Monday, December 15, 2008
Somewhere, Tariq Ali is smiling. His classic piece in response to 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, Letter to a Young Muslim, seems to capture al-Zeidi's perspective perfectly. Yes, it appears that he is a secular leftist who, as related by As'ad Abukhalil, believes in the hammer, sickle, and shoe.
Family members expressed bewilderment over al-Zeidi's action and concern about his treatment in Iraqi custody. But they also expressed pride over his defiance of an American president who many Iraqis believe has destroyed their country.
"I swear to Allah, he is a hero," said his sister, who goes by the nickname Umm Firas (mother of Firas, her oldest son), as she watched a replay of her brother's attack on an Arabic satellite station. "May Allah protect him."
The family insisted that al-Zeidi's action was spontaneous — perhaps motivated by the political turmoil that their brother had reported on, plus his personal brushes with violence and the threat of death that millions of Iraqis face daily.
Al-Zeidi joined Al-Baghdadia television in September 2005 after graduating from Baghdad University with a degree in communications. Two years later, he was seized by gunmen while on an assignment in a Sunni district of north Baghdad.
He was freed unharmed three days later after Iraqi television stations broadcast appeals for his release. At the time, al-Zeidi told reporters he did not know who kidnapped him or why, but his family blamed al-Qaida and said no ransom was paid.
In January he was taken again, this time arrested by American soldiers who searched his apartment building, his brother, Dhirgham, said. He was released the next day with an apology, the brother said.
Those experiences helped mold a deep resentment of both the U.S. military's presence here and Iran's pervasive influence over Iraq's cleric-dominated Shiite community, according to his family.
"He hates the American physical occupation as much as he hates the Iranian moral occupation," Dhirgham said, alluding to the influence of pro-Iranian Shiite clerics in political and social life. "As for Iran, he considers the regime to be the other side of the American coin."