Muntazar al-Zaidi was just 28 years old when he became a hero of sorts in his home country of Iraq.
He was a correspondent for independent news organization Al Baghdadia when he infamously threw both his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush during a 2008 press conference, almost hitting the former commander-in-chief, who managed to duck just in time.
“This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” Zaidi had yelled in Arabic. “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”
It didn’t take long for the bodyguards of then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to tackle him. The journalist was arrested and later sentenced to three years in prison for attacking a foreign head of state. He claimed he was tortured and badly beaten during his time in jail, but his good behavior earned him an early release.
After nine months in prison, the authorities released Zaidi, who then left the country and went to Syria, according to CNN. He returned to Iraq in 2011 and focused on his al-Zaidi Foundation, which worked to “to find a safe atmosphere for the children who lost their parents during the American occupation on Iraq.”
Now, almost a decade after the historic incident, Zaidi is running for Iraq’s Council of Representatives — a government body that is equivalent to the House of Representatives in the United States, reported BuzzFeed News.
The report also clarified some rumors about Zaidi running for the president of Iraq, confirming he is indeed seeking a seat in the parliament.
At the time of his arrest, Zaidi thought something terrible was going to happen to him.
“He thought the Secret Service was going to shoot him,” his brother, Maitham, told the Guardian. “He expected that, and he was not afraid to die.”
Later, Zaidi also opened up about his actions.
“It humiliated me to see my country humiliated, and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed,” he wrote in a 2009 op-ed. “When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure.”
In a 2015 interview, Zaidi made it pretty clear he had no regrets.
“I have already said I’m not a hero,” he told RT. “But I do represent the feelings of the whole Iraqi people. All Iraqi ethnicities and sections went to the streets to say that all of them are like me, Muntadhar. They support what I did because it represents Iraqis, not another state or someone in outer space. I’m an Iraqi and the demonstrations confirmed my people will fight the US occupation of Iraq.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images