Anthony Shadid: Pullitzer-Prize Winning Journalist Dies in Syria

Article Summary
Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir pays hommage to the memory of veteran New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, who died in Syria on Thursday, February 16. An American of Lebanese descent, Mr. Shadid was living in Beirut with his wife, Nada Bakri, and son Malek prior to his death. His wife’s uncle was interviewed for this obituary.

“I did feel that Syria was so important, and that story wouldn’t be told otherwise, that it was worth taking risks for,” said Anthony Shadid, The New York Times Middle East correspondent, with great confidence, in an interview with Terry Gross in December explaining the risks of his job. Perhaps Shadid (43 years old), American of Lebanese descent, was aware of the potential danger he could face covering the events in Syria and earlier, the revolutions in Egypt and Libya. But what Shadid did not know was that he would die of an asthma attack in February 16, 2012 in the Syrian town of Idlib, hours before [he was scheduled] to arrive in Istanbul for a family vacation.
The veteran reporter made the above statement before his trip to Syria, which saw him entering the country from Lebanon on a motorcycle across a rugged stretch of land. This adventure was not the first in the [long] journalistic journey of Shadid, from the Lebanese village of Jdeidet Marjeyoun, who began his career as a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press based in Cairo, traveling around the region between 1995 and 1999. He later worked at the Boston Globe before moving to the Washington Post, where he was the Islamic Affairs correspondent and Baghdad bureau chief until 2009, when he joined The New York Times’ office in Beirut.

Mohammed Bakri, the uncle of Shadid’s wife [Nada Bakri], does not have [additional] information about the death of his beloved [nephew,] the writer, except for what has been published in The New York Times: “[The journey into the country required both] Mr. Shadid and Mr. Hicks to travel at night to a mountainous border area in Turkey adjoining Syria’s Idlib Province, where the demarcation line is a barbed-wire fence”. Mr. Hicks said “guides on horseback met them on the other side. It was on that first night, Mr. Hicks said, that Mr. Shadid suffered an initial bout of asthma, apparently set off by an allergy to the horses, but he recovered after resting.  A week later, however, Mr. Shadid suffered a more severe attack - again apparently set off by proximity to the horses of the guides - as they were walking toward the border.  “Short of breath, Mr. Shadid leaned against a rock with both hands […] and then he collapsed,” Mr. Hicks said, adding that he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 30 minutes but was unable to revive his colleague.

Bakri told Al-Safir that everyone is awaiting the report of the forensic pathologist, who will examine the body of Shadid, carried by Hicks to Antioch, in order to find out the exact circumstances of his death. “The loss of Shadid's is a terrible one for journalism, literature and the public. He is a man of deep humanity, tenderness and humility although he was remarkably knowledgeable. In fact, he has fallen victim to [his quest for] knowledge.”

The writer, "devoted to his Lebanese roots", was about to publish a book entitled House of Stone in Beirut next April, tackling the special relationship he had with Lebanon and describing the Israeli massacres in Southern Qana in 2006.” Shadid and his father were born in America, but their family is of Lebanese descent. They were trying to regain their Lebanese nationality, especially considering that Shadid has managed to reconstruct his house in Jdeidet Marjayoun, and lived with his wife, Nada Bakri (from Kamed El-Lawz, Western Bekaa) who also works at [The New York Times], and his (one and a half-year-old) child Malek in Ain ​​El-Mreisseh.”

However, his three year-old marriage was the victim of a difficult profession riddled with adventures and losses, as [Shadid] was strongly devoted, passionate and yearning for information about the Free Syrian Army in Syria. The New York Times genius did not rest on his laurels after he won the Pulitzer Prize, the largest US award for journalism, in 2004 and 2010 - for his coverage of the Iraq war and the events in Lebanon and Palestine - and an honorary doctorate from the American University in Beirut (AUB) in 2011. Indeed, he could not stand watching the Arab uprising from afar. He traveled to Egypt and then to Libya, where he along with some colleagues was abused by forces loyal to the late Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

The articles of Shadid, who was born in Oklahoma, were last seen on the pages of The New York Times on February 9, and left without bidding farewell to their regional and international readers. That day, [Shadid] wrote from Tripoli, Libya, saying: "The country that witnessed the Arab world’s most sweeping revolution is foundering. [...] But no one would consider a city ordinary where militiamen tortured to death an urbane former diplomat two weeks ago, where hundreds of refugees deemed loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waited hopelessly in a camp and where a government official acknowledged that 'freedom is a problem’.”

Found in: obituaries, journalists

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