Shoe-Throwing at Ahmadinejad Suggests Cracks in Iran's Efforts to Limit Public Discourse

The man who hurled his shoes at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week was arrested, state-run Mehr news agency reported.

The former textile worker’s actions are being considered an act of defiance. He tossed the shoes at the Iranian leader's head during a speech he was giving at a factory in the city of Sari.

“This is the ultimate irony,” said Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, “There were reports that other people there were supporting this man, and what happened is a message from the people. What the public is saying to Ahmadinejad is, ‘What you said about Bush, you are ten times worse.'”

Rubin says that the incident could trigger a change in thought among the citizens of Iran.

“Iran is an autocratic society. If people start to lose fear of that autocratic regime, then it collapses,” he said.

The man, identified only as Rashid S., had recently lost his job at the factory were the event was being held and lobbed his footwear at the president, missing his head but hitting a banner behind him, according to reports on various state-run news agencies in Iran.

It was not immediately clear if the man is still in custody.

“He might unfortunately be a little bit of a martyr. But Iranians rally around a martyr, which could make him a hero,” Rubin said. “The fact that someone doing this in public shows that there is cracks in the regime. Perhaps the Supreme Leader has no clothes.”