American foreign correspondent suffers fatal asthma attack while covering civil war for New York Times
The award-winning American journalist Anthony Shadid, regarded by his peers as one of the great foreign correspondents of his generation, has died in Syria after a fatal asthma attack while covering the civil war there.
Shadid, the recipient of two Pulitzer prizes for his reporting, had been in Syria for the New York Times. He was 43.
Shadid began his career with Associated Press before joining the Boston Globe and then the Washington Post.
Jill Abramson, the New York Times executive editor, informed the staff of his death in an email. “Anthony died as he lived – determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces,” she wrote.
Shadid, who was allergic to horses, was crossing the border with Turkey on his way home when he suffered a severe asthma attack apparently triggered by the proximity of his guides’ animals. Alongside him when he collapsed was the New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks, who last year was captured with Shadid by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya and imprisoned for several days.
“I stood next to him and asked if he was OK, and then he collapsed,” Hicks told his paper. “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”.
Despite administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 30 minutes, Hicks was unable to revive his colleague.
A Lebanese-American who grew up in Oklahoma, Shadid was fluent in Arabic. Those who worked with him recall him most strongly for his assiduous reporting, his passion and for his fluid prose.
Some of his most powerful dispatches were published by the Washington Post while he was working in Iraq, where his understanding of local politics and culture led him to stand head and shoulders above his colleagues.
While working for the Boston Globe covering the second intifada in 2002, Shadid was shot in the shoulder in Ramallah, on the West Bank, the bullet narrowly missing his spine.
The Pulitzer prize judges 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”. Shadid won a second Pulitzer in 2010, again for his reporting from Iraq, this time for the New York Times, which he had joined the previous year.
Shadid has been nominated along with a team of his colleagues for this year’s Pulitzer for international reporting, the winner of which will be announced in April.
Among those who paid tribute to Shadid on Friday was his colleague Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who covered Iraq with him. “In the summer of 2003, when the rest of the press corps in Baghdad fixated upon the lives of American soldiers in the desert, Shadid jumped in a white Chevy Caprice and headed south, to the Shia holy city of Najaf,” Chandrasekaran said.
“He spent days on end in Najaf’s labyrinthine alleys, gazing into seminaries and seeking out the most influential religious leaders of Iraq’s newly empowered majority sect. He grasped long before any other journalist, and well before the American officials cloistered in the Green Zone, that the new centre of power in Iraq rested with the grand ayatollahs of Shia Islam.”
That expertise was translated into several books including the award-winning Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War.
More recently Shadid focused his attention on covering the Arab spring, including in Egypt where he was pursued by Hosni Mubarak’s police, in Libya and most recently in Syria, which he revisited despite being denounced as a spy by the regime.
In November 2011 he wrote this in the New York Times about Egypt in the wake of its revolution: “Mr Mubarak still casts a long shadow over his broken capital, in all its decrepit grandeur. It is most visible in the black-clad, helmeted police officers who still act with impunity. It is there in the suspicion, and distrust, and frustration at all those Sisyphean struggles. It remains a city yet to be claimed by its people.”
from Peter Beaumont