ISIS Jihadists Mocked in Iraqi Artist’s Shoe Sculptures

Akeel Khreef, sculptures of ISIS jihadists made of old shoe soles. Photo: Sabah Arar, courtesy AFP Photo.
Akeel Khreef, sculptures of ISIS jihadists made of old shoe soles. Photo: Sabah Arar, courtesy AFP Photo.

An Iraqi artist is taking aim at Islamic militant group ISIS with a series of sculptures of jihadists made from old shoes, reports the AFP.

The artworks are the work of Akeel Khreef, a 35-year-old architectural engineering professor. He embellishes worn-out shoe soles with facial features made of zippers, metal screws, and shoelaces.

Khreef’s work insults ISIS in a big way: in the Middle East, revealing the bottom of your shoes to another person is considered the height of rudeness, and if you want to call an Iraqi a really bad name, “waja al-kundara,” which means “face of the shoe” is particularly offensive. Footwear’s capacity to insult became widely known in the West in 2008, when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw both his shoes at then-president George W. Bush during a press conference.

“I wanted to portray the extent of the criminality and ugliness and ugly acts of the organization’s members,” Khreef explained to the AFP. The sculptures “appear sick in their mentalities, and bloodthirsty.”

The militant group’s attack on Iraq has taken a devastating toll, both on the country’s people and its cultural heritage (see ISIS Destroying Iraq’s Cultural Heritage One Site at a Time, ISIS Militants Demolish Jonah’s Tomb in Iraq, ISIS Defends Heritage Site Destruction, and Could US Cultural Protection Czar Stop Rampant ISIS Looting?).

“I will not get them out of my country with this work,” Khreef admitted, “but. . . I am certain they would be embarrassed by it.” He is currently working a mural featuring 20 shoe jihadists. He gets his materials from the local cobbler and from the trash—although he sometimes gets mocked for doing so. “Rubbish is not harmful, and can be used for useful things,” Khreef insists. “I work in the street. I want the people to know this art.”

Though his outspokenness against ISIS could make him a target of the militant group, that is a danger Khreef is willing to face. “Death is everywhere, and I am not more important than someone who defends his country and carries a weapon and goes to confront the enemy face to face. . . . at least I would die believing in a true cause.”

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