Pulitizer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid dies in Syria

The Times reports that Shadid had been reporting inside Syria for the past week, gathering information on the Free Syrian Army and other armed groups resisting al-Assad.

A photographer who was traveling with him, Tyler Hicks, told the paper that Shadid had asthma and carried medication with him. The photographer said Shadid began to "show symptoms" as they prepared to leave Syria yesterday, and those symptoms led to a fatal attack. The story by the Times' Rick Goldstone recounts what happened to Shadid.

The assignment in Syria, which Mr. Shadid arranged through a network of smugglers, was fraught with dangers, not the least of which was discovery by the pro-government authorities in Syria. 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 they squeezed through the fence’s lower portion by pulling the wires apart, and 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.

On the way out a week later, however, Mr. Shadid suffered a more severe attack — again apparently set off by proximity to the horses of the guides, Mr. Hicks said, as they were walking toward the border. Short of breath, Mr. Shadid leaned against a rock with both hands.

“I stood next to him and asked if he was O.K., and then he collapsed,” Mr. Hicks said. “He was not conscious and his breathing was very faint and very shallow.” After a few minutes, he said, “I could see he was no longer breathing.”

Mr. Hicks said he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 30 minutes but was unable to revive Mr. Shadid.

Shadid's career was studded with awards. He won two Pulitzer Prizes working as a Middle East correspondent for some of the best newspapers in the country: the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and for the past two years, the New York Times. Prior to that he worked for the Associate Press. He also won the prestigious George Polk Award and an Overseas Press Club award.

Shadid's new book, House of Stone, is set to be published next month.

On the New Yorker's blog this morning, Steve Coll, who worked with Shadid at the Washington Post during the Iraq war, has this tribute:

There are other great Middle East correspondents working today—Robert F. Worth of the Times, for example—but none with Anthony’s personal story and outlook, which flowed into his story choices, sentences, and techniques. Journalists recognize each other’s signatures and tricks. One of Anthony’s was to frame a story around the proprietor of a single café, bookstore, or university department. It’s not easy to bring a passive character and setting of that sort to life, but Anthony did it again and again. Reading the whole body of his work was like reading a linked series of stories about a world of (usually) men bathed in cigarette smoke, hyped up on coffee, and ready to talk about why the world is the way it is. Like a great short-story writer, Shadid’s use of these characters was neither too heavy nor too light; he let them breathe and speak, and they allowed the reader to join in, to slip inside worlds and ways of thinking normally closed off.

In 2003, the Iraq war was brewing and Shadid wanted to be in Baghdad, working independently, when it began. Shadid was married at the time, with a small daughter at home. (Later, that marriage would end; he was married a second time, to Nada Bakri, with whom he had a son.) As the “shock and awe” bombing began and the future of Saddam Hussein’s regime fell into doubt, he arranged a conference call to explain, as a low-key country lawyer might, why he should be allowed to remain on the ground and assume the risks ahead. He persuaded; his work from Iraq was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the first of two he won during his career, and became the basis for his first, excellent book, “Night Draws Near.” The foreboding and ambivalence that the characters he wrote about expressed was striking at the time, but as the years have passed and Iraq’s initial crisis has yielded to the ambiguous mess we know today, it is evident that the middle-class, unofficial, urban Iraqis he chronicled had envisioned their own future very accurately. As in so many other cases, Shadid was willing to sit still, away from the main story, and listen. He will be missed; his work is irreplaceable.

Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to approve a resolution that condemned President al-Assad’s crackdown and called for his resignation under an Arab League peace proposal to resolve the conflict.

But the resolution is nonbinding, accomplishing nothing other than embarrassing the Syrian leader. The fighting will continue unabated.

  • Anthony Shadid

The biggest story in the world the past few months has been the indiscriminate slaughter of citizens in Syria by its president, Bashar al-Assad.

Observing what's gone on in neighboring Middle Eastern countries, al-Assad determined months ago that he would not wind up like former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, and has led a brutal offensive against the uprising.

Syria has banned Western reporters from crosssing its borders, but some have.

Tragically, one reporter who did make the crossing in the past week, the New York Times' Anthony Shadid, died yesterday, not from being caught in the cross-fire between government and opposition forces, but because of an apparent asthma attack.

He was 43.

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