By Amer Hamid
Baghdad, Dec 17 (EFE).- In December 2008, Muntadhar al Zaidi became famous overnight when he hurled his shoes at then-President George W. Bush, to protest the United States invasion of Iraq.
Ten years after the withdrawal of US troops, the journalist told Efe in an interview that the occupation is far from over and that “the US continues to occupy Iraq,” politically speaking.
“The US Embassy is the one that dominates many sectors of the State and important decisions, from the formation of the Government to the decisions of Parliament,” he added in an interview with Efe in the Iraqi capital.
Al Zaidi (1979) recalls the “totally premeditated” act that made him a hero in the Arab world overnight, but also put him in prison where he was beaten regularly.
“This is a farewell kiss from the people of Iraq, you dog,” Al Zaidi told Bush as he tossed his shoes at him during a news conference in Baghdad on December 14, 2008.
That action was seen as spontaneous, but Al Zaidi said it was “planned” and that he videotaped his will before leaving for the press conference because he was fully aware of the consequences of his actions.
“The greatest honor in the world is to be thrown roses, what I did was change the farce of throwing roses to throwing shoes at the president of the US occupation of Iraq.”
According to Al Zaidi, the president had said that Iraqis would welcome US troops “with flowers” after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which led to the demise of dictator Saddam Hussein but also to years of chaos and sectarian conflict in the Arab country.
To this day, Al Zaidi does not know what happened to his shoes, which were never returned to him despite the fact that he requested them during his trial.
Rumors of their whereabouts range from them “being sold for thousands of dollars” to being destroyed by US troops on the pretext that they “contained explosives.”
“But the truth is that they destroyed them so that they would not become a symbol. This is the truth,” he added.
Following the now iconic event, Al Zaidi went through “many things.”
Several of his bones and teeth were broken while being dragged out of the press room, he told Efe.
The journalist was then subjected to “systematic torture” which included electric shocks, and being whipped with cables for three days, before being placed in solitary confinement for three months.
“Those three months were one of the hardest things I have experienced in my life because everything was forbidden to me. It was forbidden to see the sun, have a pen or a book, communicate with other prisoners or simply go to the bathroom when I needed it,” he said.
Thirteen years later, he continues to suffer the consequences.
He lost his job as a journalist on television and now struggles to find work in the media sector because his name is still associated with controversy.
“When they know that it is me, Muntadhar al Zaidi, they reject me.”
Nevertheless, he does not regret chucking his shoes at Bush because he did so “with conviction.”