Is shoe-throwing a crime?

Posted by Medea -

Tue, Mar 17, 2009

Press, War is SO over

  • Sharebar

I just published a piece on AlterNet, Common Dreams and OpEdNews, based on my interview with Hero Anwar Brzw, a Kurdish Iraqi woman studying peacemaking at Eastern Mennonite University. I spoke with her to learn her thoughts on whether Iraqi journalist Muthadar al-Zaidi committed a crime in throwing his shoes at Bush in December at a Baghdad press conference. He was sentence last Friday to three years in prison for the act. Here’s an excerpt from the interview, you can read the rest on AlterNet here.

MB: So you consider this action non-violent, but was it appropriate, especially for a journalist who is supposed to be objective?

HAB: I have worked for an Iraqi NGO on peace-building. I, too, have felt the effects of the occupation — the violence that the invasion unleashed, the daily humiliations of being second-class citizens in our own country. Iraqi journalists have felt this as well. They have seen firsthand the terrible destruction caused by U.S. soldiers. Many Iraqi journalists have died in the violence and many have been imprisoned and terribly abused by U.S. soldiers.

So it is normal that we would want to express our anger. Some Iraqis express their anger through violent means, but that puts them on the same level as the occupiers. In general, journalists and NGO workers don’t believe in violence. But we also don’t have to be passive or conform to the oppressors.

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  • Ana María Carrillo

    Muthadar al-Zaidi is not a criminal and must be released.

  • Carol Yost

    I agree that this Iraqi journalist, Mr. al-Zaidi, should not be in jail. I would support actions to free him. I can’t do much, but I can certainly sign an online petition.



  • David

    …wait a minute Code Pink…your starting to sound like the right wing by spinning semantics…you say below …“Six years later, expressing yourself freely will still get you tortured and imprisoned in Iraq. This is the democracy that over 4,000 US soldiers and over 1 million Iraqis have lost their lives for?”

    Dont blow the good work you and folks like us have done by coloring this persons actions as “expressing yourself freely”…call it what it was or what ever..but this kind of coloring to raise ire is what gives thinking people doubt about your good intent…what we hope for in Iraq is a environment where people can express themselves freely like we do in the US (sorta)…I would never call someone throwing their shoes at a visiting head of state here as “expressing yourself freely” as we do here…the situation there is entirely different…Bush represented an occupying force and this guys action was a response…not an example of “freedom of expression” in a free society…please clarify in the future.

  • Naba Hamid

    I am peace activist
    I am pessimist about getting peace in the near future!
    You are mistaken if you think Iraqis will get peace after withdrawal of the US troops. America completed the mission by destroying the country and fragmenting the community into races and ethnicity. The community of Iraq is polarized. America released the hands of Iran in Iraq. In addition Iraq today is surrounded by other neighboring states having interests and benefits from chaos in Iraq and these states are supporting financially and by logistics parties inside Iraq for those reasons. The present Iraqi leaders are nurtured by propaganda. In the past Saddam regime had a very active Ministry of Information for marketing his acts and wars.The new leaders and politicians learned the lesson from Saddam. They are funding satellite channels and newspapers for marketing their actions and making them heroes of the century.

  • Helen McLennan

    I am in total support of Muthadar al-Zaidi’s actions – shoe throwing was a mild protest considering the awful damage Bush has inflicted on the world – not just Iraq and Afghanistan – but his own country as well. Look at the mess it is in!! His legacy will be international scars that will last decades.

    It is an outrage that this journalist is imprisoned for this action. He is a hero. We should be doing more to secure his release and I’m sure there must be some way of visibly supporting him – a Shoe-Throwing T-shirt? A Shoe- Throwing Trophy/ Medal for the best journalist story exposing the idiocy of this war? A Pink Shoe of course…!

    My thoughts and support are with him, not that it will be much comfort.

    From Australia

  • Mike Hertz

    Good for you, Code Pink. Up in Calgary, the demonsrators also demonstrated with shoes in protesting Bush’s appearance at a speaking engagement. It’s an excellent symbol of protest.

  • beecee2

    I wish we could put pressure on George W. Bush to intervene in this matter. At the very least, Bush should step forward on behalf of this journalist. As so much of the world knows, this journalist has a very accurate and legitimate point of view.

    It is absurd that this person who threw two shoes and didn’t even hit his target would be in prison for 3 years. How can this be? —
    The one who threw footwear is in prison, and the one who dropped bombs is not. Totally Absurd and Terrible.

  • Lou Curran

    Huh? – This was so unresponsive to the question, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t really watching televised political debates back in the 2008-ies!! Of course, physical assault on anybody with not one but two shoes is wrong, and a crime almost everywhere. Unsure? – switch shoes, so to speak – if Bush had thrown 2 shoes at a reporter, with appropriately modifed same language, damn right we’d all be yelling for his arrest. But sometimes, some direct action civil disobedience, while illegal, speaks so eloquently for so many more than the actor. 3 years + extra abuse from sycophant loyalists is harsh, but not an unpredictable end. If Al-Zaidi has children, their guardian should apply to Rosenberg Fund for Children if their financial circumstances are adversely affected (although I suspect they’ll not go lacking!) – RFC is a fund fed by concerned, mostly U.S., progressives to help take care of the children of imprisoned, incapacitated or murdered activists. Don’t compromise the truth: Al-Zaidi assaulted Bush with both of his shoes in an endearingly impassioned direct action – we can understand, empathisize and even respect it to some degree, but let’s not drown in drivel about it being non-violent. If you really want to express solidarity with direct action and other outspoken or maddeningly persistent activists, put your money where your mouth is and contribute to RFC, Greenpeace, RESIST, Bread & Roses, etc… now more than ever! If you want to support Al-Zaidi and the cause which propelled his action, do whatever little something you can do to help stop this war, and all war, today and every day ———– [The writer is a career assistant public defender who supports RFC, Greenpeace, and RESIST, among others.]

