Bearing Witness in Syria: Anthony Shadid's Last Days

By Duane Shank 3-05-2012

Two weeks ago, veteran New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died from an asthma attack while exiting Syria.

Shadid and photographer Tyler Hicks, who had been kidnapped together while covering the Libyan uprising, were completing a week-long clandestine reporting visit to Syria, documenting the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

In the Sunday Times, Hicks told the story of that week in a long and gripping feature, "Bearing Witness in Syria," accompanied by some of his photos. The two journalists had spent most of the week with a group of activists.

Our journey in took us to a group of men who would be our guides in Syria. They call themselves activists, and unlike the fighters, they’re the civilian side of the revolution. They, too, are risking their lives to tell the world what is happening to their country.

In that short span of a week, Hicks and Shadid witnessed a skirmish between insurgent Free Syrian Army fighters and a column of government army tanks, spent an evening with “a carpeted room full of the fighters, now familiar to us, singing and playing traditional music, some clapping as one sang,” saw the shortages and suffering  being endured by the people.

Then, the tragedy of Shadid’s death, brought on by a severe allergy to the horses escorting them through the countryside back to the border. 

The poignant ending recounts the last words we’ll hear from Anthony Shadid

Just a few hours before he died, some activists asked to videotape an interview with him. Those are now the last images of him. In Arabic, he cheerfully commented on how busy the activists against the Assad government were in all walks of life — public services, media and, of course, security.

“Do you expect the regime will fall?” the interviewer asked him.

“I think it will,” he said. “But I think it will take a long time.”

You can see Tyler Hicks’ photos HERE.

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC.

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