The Story of My Shoe

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In the name
of God, the most gracious and most merciful.

Here I am,
free. But my country is still a prisoner of war.

Firstly, I
give my thanks and my regards to everyone who stood beside me, whether
inside my country, in the Islamic world, in the free world. There
has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who
took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and
the symbolic act.

But, simply,
I answer: What compelled me to confront is the injustice that befell
my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland
by putting it under its boot.

And how it
wanted to crush the skulls of (the homeland’s) sons under its boots,
whether sheikhs, women, children or men. And during the past few
years, more than a million martyrs fell by the bullets of the occupation
and the country is now filled with more than 5 million orphans,
a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. And many millions
of homeless because of displacement inside and outside the country.

We used to
be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the
Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread.
And the Shiite would pray with the Sunni in one line. And the Muslim
would celebrate with the Christian the birthday of Christ, may peace
be upon him. And despite the fact that we shared hunger under sanctions
for more than 10 years, for more than a decade.

Our patience
and our solidarity did not make us forget the oppression. Until
we were invaded by the illusion of liberation that some had. (The
occupation) divided one brother from another, one neighbor from
another, and the son from his uncle. It turned our homes into never-ending
funeral tents. And our graveyards spread into parks and roadsides.
It is a plague. It is the occupation that is killing us, that is
violating the houses of worship and the sanctity of our homes and
that is throwing thousands daily into makeshift prisons.

I am not a
hero, and I admit that. But I have a point of view and I have a
stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated. And to see
my Baghdad burned. And my people being killed. Thousands of tragic
pictures remained in my head, and this weighs on me every day and
pushes me toward the righteous path, the path of confrontation,
the path of rejecting injustice, deceit and duplicity. It deprived
me of a good night’s sleep.

Dozens, no,
hundreds, of images of massacres that would turn the hair of a newborn
white used to bring tears to my eyes and wound me. The scandal of
Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Fallujah, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City,
Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land.
In the past years, I traveled through my burning land and saw with
my own eyes the pain of the victims, and hear with my own ears the
screams of the bereaved and the orphans. And a feeling of shame
haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.

And as soon
as I finished my professional duties in reporting the daily tragedies
of the Iraqis, and while I washed away the remains of the debris
of the ruined Iraqi houses, or the traces of the blood of victims
that stained my clothes, I would clench my teeth and make a pledge
to our victims, a pledge of vengeance.

The opportunity
came, and I took it.

I took it out
of loyalty to every drop of innocent blood that has been shed through
the occupation or because of it, every scream of a bereaved mother,
every moan of an orphan, the sorrow of a rape victim, the teardrop
of an orphan.

I say to those
who reproach me: Do you know how many broken homes that shoe that
I threw had entered because of the occupation? How many times it
had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? And how many times
it had entered homes in which free Iraqi women and their sanctity
had been violated? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response
when all values were violated.

When I threw
the shoe in the face of the criminal, 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. And casting out
its sons into a diaspora.

After six years
of humiliation, of indignity, of killing and violations of sanctity,
and desecration of houses of worship, the killer comes, boasting,
bragging about victory and democracy. He came to say goodbye to
his victims and wanted flowers in response.

Put simply,
that was my flower to the occupier, and to all who are in league
with him, whether by spreading lies or taking action, before the
occupation or after.

I wanted to
defend the honor of my profession and suppressed patriotism on the
day the country was violated and its high honor lost. Some say:
Why didn’t he ask Bush an embarrassing question at the press conference,
to shame him? And now I will answer you, journalists. How can I
ask Bush when we were ordered to ask no questions before the press
conference began, but only to cover the event. It was prohibited
for any person to question Bush.

And in regard
to professionalism: The professionalism mourned by some under the
auspices of the occupation should not have a voice louder than the
voice of patriotism. And if patriotism were to speak out, then professionalism
should be allied with it.