  • John Dunker

    Muthadar al-Zaidi should be freed, and then it would be nice if he offered an apology to the dogs of this world.

  • alan friedman

    Muthadar al-Zaidi should be freed.

  • http://br.groups.yahoo.com/group/manifesto/messages Grilo D

    Regardless of being against a country leader or not, aggression is a crime.
    However, at least here in Brasil (and I hope in other countries too), there are factors which void the understanding of a crime:
    2.Acting on strong emotion (like anger and such, if caused by the later aggression victim)
    3.Resistence against an invader
    In the case of Muntazer, all things ocurred: he defended his own country and people, was dramatically emotionally affected by it (by living in the invaded country and, hopefully, personally knowing victims) and reacted against the leader of an agression causing dozens of thousands of deaths.
    So, no crime on his part.
    OTOH, on Bush’s side…

    Best regards and keep up,
    Grilo D

  • Meredith B

    While I agree with al-Zaidi’s points, Freedom of Speech allows him to throw shoes at people.

    What kind of message does that send about using violence against anyone, even someone as lowly as George H.W. Bush?

  • Naba Hamid

    I am a woman from Iraq. My soul and spirit are deeply wounded and traumatized by occupation and the destruction of my country by America.

    I believe you Americans heard about the event of hurl a pair of shoes on the face of Bush by Muntazar the journalist, but this man is a human being as well please don’t forget that.

    What you heard is only part of the story. Through your media you will never get the whole picture. You know only a tiny part “the overt story” but the covert story of the war crimes, occupation and destruction of a state and traumatizing millions of people constitute the bulk of the story.
    It is a black spot and stigma in the repetition of America.

    I will tell you the hidden part of the shoe story!
    Muntazar as an Iraqi suffered a lot from the shameful strategist of America in handling Iraq after toppling Saddam’s regime, bad security, and harsh destruction of the country. Muntazar as an Iraqi has observed rivers of blood in the streets of Baghdad, more than million Iraqi were killed, two million widow women, about five million orphans, five million refugees, hundred thousands of best professionals and scholars were either killed, kidnapped or fled the country, loss of basic needs and many more!

    Muntazer himself was kidnapped few months ago and his family had to pay ransom for getting him back to life.

    Bush and his administration come to Iraq at any time they want and not necessarily by invitation or with the consent of the Government of Iraq.
    What a moment? Muntazer the victim finds him self face to face with his executioner! Hearing the arrogance and provocation when Bush said:
    “I took the war resolution on Iraq for America’s security and safety of the world!”
    What offense and insult? America violated the borders of Iraq to help secure the borders of America? Iraq is being slaughtered and Iraqis cannot sleep from fear but Americans stay safe? Iraqi children sleep on empty stomach, Iraqi woman can not reach hospital and her baby born dead while America encouraged its nation to grow for the glory of America!

    Bush you are the president of the greatest country in the world; you have sent the world calls for fighting terrorism?
    Muntazar responded, Bush you are the terrorist who destroyed my nation and my country.
    Iraq neither a sacrifice nor offering for America.

  • Timmy

    Almost all of you are wrong.

    Throwing your shoes at someone is an attack, not “speech.” I cannot throw my shoes at you as you walk down the street, you would have me arrested or committed. Not that it matters, you are all reacting to this as if it happened in America. What we wanted was for Iraq to be able to govern itself, and now it can. Quit projecting your Bush hate on the Iraqi justice system.

    If you all started viewing the world objectively, maybe people would take your group seriously.

    Naba Hamid, I don’t think you truly understand the situation in your country before 2003 or now.

    Grilo D, your arguments not based in any sort of fact, he was not attacked by Bush (in fact, HE attacked Bush). Acting on strong emotion is not a defense for attacking another person. For a non-socio-path, strong emotion is actually a requirement for a human to attack another human. Bush certainly is not an Invader, as the legitimate and legal government of Iraq not only desires but required US presence in their country to maintain security.

    Meredith B, you should just keep to yourself, or at least be much more careful when you state your opinion. Not that I don’t support your right to free speech, but you managed to make no sense in your first sentence and then attack the wrong person in your only other sentence.

    I would certainly welcome any logical arguments.

  • Timmy

    Code Pink,

    Thanks for deleting my last post. I guess you wouldn’t want anyone reading this site to get an opposing opinion. I mean you fought so hard for years to get power. Now it is your turn and you should not even have to be exposed to differing points of view, especially ones that bring some logic and fact to your emotional and irrational argument that assaulting a person should not result in punishment.

    Some people really wanted change, I guess you just wanted the chance to do exactly what you accuse Bush of doing.


    yeah…it should not be illegal to throw anything at public speakers… is it illegal to throw an apple? or a tomato? no… but there are some things u just dont do… for instance, threaten the president of the United States of America. he’s damn lucky all he got was 3 years and even still thats 3 years maximum. whether he serves three years or not it seems just to me. and if you knew anything about iraqi culture youd know that it is rude to show your feet to ppl because the ground is so disgusting and showing your heel to someone is considered rude because its almost as if saying you are above them. what that jounalist did is outrageous but it proves a point that we DID liberate iraq at least somewhat because that sort of behavior was never tolerated before. ppl died for that prior to us getting there actually ppl died for less… so do i think his punishment is just? you bet. but im glad for him because now he has the power to express his views and be heard. and he’ll pay the consequences for his choices rather than be punished without a choice. thats what America’s all about.

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