’Shoe-throwing’ Iraqi journalist to reap rewards after prison

September 12, 2009 - 0:0

Nine months in an Iraqi prison can hardly be easy. Torture and sexual abuse is common, beatings are standard, healthcare is limited and family visitation rights vary.

But for Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who became an icon of anti-Americanism in the Middle East for throwing his shoe at former U.S. president George W. Bush, things are looking up.
Set to be released on Monday, Al-Zaidi will return to a new four bedroom home, built for him by Al-Baghdadia TV where Al-Zaidi's worked as a journalist, at least one new car purchased for him by an unknown benefactor, cash sent from random donors and a sizable number of marriage proposals. He has even been offered a healthcare plan.
The offers began pouring in following the incident late last year, with Saad Gumaa, an Egyptian man, phoning the shoe throwers family and offering the hand of his 20-year-old daughter, Amal Saad Gumaa, in marriage. “I would like to live in Iraq,” the daughter, a journalism student, was reported as saying at the time. “Especially if I were attached to this hero... This is something that would honor me.”
Then Ahmed Jouda, a 75-year-old Palestinian farmer in the West Bank city of Nablus, sold half his herd of goats and raised tens of thousands of dollars from his extended family to support Al-Zaidi's legal case. He, too, offered to match Al-Zaidi with a young woman from his family.
Now editors at Al Baghdadia say they have received a barrage of calls from women asking to marry Al-Zaidi along with numerous offers, from cash and cars to a gold-saddled horse from Morocco and a Saudi willing to pay $10m for Al-Zaidi's shoes.
“The owner of the channel has built a house for him and his family and so many people are calling us with gifts,” Anas Al Bayaty, a producer and announcer at Al Baghdadia TV, told The Media Line. “Someone from Saudi Arabia wanted to buy his shoes for $10 million, another person wanted to give him gold, and many have called offering their daughter up for marriage.”
“As a channel we are just waiting for him and have not accepted any gifts,” Al-Bayaty clarified. “Except flowers.”
Al-Zaidi's comments while launching his size 10 shoes at the former U.S. president - “This is your farewell kiss, you dog” - are said to be found on posters and household walls across Iraq. Photos of the former president ducking to avoid the size 10 shoe hitting him in the face are on t-shirts and in children's video games.
President Bush was widely disliked across the Arab world. Analysts say that for many in the Arab world, Al-Zaidi's defiance represented the anger local political leaders were too scared to express.
“He represented the general feelings of Arab citizens towards U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and in particular an antagonism towards Bush over the invasion of Iraq,” Muna Al-Bahar, an Emiratee sociologist, told The Media Line. “To destroy an entire country's infrastructure and put it through years of war based on a lie is not something that went over well or will be forgotten quickly. The shoe thrower was just a symbol of the peoples' anger, and not only in the Arab world, even in Europe there was extraordinary anger towards Bush.”
“The invasion of Iraq was so exceptional,” Dr Mohammed Aboelenein, chairman of the sociology department at United Arab Emirates University, told The Media Line. “A mighty military power smashed Iraq's infrastructure, created huge sectarian problems and started selling the country's oil, yet Iraqis are poorer than they have ever been.”
“So people feel frustrated by all these killings and atrocities by American troops,” he said. “Then they see Bush acting arrogantly and speaking about democracy and all the great things the US has done and along comes the shoe thrower.”
“While on a personal level I don't agree with that kind of behavior by a journalist, people see him as courageous,” Aboelenein said. “It probably provided a sense of cultural relief that Bush was given the message that we totally disagree with what you're doing, we don't like you and we hate your policies. That's why it created such unity.”
“In Arabic calling someone a 'shoe' is a way of saying that person is completely worthless, someone you would just walk on,” he explained.
Al-Zaidi, who had previously been kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents, said he had expected the U.S. Secret Service guarding the president to shoot him when he launched his shoe at Bush.
He alleges he was tortured by Iraqi officials while in prison, and medical reports have indicated that Al-Zaidi has two broken ribs, a broken foot and that he has lost a tooth.
Al-Zaidi has apparently indicated that he will not return to journalism.
“He doesn't want his work to be a circus,” Al-Zaidi's brother told the British Guardian newspaper. “Every time he asked someone a difficult question they would have responded by asking whether he was going to throw his shoes at them.”
Rather, he told his family, Al Zaidi would like to open an orphanage upon his release.
He may have a few women to help him.
(Source: allheadlinesnews.com)