carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

IRAQ: The shoes that shook the Arab world


Throwing a shoe at someone is the ultimate insult in the Arab world. And journalist Muntader Zaidi’s decision to hurl a couple fastballs with his loafers at U.S. President George W. Bush during a Baghdad press conference on Sunday left no doubt about how he felt.

But his action also elicited a strong wave of mostly positive reaction throughout the Arab world, which gives you an idea how that part of the world feels about Bush and how happy that community is that Bush will be leaving office, having invaded Iraq and taken on policies perceived as pro-Israel and anti-Arab.

Across the Middle East, ordinary people wrote poems and sang praise for Muntader. Some even suggested erecting statues to the guy. (Maybe it could replace one of Saddam Hussein's statues, which Iraqis repeatedly beat with their shoes after the 2003 U.S. invasion.)

In a barbershop near downtown Beirut on Monday, customers buzzed about the reporter's political gesture.

“It was great,” one customer said, beaming with satisfaction.

Another responded by saying that Bush certainly deserved it for inflicting “disaster” on the Iraqi people.

The video of the journalist throwing his shoes at Bush was played over and over again on television stations including the pan-Arab Al Jazeera as well as Iranian state television and even radio.

“Please listen again,” said a radio announcer in Tehran. “This is the sound of the shoe hitting the wall and missing President Bush."

The left-leaning Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar featured the news in on its front page under the headline, “The farewell kiss for Bush,” calling the reporter a “hero” who stood up to the president.

"This was without a doubt the best farewell as seen by millions of Iraqis who were heartened" by the reporter's action, said the daily, adding that Iraqis were "probably sad when they saw their Prime Minister Nouri Maliki throwing himself in front of his guest to protect him."

Vangoghapairofshoes In an opinion piece posted on the website of the al-Arabiya news channel, commentator Khaled Walid Mahmoud wrote that the pair of shoes that were hurled at the U.S. president would "enter history " as the shoes of painter Vincent Van Gogh once did.

He described the action of the reporter as "bold and nationalistic” and said it reflected "the real face of every honest Iraqi."

The burgeoning Arab online scene was bursting with commentary, poems and even an online fan club for Zaidi on Facebook.

“He achieved what many Arabs couldn’t achieve over the years in the face of either the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the American invasion of Iraq,” a visitor named Zahraa said on the website of Arabian Business magazine.

“The famous shoes should be exhibited in a museum as it resembled a rocket that talks on behalf of all Iraqis," she wrote.

Asad from Dubai, on another Arab chat website, wrote: 

“It is without exaggeration that I can say that the flying shoe speaks more for Arab public opinion than all the despots/puppets that Bush meets with during his travels in the Middle East.”

-- Raed Rafei and Khaled Hijab in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photos: The front page of today's An-Nahar, a Lebanese daily; from Vincent Van Gogh's shoe series.

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

Comments () | Archives (70)

For all those who think Muntazer would have been worse off under Saddam:

Iraqi shoe thrower 'beaten in custody'. Muntazer al-Zaidi had been taken to the Ibn-Sina military hospital after being hit on the head with a rifle butt. Iraqi security men had also broken his arm. Dargham al-Zaidi said his brother had suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding. The guards of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were seen beating Mr Zaidi just after the incident and he was seen screaming in pain.

Al-Zaidi was pummeled and kicked by the guards who dragged him out of the conference area. (,8599,1866356,00.html)

"We know that [Muntazer] has been tortured and his hand was broken. I asked them to go and check on him in the Green Zone [in Baghdad]," he said. Al-Baghdadia television, Muntazer's employer, reported that al-Zeidi had been "seriously injured" while in custody. (

"The reprisals he suffered after his bold gesture. His older brother, Dargham, has told reporters Muntadhar suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury, and is in hospital." (

Who was doing the punching, if that is what it was? Was it Iraqi security men or Bush's bodyguards from the US Secret Service? Either way, whatever brutality it is now alleged was meted out to Zaidi far outweighs the violence involved in his gesture. This will only serve to add to Zaidi's status, making him a martyr as well as a hero in large sections of the Arab world, where commentators have been vying with superlatives to describe his action. (

"This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," All 1.2 million of women, children and civilians as opposed to 4,000 US soldiers.

Perhaps this shoe-throwing incident will start a trend. Bush and wife are buying a house in Dallas to live in after he exits the White House. Throwing one's shoes over the fence into his front yard might not be a bad way of expressing one's feelings for him. Of course, if I did that I'd be arrested for using a weapon of mass destruction considering how foul-smelling and lethal they can be. Still, it would be a good way to express how much many, many Americans despise that man.

From the thrill of victory to the agony of da-feet.

what an ungrateful country. They do not deserve the freedom. For those who hate USA so much, you don't deserve the freedom you have now. If you don't like this country, why are you still here? Get back to your own country or where your ancestors came from.

There is a lot of action happening online in support of the journalist. You can stand in support of his release here:



ur all stupid goin over wasnt to talk about the shoe throwing u all forgot y u were there the first place u were there to write about the news not entertainment.

I look forward to the Obama presidency so we can get past the blind hatred of President Bush which colors too many folks opinions and prevents intelligent discussion, and I hope that Obama is given a more dignified send off wnen his time is up.

Presidents T-Shirts reads:
" I went to Iraq and all I got was The Shoe"

Bravo to the man who did what many of us have wanted to do since day one of his crazy and insane occupation of Office.

If an American would have done that we would be in jail and on a no fly list forever.
Appropriate ending to a murderous, narcissist, and selfish thief. He stole the Office and then stepped all over the people of America and Iraq, along with other areas.
To bad Cheny was there to receive one of those shoes.
Can I have your autograph my Hero, the shoe thrower?

