When I first came across this story, I assumed it was another situation where an article from The Onion ends up on the “real” news wire. But then my drummer said he just saw it on television. Apparently, Iraqi war orphans have erected a giant statue of the shoe that journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi threw at Dubya during his “farewell visit” last year.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — For the war-beaten orphans of the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, this big old shoe fits right in their hearts.
A huge sculpture of the footwear hurled at President Bush last year during a trip to Iraq has been unveiled at the Tikrit Orphanage complex during a ceremony.
Assisted by kids at the home, sculptor Laith al-Amiri erected a brown replica of one of the shoes hurled last month by journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi during a press conference in Baghdad at Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Al-Zaidi was jailed for his actions, and a trial is pending. But his angry gesture touched a defiant nerve throughout the Arab and Muslim world. He is regarded by many people as a hero and demonstrators last month took to the streets in the Arab world and called for his release.
Made of fiberglass and coated with copper, the monument consists of the shoe sitting on a concrete base. The entire monument is 3.5 meters high. The shoe is 2.5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide.
The orphans helped al-Amiri build the $5,000 structure in 15 days, said Faten Abdulqader al-Naseri, the orphanage director.
“Those orphans who helped the sculptor in building this monument were the victims of Bush’s war,” Al-Naseri said. “The shoe monument is a gift to the next generation to remember the heroic action by the journalist.”
“When the next generation sees the shoe monument, they will ask their parents about it,” al-Naseri said.
“Then their parents will start talking about the hero Muntadhir al-Zaidi who threw his shoe at George W. Bush during his unannounced farewell visit.”
Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader toppled by the United States in 2003, was from the Tikrit region.
Al-Zaidi marked his 30th birthday in jail earlier this month. One of his brothers told CNN he “in good health and is being treated well.”
Al-Zaidi’s employer, TV network al-Baghdadia, keeps a picture of him at the top left side of the screen with a calendar showing the number of days he has spent in detention. The network has been calling for his release.
By tradition, throwing a shoe, is the most insulting act in the Arab world.
No word yet whether the shoe will be greeted as a “liberator.”