon his freedom. Image via the guardian.

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.”

Different Reactions from Around the World 

A poll of Iraqis suggested 62 percent of Iraqis regarded al-Zaidi as a “national hero”. On December 15, 2008, al-Zaidi was given a bravery award by Libyan charity group Wa Attassimou. The group urged for al-Zaidi’s release.

People protesting demand USA to leave Iraq. Image via Nytimes.

In Syria , al-Zaidi was “hailed as a hero”. The Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim , praised the incident, calling it the “best show of retaliation so far”. A commentary in the North Korean newspaper Minju Chosun said Bush “deserved” the shoe throwing incident as a result of “failed policy in Iraq”.

Following the incident, The New York Times reported that Al-Zaidi was embraced around the Arab world . Al-Zaidi found support from his employer, Awn Hussain Al Khashlok , thousands of protesters in Iraq, some Iraqi politicians, people in Syria , a charity in Libya, and from “around 200 lawyers” including some U.S. citizens. Al-Zaidi’s action was criticised by the government of Nouri al-Maliki .

A statue built for Muntadhar Al Zaidi in Tikrit, Iraq. Image via reuters

In an orphanage in Tikrit a copper statue of three meters height was dedicated to his action as a monument. It had his shoe’s shape and an honouring poem as an inscription. It was designed by Laith al-Amari. The orphans helped to build the structure. The statue was taken down according to police order shortly after erection. Al Zaidi has been named as the world’s third most powerful Arab, in the Arabian Business Power 100 list 2009.

A Lebanese TV station offered Mr al Zaidi a job and gave a promise that his salary payment would have been started since he threw a shoe.

Former candidate for the President of Pakistan and President of the Pakistan Jurists Association Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan said that the action showed how much the international community hates George W. Bush.

Replica of Al Zaidi’s shoes. Image via wikipedia

A Saudi businessman offered US$ 10 million to buy the shoes thrown by al-Zaidi. There were also calls from throughout the Middle East to place the shoes in an Iraqi museum. On December 18, 2008, Iraqi and American security agents looking for explosives examined and then destroyed the shoes.

A book was written on the event called “The Last Salute to President Bush”. A chronicle of the moments leading up to his famous shoe throw. It also tells about the suffering Zaidi witnessed as a journalist in Iraq.

Zaidi’s Comments Regarding His Actions and What Had Happened to Him. 

Zaidi now lives in London, where he has quit journalism to run a humanitarian organization that helps Iraqi war victims.

Iraqi journalist Muntadhr Al-Zaidi. Real hero for Iraqi people. Image via alchetron

According to RFE/RL, he also is working to expose crimes committed by U.S. forces in Iraq. He also said that if he could turn back the clock to the same moment, he would still throw his shoes at Bush.

He said, “What has changed is that I now have humanitarian commitments toward my people to a greater degree than when I was a journalist reporting on what was happening to the Iraqi people as a result of George [W.] Bush’s erroneous policies,” Zaidi says. “My role now is to convey the voice of the oppressed Iraqis in the country to the world and to defend them.

He then added, “I am also a small link between Iraqis. I didn’t know that Iraqis were euphoric over the incident regardless of my sectarian and ethnic background. All honorable Iraqis acted as spokesmen on my behalf and expressed my views regarding the incident. That is why I am now in close contact with Iraqis, after having spent more than a month trying with them to destroy the seeds of sectarian turmoil that some are trying to sow among the Iraqi people. It is a heavy burden. But I pray for the ability to press ahead.”

Muntadhar Al Zaidi as Ramboo. Image via Wikipedia

In one interview with RT, Zaidi told the reason why he did what he did, ” I did it because of the lies coming from George Bush, who told audiences that Iraqi citizens received him with roses. I did it also because the killing of more than 1,5 million Iraqis and displacement of more than 5 million, as well as making more than 5 million children orphans and more than 5 million women widows. And all that in addition to the theft of Iraq’s national resources, destruction and the splitting up of the country. “

He further explained that his action was something he had thought before,” On the contrary, this action was planned in advance. Maybe I’m revealing that for the first time to the media. I kept a video tape which would have been published in case of my assassination, but I wasn’t killed therefore the video is still in my possession. I have been concealing the video in order to publish it if the American occupation authorities call for the continuation of my legal persecution.”

He also added his opinions regarding his Hero status among Iraqi people,”I have already said I’m not a hero. 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.”

To read the rest of his interview click here.

To read his letter right after he was released click here.

Edited by omrizkiblog 







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