For Immediate Release
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Significance of Shoes Thrown
WASHINGTON - AP is reporting: "On a whirlwind trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the wars that define his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference in Iraq. 'This is your farewell kiss, you dog!' shouted the protester in Arabic, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt. 'This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.'"
AbuKhalil is author of several books on the Mideast including The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power. He said today: "The level of Arab media interest (especially in the Arab blogosphere) is like nothing I have seen. It is being treated as a vindication for the Arab peoples who opposed the war -- the president who arrogantly believed that his occupation troops would be greeted by Iraqis with 'sweets and flowers' was himself greeted with shoes.
"This is significant and indicates how Arab public opinion feels about Bush. Al-Jazeera (Arabic) is reporting that up to 100 Arab lawyers have volunteered to defend Zaydi. [The Lebanon-based newspaper] As-Safir is reporting that he is a leftist, and not some Muslim fundamentalist as some speculated. Before the media rush to draw associations between shoes and Arab or Muslim cultures, we can assert that the fellow would have preferred rotten eggs and tomatoes if they were as easy to sneak through the tight security checks as ... shoes."
AbuKhalil is a professor in the department of politics at California State University, Stanislaus. He edits the "Angry Arab News Service" blog.
An Iraqi blogger and activist now living in Washington, D.C., Jarrar said today: "Sources in Iraq are telling me Mr. Al-Zeidi was heavily beaten, then he was put under arrest. His family does not know where he is being detained. Mr. Al-Zeidi will join other tens of thousands of Iraqi prisoners who have been detained for months or years with no charges, no trial, and no access to lawyers. In the few hours following his arrest, dozens of prominent Iraqi political and tribal leaders called Al-Baghdadia TV station where Mr. Al-Zeidi works and expressed their support and compassion. Al-Baghdadia has issued a statement asking for the release of Mr. Al-Zeidi.
"I have started an online petition to ask for the immediate release of Mr. Al-Zeidi. Journalists Without Boarders did issue a statement last year condemning the kidnapping of the same Mr. Al-Zeidi. He was apparently kidnapped for three days before being released." Jarrar also writes the blog Raed in the Middle.