World Bulletin / News Desk
“Even though I’ve received death threats, I’m determined to work for change [in Iraq],” he told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
Al-Zaidi, who hurled both his shoes at the U.S. president during a joint press conference with then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, traveled abroad after the incident due to concerns for his safety.
But now he has returned to his native Iraq to run in parliamentary polls slated for Saturday.
“I briefly went to Switzerland after being released from prison, where I was subject to torture for the shoe-throwing incident,” he recalled.
“I stayed in Switzerland for three months, during which I founded an NGO for victims of the U.S. invasion,” he said.
“After coming back to Iraq, I was detained -- along with my brother -- for taking part in anti-government protests in 2011,” al-Zaidi recounted.
“We were released three days later after waging a hunger strike, but our lives were in danger; the situation was intolerable,” he told Anadolu Agency.
He next went to Lebanon, where he remained in self-imposed exile while maintaining his opposition to Iraq’s post-invasion government and its “corrupt politicians”.
But he eventually came back to Iraq, he said, “to help change the country’s political regime into a system that doesn't discriminate against any religion or ethnicity”.
“We want an administration that doesn't care whether people are Sunni or Shia,” he asserted. “Both Sunnis and Shias face oppression in Iraq at the hands of the country’s political rulers.”
Al-Zaidi is contesting the election on the Sairun list, which includes liberal candidates while also enjoying the support of prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
“In my opinion, only the Sairun list -- which doesn’t receive any support from outside forces or warlords -- can meet Iraqis’ expectations,” he said.
Although al-Zaidi says he receives frequent death threats, there is no security detail at his Baghdad home.
“I’m living my life as usual; eating at restaurants and talking to people,” he said. “I believe I'm on the right path, so I have no fear of death.”
He added: “If they think they can terrorize me into abandoning my campaign, they are wrong.”
Asked whether the U.S., which maintains considerable political influence in Iraq, might thwart his political ambitions, he said: “I'm not afraid of the U.S. or any other country that might try to torpedo my candidacy.”
“We want an independent Iraq with good relations with its neighbors, especially Turkey and Iran,” he added. “And this is what I will work for if I win at the polls.”
Al-Zaidi was born in 1979 in the city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. He is married and has one daughter.