BAGHDAD: A huge bronze shoe sculpture has been erected in tribute to the Iraqi journalist who grabbed instant fame when he threw his shoes at former US president George W Bush last year.
The shoe, in which a tree has been planted, stands three metres high (about 10 feet) and sits atop a white pedestal in Tikrit, the hometown of executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
A rose bush is growing next to the monument which was erected in the gardens of an Iraqi foundation that cares for children whose parents have died in the violence that engulfed Iraq after the March 2003 US-led invasion.
A poem praising Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi has also been written on a board and stands at the foot of the monument, the work of Iraqi artist Laith al-Ameri.
“This is a gift for the family of Muntazer al-Zaidi, a hero, whose act helped Iraqi people feel proud,” a member of the children’s foundation told a crowd of 400 people gathered for the unveiling of the work of art.
The foundation’s president, Shaha al-Juburi, insisted that the sculpture was not backed by any political party or organisation.
Zaidi hurled his shoes at Bush during the US president’s farewell visit to Iraq on December 14, an action considered a grave insult in the Arab world.
The 29-year-old journalist for Al-Baghdadia television also insulted the American president, shouting: “It is the farewell kiss, you dog.”
His action was hailed across the Arab world as an ideal parting gift to a president widely unpopular in the region.
Zaidi was arrested after his act and charged with “aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit.” He faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.