I take this
opportunity: If I have wronged journalism without intention, because
of the professional embarrassment I caused the establishment, I
wish to apologize to you for any embarrassment I may have caused
those establishments. All that I meant to do was express with a
living conscience the feelings of a citizen who sees his homeland
desecrated every day.

History mentions
many stories where professionalism was also compromised at the hands
of American policymakers, whether in the assassination attempt against
Fidel Castro by booby-trapping a TV camera that CIA agents posing
as journalists from Cuban TV were carrying, or what they did in
the Iraqi war by deceiving the general public about what was happening.
And there are many other examples that I won’t get into here.

But what I
would like to call your attention to is that these suspicious agencies
– the American intelligence and its other agencies and those
that follow them – will not spare any effort to track me down
(because I am) a rebel opposed to their occupation. They will try
to kill me or neutralize me, and I call the attention of those who
are close to me to the traps that these agencies will set up to
capture or kill me in various ways, physically, socially or professionally.

And at the
time that the Iraqi prime minister came out on satellite channels
to say that he didn’t sleep until he had checked in on my safety,
and that I had found a bed and a blanket, even as he spoke I was
being tortured with the most horrific methods: electric shocks,
getting hit with cables, getting hit with metal rods, and all this
in the backyard of the place where the press conference was held.
And the conference was still going on and I could hear the voices
of the people in it. And maybe they, too, could hear my screams
and moans.

In the morning,
I was left in the cold of winter, tied up after they soaked me in
water at dawn. And I apologize for Mr. Maliki for keeping the truth
from the people. I will speak later, giving names of the people
who were involved in torturing me, and some of them were high-ranking
officials in the government and in the army.

I didn’t do
this so my name would enter history or for material gains. All I
wanted was to defend my country, and that is a legitimate cause
confirmed by international laws and divine rights. I wanted to defend
a country, an ancient civilization that has been desecrated, and
I am sure that history – especially in America – will
state how the American occupation was able to subjugate Iraq and
Iraqis, until its submission.

They will boast
about the deceit and the means they used in order to gain their
objective. It is not strange, not much different from what happened
to the Native Americans at the hands of colonialists. Here I say
to them (the occupiers) and to all who follow their steps, and all
those who support them and spoke up for their cause: Never.

Because we
are a people who would rather die than face humiliation.

And, lastly,
I say that I am independent. I am not a member of any political
party, something that was said during torture – one time that
I’m far-right, another that I’m a leftist. I am independent of any
political party, and my future efforts will be in civil service
to my people and to any who need it, without waging any political
wars, as some said that I would.

My efforts
will be toward providing care for widows and orphans, and all those
whose lives were damaged by the occupation. I pray for mercy upon
the souls of the martyrs who fell in wounded Iraq, and for shame
upon those who occupied Iraq and everyone who assisted them in their
abominable acts. And I pray for peace upon those who are in their
graves, and those who are oppressed with the chains of imprisonment.
And peace be upon you who are patient and looking to God for release.

And to my beloved
country I say: If the night of injustice is prolonged, it will not
stop the rising of a sun and it will be the sun of freedom.

One last word.
I say to the government: It is a trust that I carry from my fellow
detainees. They said, ‘Mutadhar, if you get out, tell of our plight
to the omnipotent powers’ – I know that only God is omnipotent
and I pray to Him – ‘remind them that there are dozens, hundreds,
of victims rotting in prisons because of an informant’s word.’

They have been
there for years, they have not been charged or tried.

They’ve only
been snatched up from the streets and put into these prisons. And
now, in front of you, and in the presence of God, I hope they can
hear me or see me. I have now made good on my promise of reminding
the government and the officials and the politicians to look into
what’s happening inside the prisons. The injustice that’s caused
by the delay in the judicial system.

Thank you.
And may God’s peace be upon you.

19, 2009

Iraqi journalist
Mutadhar al-Zaidi gave this speech on his recent release. The translation
is by McClatchy’s special correspondent, Sahar Issa.

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