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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders