Bremer thought he was in for an easy time, speaking to a group who shared his knuckle-dragging view of the world. While things were going smoothly and he answered fluff questions, a jubilant Bremer took a question from Yaser Sabah Al-Samarraie, who began very calmly stating his name and his background. Bremer was taking notes. He assumed he was going to be commended on his dirty work in Iraq. Instead, after his introduction, Al-Samarraie stated: “I have two messages; one from Saddam Hussein, ex-president, and one from the Iraqi people.” When the name Saddam Hussein was uttered, Bremer’s smile turned to a look of apprehension. Al-Samarraie continued: “This is the first message.” Then he threw a shoe at Bremer and heralded the second message with another shoe thrust at Bremer. He concluded: “You forget the country. You destroyed the country. Fuck you and fuck your democracy.” For an Arab, throwing a shoe at someone is the utmost display of disrespect.
The event was being filmed and a video of the incident appeared on You Tube. Here is the link to the video. It is impressive and unprecedented. You must watch this to get the entire gist of the importance of the action.
Al-Samarraie is a 30-year-old Iraqi who was born in London, but moved to Iraq at a young age and grew up there. He moved to England in 2005 after his country had been devastated by the US an UK. Currently, he is close to gaining his degree at the University of Greenwich (BSC Business Information Technology).
I spoke to Al-Samarraie and learned of his background, his hobbies, what life was like in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion and the events leading up to and after the February 7 event.
He participated in the sports of football (soccer to US citizens, but football to the rest of the world), basketball and swimming. He still plays football and swims, when he has time between his studies.
According to Al-Samarraie, who lived in the Al-Ghazlia area of Baghdad and is an ardent supporter of the late Saddam Hussein: “When the embargo started I was eight years old so I don’t know how life before the embargo was, but I can say that life during the embargo was safe and fair to every Iraqi family as every member of the family used to receive rations for basic needs for each human being. We had a problem of less electricity than usual but we get used to it. We lived in peace and love and we loved each other and we were safe and that’s the most important thing. The living costs were cheap and the wages were fair enough.”
That all changed on April 9, 2003, however; the day commonly called “The Fall of Baghdad. Al-Samarraie said: “On the 9th of April 2003 the US military entered my town and ran over any car in front of them and killed many innocent people. They controlled Saddam Hussein’s houses in Baghdad and didn’t let anybody go inside them. They let Iraqi people steal from banks, libraries and all government places. They said ‘Come on Ali Baba.’ Ali Baba was a thief in old ages but Iraqis are not thieves. The US army let them steal and opened the door to them. We were forced to hold white clothes to show that we were peaceful and not aiming to kill them. Iraq wasn’t safe at that time and is still not safe until now. It was safer before when Saddam Hussein was president.”
On February 2, 2013, Al-Samarraie learned of Paul Bremer’s upcoming appearance in London and then put his plan in place. It was something he felt compelled to do, whatever the cost or penalty. He explained: “When I heard that Bremer was coming to London I had a plan to do something to him to revenge Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people. The only things I could insert into the House of Commons without letting them know with their security check were the shoes. So I decided to take the shoes with me in my bag and hit him with them and go.
“On the day of the event I came by bus. I arrived at five o’clock to the House of Commons where Bremer was scheduled to deliver his speech. I entered as a member of the public and there was no booking ahead or anything like that. I took a spare pair of shoes with me and put them in the bag. I went through the security check, which was similar to an airport check, and it was fine. They let me in with my shoes in the bag.
“After Bremer said his message and he gave us time to ask him questions, it was my turn and I said what you and everybody heard. Then I left the room then the police came to me and arrested me outside the room. Then they let me go and said to me ‘Behave yourself’ “and ‘You have been banned from the House of Commons for many years.’ I asked them if I was going to court they said ‘no.’ Then they led me with the handcuffs to the outside door of the House of Commons and let me go.”
Al-Samarraie maintains that he threw the shoes at Bremer because Bremer destroyed the country and was the main reason behind the ensuing chaos in Iraq by disbanding the Iraqi army and allowing Shia-led death squads, many influenced by Iran, to terrorize and kill Sunnis and other non-Shia sects in Iraq.
Curiously, Al-Samarraie has had many people worldwide commend his actions. However, there seems to be a blackout of the event in Britain. He explained: “I didn’t see any reaction from the British community towards my display, neither on TV nor in papers. The reaction of the Iraqi community living in England was great. They phoned me and said they were very happy and proud with what I’ve done. They congratulated me and they called me a hero and I’m very happy to hear that.”
To show their appreciation, the Iraqi community in England recently hosted a party to commemorate Al-Samarraie’s shoeing Bremer. He was given a gold watch with Saddam Hussein’s picture in the background and also a symbolic golden shoe was pinned to his chest, similar to someone receiving a medal for a formidable action. Pictures from this event are at the end of this article.
This summer, Al-Samarraie will visit southern California and some of his supporters in the US will host a commemorative event for him. Additionally, a film-maker from Los Angeles will film the event as well as interview some of the political activists who supported Iraq unconditionally throughout its plight beginning in 1990 when the US put Iraq inside a box, destroyed the country, and imposed the most devastating embargo in history on the nation. The interviews and the commemoration will be put together, along with other materials, to produce a definitive documentary about Iraq, while highlighting the brave and heroic actions of Yaser Al-Samarraie, a committed person who did not back down in the everlasting fight for justice for Iraq.
|Golden shoe award|
|Yaser being awarded the golden shoe|
|Gold watch with Saddam Hussein background awarded to Yaser|
|Yaser outside Iraqi Embassy in London protesting Al-Maliki regime|