Today marks 10 years since Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, threw not one, but both of his shoes at then-U.S. President, George W Bush. Muntadhar, at great personal risk, dared to commit a very public act of protest against a horrific, completely manufactured war led by one of the greatest war criminals in modern history. At the time, the incident put the War on Iraq back in popular conversation in a way it hadn’t been for a long time. And on the occasion of this anniversary, we’re reminded that that conversation needs to continue, and that the least we can do, is not to forget.
His act resonated with all kinds of people across every corner of the world, myself included. On what motivated him, Muntadhar explains it beautifully in a statement he made upon his release from prison in 2009: ‘I am not a hero. But I have a point of view. I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, pushing me towards the path of confrontation. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Falluja, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. I travelled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and heard with my own ears the screams of the orphans and the bereaved. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless... I say to those who reproach me: do you know how many broken homes that shoe which I threw had entered? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response when all values were violated.
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. And casting out its sons into a diaspora... I didn’t do this so my name would enter history or for material gains. All I wanted was to defend my country.’