Anthony Shadid: Writer hailed as one of the finest foreign correspondents of his generation

 

Anthony Shadid, a distinguished Middle Eastern correspondent who has died suddenly, was taken ill while returning from Syria after spending a week there without the knowledge of the authorities. He died of an asthma attack as he was being guided back to Turkey by smugglers after a New York Times undercover assignment.

His eventful career in the US media saw him covering almost two decades of Middle East conflict in many countries. It included being shot in Ramallah in the West Bank and being held for a week by the Libyan regime during last year's uprising. Tributes flowed in following his death. His one time-colleague Steve Fainaru, like Shadid a Pulitzer prize-winner, said of him: "He wrote poetry on deadline. He was just completely unflappable. He was the best reporter, his attention to detail was amazing. He was one of the kindest, most compassionate, most empathetic people I ever met."

A brush with death came in 2002 in Ramallah, in what was then described as "the most dangerous assignment in the world right now". He was hit while sheltering in a shop doorway by a bullet which just missed his flak jacket, struck him in the shoulder and exited, leaving two wounds. He recovered, although a dozen pieces of shrapnel remained in his body. He said later: "I will go back. It's not like a cowboy thing, I don't get high on an adrenaline rush. This is an important story, one that I have been involved with for a long time."

Anthony Shadid was born in Oklahoma City into a family which had moved there from Lebanon. He had a great childhood, he said, in a Lebanese community which he described as closed, tight-knit and sharing.

"There was a sense of coming from someplace else and having to make it in the place they ended up, and there was a lot of pride in that," he recalled. "The one thing that shaped my life was that I wanted to be a journalist in the Middle East, and to go back to the Arab world and try to understand what it meant to be Lebanese."

He worked for the Associated Press first in the US and then in Cairo, where his knowledge of Arabic was an asset. He moved on to work in the Middle East for the Boston Globe, Washington Post and most recently New York Times. Along the way he twice won the Pulitzer Prize as well as a string of other awards and honours. One of his Pulitzer citations praised "his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader toppled and their way of life upended."

Last March he was one of four western journalists detained for six days by the Gaddafi regime after entering rebel-held territory without visas. They were released to the Turkish embassy in Tripoli. He later related a conversation with his father, Buddy, the night before he was detained, saying: "Maybe a little bit arrogantly, perhaps with a little bit of conceit, I said, 'It's OK, Dad, I know what I'm doing. I've been in this situation before.'"

Describing the present turmoil in Syria, he wrote last month: "A government, as defiant as its opposition is in disarray, has left Syria descending into a protracted, chaotic and perhaps unnegotiable conflict."

The photographer Tyler Hicks, who had been detained with Shadid in Libya, said he had an asthma attack on the way into Syria then a second fatal attack on the way back to Turkey. "I stood next to him and asked if he was OK, and then he collapsed," he said.

Shadid's father said his son had asthma all his life and had medication with him. "He was walking to the border because it was too dangerous to ride in the car," he added. "He was walking behind some horses – he's more allergic to those than anything else – and he had an asthma attack. They were in an isolated place. There was no doctor around. It took a couple of hours to get him to a hospital in Turkey."

Shadid was the author of two books, while a third, House of Stone, is due to be published next month. It describes his family's past in Lebanon, where his great-grandfather built up an extensive estate, and its journey to the US. The Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati said he had known and admired Shadid personally, while the former US presidential candidate Ralph Nader called him "a great, great reporter who elevated his profession's standards".

The New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger said: "Anthony was one of our generation's finest reporters. He brought to his readers an up-close look at the globe's many war-torn regions, often at great personal risk."

Shadid is survived by his wife Nada Bakri, also a journalist, and a son and daughter.

Anthony Shadid, journalist: born Oklahoma City 26 September 1968; married Nada Bakri (one son, one daughter); died Syria 16 February 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks