At work in Iraq with Anthony Shadid
Naseer Mehdawi, Anthony Shadid's closest Iraqi friend and journalism colleague, recalls their friendship and how together they told the story of Iraq.
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Out of this journey, I caught the journalism bug from Anthony. Before the war, I had been a foreign relations manager at the Ministry of Culture. When war broke out on March 20, 2003, I found myself feeling responsible for the safety of my family and my colleague, Anthony, who was in the midst of all the chaos. I did not want him to venture around without my advice and protection. I was worried, of course, about my own safety as well. I had a wife and children, who were toddlers when I met Anthony. During these events and after the war began, our relationship became stronger and stronger, and the trust between us became bigger and bigger. We treated each others like brothers. We were brothers. After the collapse of Saddam’s regime, the Washington Post started building a bureau in Baghdad, headed by Rajiv. I remember meeting the photographer Andrea Bruce and the others. Anthony and I continued on our journey, but this time out of Baghdad and out of the bureau. We went to Najaf together, to Fallujah, Ramadi, Basra, Kirkuk, Nasiriya, Tikrit, Haditha. We were spending so much time together, more time than I was spending with my family. We were the first people who met Moqtada Sadr in Najaf and wrote a story about him. We were the first people who found an informant in Duluiya. We were the first people who met insurgents fighting the Americans in Khaldiya.Skip to next paragraph
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Anthony was very aggressive in his work, and he was telling me that I was aggressive, too. We were a very good team. The stories were on the front page all the time. He was stylish in his writing. He was never afraid of going into danger. We had been through a lot terrible and dangerous places. When he was nominated for a Pulitzer for the best coverage in Iraq Anthony promised that he would share it, and he did. He shared the prize money with me after he won. He was very humble and kind. He appreciated the people who worked with him to help he tell his stories. He knew my secrets, I knew his. I introduced him to my family and my children, Yousi and Ahmed. He knew the dates of their birthday and sent greetings every year.
I left Iraq in 2004 because the insurgents sent me a threatening letter, condemning me for working with an Americans paper and for helping them. The letter said I deserved to be killed. Then they bombed my house on March 2, 2004. The Post, with Rajiv and Anthony, helped move my family to Amman, Jordan. Anthony escorted us there and helped us find a place. Anthony was on a break then to finish his book, "Night Draws Near." A few months later, we met again in Amman and decided to go back to work in Baghdad. I left my family in Amman in November 2004 and went back to Iraq to work with Anthony. I’ve since immigrated to Sweden with my family.
I am so devastated right now. I cannot believe that he is gone. I lost a dear and real brother first and a colleague second. He was a phenomenon in journalism, and I think no one can replace him. It is a very great loss to the journalism world. He was so brave, fearless, persistent, never gave up to find the truth and show it to the world. I am very proud and honored that I worked with him for more than four years, sharing with him the sadness and happiness that was Iraq. It is a great loss for me and my family, for journalism, and for his family and his two lovely children. God rest him in peace. He will be always remembered.