Today (01 December 2009) and almost after a year, famed Iraqi shoe-throwing journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi was targeted himself. During a publicity event in Paris to promote his “campaign for the victims of the US occupation in Iraq,'” an Iraqi man who defended the United States’ actions in Iraq threw his own shoe at al-Zeidi. Here is a reference article on throwing moments of shoes written by this author originally published online on 17 December 2008:
On Sunday 14th of December 2008, Associated Press reported that, “Today, Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, hurled two shoes at President George W Bush during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Bush ducked both shoes as they whizzed past his head and landed with a thud against the wall behind him. It was a size 10, Bush joked later”. On 12th of October 1960, Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the former Soviet Union, waved his shoe and banged it on his desk in a session of the United Nations General Assembly. The recent event of the news conference in Baghdad showed again that the shoe could be considered not only as the footwear but also as a tool for the expression of ideas and attitudes. In this article the definitions of shoe throwing (aka shoe flinging or shoe hurling), the practice of shoe throwing in Arab culture, the previous historical moment of shoe throwing, and various remarks on the recent event of shoe throwing will be presented and reviewed.
DEFINITIONS AND DISTINCIONS: Shoe throwing (in Persian: Partaab-e Lengeh Kafsh) is the act of using shoes as improvised projectiles or weapons. In addition to the shoe throwing, there are also shoe tossing and boot throwing, which are the constituents of a number of folk practices and sports. Today, shoe tossing or shoe hanging (in Persian: Kafsh Aavikhtan) is commonly the act of hanging a pair of shoes onto telephone wires, power lines, trees, and fences. Shoe tossing has been observed in some areas of the United States, Colombia, Canada, Britain, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Ireland, Israel and Romania. Boot throwing (in Persian: Partaab-e Chakmeh) has been a competitive sport in New Zealand for many years, but it is not taken very seriously.
SHOE THROWING IN ARAB CULTURE: In the Arab world, shoe throwing is a gesture of extreme disrespect and it is also an insult:
1. As a gesture: According to the Book of Hebrew Bible (Psalms), this may be an ancient gesture from the Middle East. Psalms 60:8 speaking of some of the traditional enemies of Judah, says that “Over Edom will I cast out my shoe”. A notable type of this gesture went on in Baghdad in 2003 when Americans invaded Iraq. As soon as American forces pulled down a giant statue of Saddam Hussein, many critics of the Iraqi dictator threw their shoes at the fallen statue.
2. As an insult: The shoe as a footwear represents the lowest part of the body (the foot) and displaying or throwing a shoe at someone or something in Arab culture signifies that the target is “beneath the thrower”. Examples include Iraqi citizens smacking torn-down posters of Saddam Hussein with their shoes, and the depiction of George H W Bush (father of George W Bush) on the floor of the Al-Rashid Hotel’s lobby in 1991. A tile mosaic depicting George H W Bush with a look of astonishment on his face was installed on the floor of the lobby after the Persian Gulf War in 1991. This was intended to force any visitors to walk over his face to enter the hotel. The mosaic was smashed by US soldiers after the invasion, who replaced it with one of Saddam Hussein.
THE PREVIOUS HISTORICAL MOMENT OF SHOE THROWING: The shoe throwing or hitting shoes forcefully and hard on desk or other objects have not been reported as a part of the Russian culture, but during the Cold War the radical behavior of Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev as related to his own shoes in a session of the United Nations General Assembly must be considered as an historical event since it happened for the first time in an international meeting. On 12th of October 1960, the New York Times columnist Benjamin Welles, in his article wrote that, “Premier Khrushchev waved his shoe today and banged it on his desk, adding to the lengthening list of antics with which he has been nettling the General Assembly. Khrushchev thereupon pulled off his right shoe, stood up and brandished the shoe at the Philippine delegate on the other side of the hall. He then banged the shoe on his desk. Later during the debate Khrushchev alternately shouted, waved a brawny right arm, shook his finger and removed his shoe a second time. The second shoe incident occurred during a speech by Francis O Wilcox, an Assistant United States Secretary of State. Khrushchev and Foreign Minister Andrei A Gromyko exchanged smiles and winks and Khrushchev then reached down and slipped his shoe back on”.
VARIOUS REMARKS ON THE RECENT EVENT OF SHOE THROWING:
“I have seen a lot of weird things during my presidency but that watching a journalist throw shoes at me could rank as one of the strangest”: George W Bush.
“Bush had no hard feelings about the incident”: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.
“It is a good thing it did not hit him (George W Bush). I am not encouraging throwing shoes at anybody, but really, what courage”: Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.
“Legacies are built from big accomplishments and little images alike. Bush’s Iraq legacy will include Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the death toll, and the scorn Muntather al-Zeidi expressed with his shoes”: Unknown Author, Editorial Page, Montreal Gazette.
Wow-1: “NTV is ready to offer a job to the journalist. If he takes the job, he will be paid from the moment the first shoe was thrown”! Lebanese television channel NTV.
Wow-2: “As you might have heard, an Arab reporter threw his shoes at George W Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. So I started thinking how does this shoe throwing insult work? Footwear should be just as respectable as other articles of clothing. In fact, women love shoes. Some women cannot have enough of them. At one point, Imelda Marcus, the former first lady of Philippines became more famous than her husband because of the several hundred pair of shoes in her closet. So, I decided to ask around and find out how this insult thing works. If you know the answer to any of these questions, feel free to chime in.Here are the questions: Is it more of an insult to throw an old dirty shoe than a new or recently shined one? / If you throw an expensive dress shoe at someone, are you insulting him respectfully? / Is it a minor insult, if you throw children’s shoes? / Since in Islam and the Arabian societies, a woman is considered half as important as a man, is it proportionally more of an insult, if you throw a man’s shoe? / If you want to insult someone and have a specific amount in mind, can you make fractional insults? For Example, one man shoe, two women shoes and a child one./ Since there is a certain protocol in Islam and potentially the entire Arabian culture that you can only use your left hand for personal hygiene, does it make a bigger insult, if you throw the left shoe with your left hand first?”: Cy of Persia.
EPILOGUE: It should be noted that in addition to the regular Conventional Shoes, there are also numerous varieties of shoes used in Iran. Examples include the Open Type of Shoe (Sandal or Dampaaii), Sport Shoe (Kafsh-e Varzeshi or Kafsh-e Kataani), Traditional Shoes (Giveh, Chaarogh, and Gaalesh), Diver Footwear (Paacheeleh), Boot (Chakmeh), Clergy Shoe (Nalain), and many others.
Associated Press Website (2008): Online News on Bush ducks shoes during Baghdad news conference.
BBC News Website (2008): Online News on Bush describes weirdest moments.
Cy of Persia (2008): Online Article on the Shoe Insult.
Reuters Website (2008): Online News on Bush shoe thrower courageous: Venezuela’s Chavez.
Saadat Noury, M. (2008): Various Articles on Missing Moments.
Unknown Author (2008): Bush ducks a protest, Editorial Page, Montreal Gazette, December 16, 2008.
Various Sources (2008): News and Notes on Shoe Throwing in Baghdad.
Welles, B. (1960): Khrushchev Bangs His Shoe on Desk, the New York Times, October 12, 1960.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2008): Online Notes on Shoe Tossing and Nikita Khrushchev.
Read more about Historic Moments on MISSING MOMENTS