x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Beirut farewell for reporter Shadid, writer of 'poetry on deadline'

Prize-winning journalist and Middle East expert gave a voice to the voiceless.

BEIRUT // Friends, colleagues and family gathered in Beirut on Tuesday to celebrate the life of Anthony Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the preeminent Middle East correspondents of his generation.

Shadid, The New York Times' Beirut bureau chief, died on Thursday from an asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.

Yesterday, his life and work were remembered at a poignant memorial service at the American University of Beirut, not far from the shore of the Mediterranean.

His death at the age of 43 triggered an outpouring of tribute and praise for a man who was able to produce "poetry on deadline", as one colleague, Steve Fainaru, recently wrote in The Washington Post.

Speaker after speaker paid similar tributes at the memorial ceremony in the university's sand-coloured brick assembly hall. No music was played. Candles flickered outside.

Shadid's wife, Nada Bakri, also a New York Times correspondent read from one of his books.

His father Buddy, and Tyler Hicks, The New York Times photographer who was on assignment with Shadid in Syria when he died, also spoke.

Mr Hicks told the packed, cathedral-like hall of the way Shadid "looked people in the eyes and they knew he really cared what they had to say".

"If they told him their story, he would relay that honestly and truthfully," he said.

Damon Shadid spoke of his elder brother's drive to write about "community and life".

Others recalled an extraordinary man and journalist who wrote from the perspectives of people in the Arab world who otherwise would not have been heard, giving voice to the voiceless.

Shadid was born in Oklahoma in 1968, an American of Lebanese descent and father of a son, Malik, and daughter, Laila. He spent 25 years as a reporter, 15 of those in the Middle East, winning two Pulitzer Prizes for his work in Iraq, first in 2004 and again in 2010

He was nominated again for this year's award for his extensive coverage of the Arab uprisings, which saw him write not only from Syria, but also from Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya.

zconstantine@thenational.ae