"Most of the deaths in Iraq are a result of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. There is a sense of frustration because the Iraqis can''t resolve their own internal problems" This post represents the most racist and apologetic approach taken when describing what the US has done to the Iraqi. This crazy logic that cries "they kill eachother" has been a stamp of colonization since the time of the invasion of our lands, as Indigenous people. The prevailing white supremacist logic goes like this: kill all because THEY ARE "killing eachother" so in other words, dont' complain about the deaths caused by the US has nothing to do with the "uncivilized" culture of Arabs. This white supremacist rhetoric stay the same as the situation changes. This has to end. It will.

1) It's reporting like this that's the reason Tribune Co. (owners of the Los Angeles Times) are $13 Billion in debt and filing for BANKRUPTCY -- partisan politics over news equals no advertisers. This is not the first time the Los Angeles Times has shown its bias. People haven't forgotten about that FAKE cover story photo the Los Angeles Times ran where two photos were combined to paint the troops in an unfavorable light.



2) The only reason this alleged reporter is still alive is because of the DEMOCRACY that BUSH and the UNITED STATES brought to his country. Have there been screw ups? Yes. Have innocent people died? Yes. Could the Bush Administration have done a better job? Absolutely. But to pretend as if the glass is only half-empty (as the Los Angeles Times has done yet again) is an embarrassing LIE. Why was the FREEDOM that BUSH brought this man to voice his opinion not addressed? Under Saddam, not only would this alleged reporter be killed, but his entire family would have been killed for what he did. I'm not a Bush partisan and I don't make excuses for this administration's screw-ups, but at the very least, I do expect fair reporting from the media -- especially since so many AMERICANS have died for this man's FREEDOM to act like a jerk!

Oh, and before anyone attempts some some silly bleeding-heart ploy, I AM 100% IRAQI... so spare me the talking-points. Bad things have come of this war, yes... but GOOD things have too (Examples Below):


* Prewar nationwide: 3,958 megawatts. Hours per day (estimated): 4-8.

* Nov. 18, 2008 nationwide: 4,880 megawatts. Hours per day: 14.8.

* Prewar Baghdad: 2,500 megawatts. Hours per day (estimated): 16-24.

* Nov. 18, 2008 Baghdad: Megawatts not available. Hours per day: 17.0.

Note: Current Baghdad megawatt figures are no longer reported by the U.S. State Department's Iraq Weekly Status Report.


* Prewar land lines: 833,000.

* Oct. 2, 2008: 1,300,000.

* Prewar cell phones: 80,000.

* Oct. 2, 2008: 13.4 million.


* Prewar: 12.9 million people had potable water.

* Oct. 2, 2008: 20.9 million people have potable water.


* Prewar: 6.2 million people served.

* Oct. 2, 2008: 11.3 million people served.


To quote Lee Greenwood: "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget those who died and gave that right to me>" Lets all make some Iraqui's die so they can give the same freedom to their own people and BRING ALL OUR TROOPS HOME NOW!!!!

God bless America,
and God bless President Bush!!!

I love President Bush!!!!

Four more years of President Bush please!!!!!!!

What an idiot that Iraqi journalist is!!!!
He an ingrate, I hope he gets what he deserves!

I do not Bush, but I'll be damned if I support some idiot throwing something at my President. We should pull all of our troops out, expel EVERY Arab,Muslim,Iraqi,Iranian, and the rest of the towel head bunch out of our country & let them all go to hell!

I was wondering about the slow reaction myself. The secret service guy, who Bush waved away, didn't react until well after the first shoe was launched.

In general I have no problems with people throwing their shoes at W. This incident, however, is a small but important test for the Iraqi government. Presumably it is at least a misdemeanor to throw something, during a formal event, at a foreign leader. The public cry to let the guy go will be strong. The Iraqi government needs to show it is ruled by law and not the cry of the mob. However, they should not go overboard. He should serve his day or two in jail, but not months or years, it was only a shoe insult or not. It would be nice if the whole world saw that you could protest, even physically, against the President of the United States in Iraq and not be carted off to prison as a political prisoner. That is something you cannot do in most of the Middle East. That is change.

My only regret is that the reporter didn't actually hit Bush. It was Bush this man was dis-respecting not the American President . . . Bush himself has brought so much disgrace to our country and the presidency that two shoes would not suffice. The days are not passing by fast enough until this idiot is out of the White House.

why did the occupying foreign fighter forces tear up the bush mossaic at the rashid hotel entrance? where's the "liberating freedom" in that? Now they can restore it with 2 bush's.

Bravo Muntader Zaidi!

for those who didn't realize he had good reason:
The Iraqi TV journalist who has become a folk hero in the Arab world for throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference bitterly opposed America's presence in Iraq and was kidnapped and beaten while reporting on the war, according to reports.

Muntader al-Zaidi, 29, who remained in Iraqi custody Monday, has worked as a correspondent for Iraq's Al-Baghdadiya TV since its launch in 2005, CBS News reports.

And while colleagues described him as calm and quiet, one of his brothers says Zaidi was so angry with the U.S. presence in Iraq that he ended his reports by saying he was in "the occupied Baghdad," The New York Times reports.

His brother, Maythem al-Zaidi, tells the The Times that he went so far as to cancel his wedding, saying, "I will marry when the occupation is over."

In November 2007, gunmen kidnapped Zaidi after videotaping an improvised explosive device aimed at an American Humvee. He was reportedly blindfolded by his own necktie and beaten until unconscious. His abductors asked about his work, but he never determined who they were, say reports.

30% of americans still love bush...

i wonder what those people are thinking.


1 2 3 4 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors