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Arab-Americans Mourn Sudden Death of Reporter Anthony Shadid

posted on: Feb 17, 2012

Arab-Americans from metro Detroit and others are mourning the sudden death of Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times who died Thursday in Syria after an asthma attack.

Shadid, 43, was a foreign correspondent who wrote about the Middle East and was widely praised for his reporting and writing. He was known for humanizing the lives of ordinary people caught up in violent conflicts.

The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Shadid learned Arabic as an adult and once interned at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the leading civil rights group for Arab-Americans, before becoming a journalist. Today, ADC’s internship program is named after him.

“It’s a huge loss, not just for Arab-Americans, but for journalists,” said Abed Ayoub, of Dearborn, the national director of ADC. “He embodied what journalists should be.”

Warren David, of Northville and the president of ADC, said Shadid “was one of our most valuable community members, a former intern, and the namesake of our current internship program.”

David added that “his work and expertise as an Arab American journalist will be sadly missed.”

The Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) called his death “a tragic loss of an excellent journalist.”

Linda Sarsour, a coordinator with the Dearborn-based National Network for Arab American Communities, said she was “so heartbroken” and had “a striking pain inside” after hearing about Shadid’s death.

The Network of Arab-American Professionals in New York City was to honor Shadid in two weeks.

In addition to winning two Pulitzer Prizes, which is rare, Shadid received other awards and was honored at the annual banquet of ADC in 2004.

Shadid reportedly died while he and a photographer were leaving Syria for Turkey. They had entered Syria a week ago to cover the escalating violence in a place where journalists are often targeted. Shadid’s father told the Associated Press that his son suffered an asthma attack set off by allergies from horses that guides were using.

“He was walking to the border because it was too dangerous to ride in the car,” the father told the Associated Press. “He was walking behind some horses — he’s more allergic to those than anything else — and he had an asthma attack.”

The New York Times wrote that: “Short of breath, Mr. Shadid leaned against a rock with both hands.”

Photographer Tyler Hicks told the Times: “I stood next to him and asked if he was O.K., and then he collapsed.”

In an interview last month in Mother Jones, Shadid said: “I don’t think there’s any story worth dying for, but I do think there are stories worth taking risks for.”

Shadid, a Lebanese-American Christian, grew up in Oklahoma. He was set to release a memoir called House of Stone, about an ancient estate built by his great-grandfather in Lebanon.

Before working for the New York Times, Shadid wrote for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. While reporting in Ramallah for the Globe in 2002, he was once shot at and wounded.

In 2004, he won his first Pulitzer Prize for his work at the Washington Post covering the Iraq war.

During the war, some conservatives criticized Shadid for his stories, which painted vivid portraits of the struggles of Iraqi civilians, according to a 2004 article in American Journalism Review. But he was widely praised by others and highly respected by journalists around the world.

In his 2004 Pulitzer award, Shadid was cited “for 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.”

Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press