Anthony Shadid’s Last Story: The Free Syrian Army
Photographer Tyler Hicks has written a powerful account of the last days of Anthony Shadid, the New York Times foreign correspondent who died from an asthma attack just 45 minutes from the border of Turkey on February 16. Shadid and Hicks had ventured into Syria under the cover of darkness and spent a week with fighters for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), soldiers who had defected because, as they told Shadid, they refused to follow orders to fire on civilians.
Shadid took copious notes but these are, writes Hicks, “barely decipherable.” Knowing that Shadid would have wanted some “record of this final trip,” Hicks has written about their week in Syria, meeting rebel fighters in Idlib province in northern Syria near the Turkish border:
The Free Syrian Army is much more organized than the rebel fighters in Libya. Because of the growing number of defectors, there’s a stock of able, trained soldiers and officers mounting in Syria. As the attack on the tanks showed, they don’t yet have the weapons to put up a realistic fight.
The New York Times has also published the photographs Hicks took of the fighters. The two that especially resonated with me are of fighters and civilians in a village street and of fighters spending an evening singing, dancing and playing traditional music after attacking a column of Syrian Army tanks, their rifles hung in a row on the wall.
Some activists asked to tape an interview with Shadid, just hours before he died. Noting that these are the “last images” of Shadid, Hicks quotes from the interview:
“Do you expect the regime will fall?” the interviewer asked [Shadid].
“I think it will,” he said. “But I think it will take a long time.”
Shadid’s death on February 16 was tragic as is the chance to read his reporting about a conflict that is approaching its one-year anniversary this month.
Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy, who was wounded in the attack on a media center in Homs that took the lives of foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer René Ochlik, has given his first interview describing how he was smuggled out of the bombarded city via motorbike. He describes what is going on in Syria now as an “indiscriminate massacre of men, women and children” that is comparable to the 1990 killings in Bosnia and Rwanda.
The Syrian government has continued to bar a Red Cross convoy from entering the battered Bab Amr district of Homs, four days after FSA troops withdrew. Activists report that the district is now all but “deserted.” The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says that it has brought aid to a “considerable” number of families who have fled Bab Amr and are now in the nearby village of Abel. The ICRC also says that up to 2,000 people are fleeing Syria to cross the border into northern Lebanon; some 7,000 Syrian refugees have already registered with the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Lebanon.
Activists report that the Syrian army has been shelling other areas, including the al-Quosoor neighbourhood of northern Homs, where a number of large demonstrations were held during the siege of Bab Amr, and the city of Rastan norther of Homs, where the activist Local Coordinating Committee reports that five children have been killed.
China, Syria’s ally, has called for both sides to make an immediate ceasefire and initiate talks. On Sunday, a Saudi official said that Syrians have a right to arm themselves against the regime and that Damascus is “imposing itself by force” and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching citizens in desperate need of medical supplies, food and more. Qatar and Libya have also offered to help rebel forces opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
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Photo of Anthony Shadid by Terissa Schor