Tuesday, 21 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Nada Bakri, Widow of Anthony Shadid, on Her Husband’s Life and Posthumous Memoir, "House of Stone"

Thursday, 08 March 2012 08:02 By Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Interview & Video

TRANSCRIPT:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Three weeks ago, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid died of an apparent asthma attack while reporting on the conflict in Syria. Described as the "most gifted foreign correspondent in a generation," the 43-year-old Shadid had been reporting inside Syria for a week, gathering information on the Free Syrian Army and other elements of the armed resistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. He died as he was attempting to sneak back into Turkey. An allergy to horses set off the fatal asthma attack.

Shadid’s work often entailed great peril. In 2002, he was shot while reporting in Ramallah in the West Bank for the Boston Globe. He spent years covering the U.S. occupation of Iraq for the Washington Post. Last March, Shadid and three other New York Times journalists were kidnapped in Libya by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. They were held for six days, beaten before being released. Shortly after he was released, Anthony Shadid appeared on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: What makes you keep going back? You were shot in the shoulder in the West Bank in 2002. Why do you keep going back to war zones?

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, not to be flip, but it’s kind of pretty much the only thing I know how to do—not cover conflict. I actually don’t like covering conflict. I think you have to cover conflict when it’s part of what you do cover. And I do cover the Arab world. You know, I’ve been covering it for 15 years. I think now, finally, is the moment that we see that is transformative in the Arab world, and it does make you even more, I think, eager, in some ways, to cover, to try to bring meaning to it, to witness it. And it matters, I guess. I think at each time you make these decisions—say, in Baghdad in 2003, in Lebanon in 2006, you know, as you pointed out, in Ramallah in 2002—you think that if you’re not there, that the story won’t be told. You know, that might be a little bit arrogant or conceited. It’s absolutely—you know, it’s the only way to bring altruism to the story, that it’s not just about ambition, that you’re trying to do something that’s meaningful. You know, I hope that’s the case. It’s probably a mix of all of them together. But you do want to—I think especially people who have been covering this for a long time and who have a sense of the place, you know, I think those people want to have role, at least, in how these stories, how these conflicts, how these uprisings are covered.

AMY GOODMAN: By the way, who were you shot by in 2002?

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, there was an—the investigation was never—the Israelis did the investigation, so they couldn’t determine. In my mind, there was no one who could have shot me except for an Israeli soldier.

AMY GOODMAN: The late Anthony Shadid speaking on Democracy Now! last year.

Over the past three weeks, memorial services have been held for Anthony in Lebanon, where he lived, and Oklahoma City, where he grew up. His ashes have been buried between two olive trees at his ancestral home in the Lebanese village of Jedeidet Marjayoun. In 2007, Anthony rebuilt the family home there after it had been abandoned for decades. He wrote about the home in a memoir he completed just before his death. It’s called House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. It was published last week. Anthony Shadid dedicated the book, quote, "To my wife Nada, daughter Laila, and son Malik. And to Jedeidet Marjayoun, as it was and will always be."

Today we’re joined by Anthony Shadid’s widow Nada Bakri. She is a Lebanese-born journalist who also writes for the New York Times and was waiting with their little son in Turkey for Anthony as he was returning from Syria.

Nada, I know this is very difficult for you to do, and we thank you so much for joining us today.

NADA BAKRI: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: You have been through a tremendous amount over these last three weeks, including this book that Anthony wrote and was just published, this journey of your—of his rebuilding the family home. Can you start by telling us a little about who Anthony Shadid, your husband, your colleague, your friend, was?

NADA BAKRI: I met Anthony in 2006 after the Israeli war between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon. And, you know, the first thing that just struck me about him was how—you know, I’ve always heard his name and read his stories, but I’ve never met him. And, you know, the first thing that struck me about him is how modest he was. I just could not believe that someone like him would be as modest as this, you know, in a profession where, you know, people have such big egos and successful journalists have big egos. He had none of that. And, you know, that just instantly drew me to him. And then, as I knew him more, I just realized that maybe what best characterized him is how nice he was. Whoever came knocking on his door asking for a favor, asking for a contact, asking for a tip, asking for advice, wherever it was that they would be asking from him, he made time to sit with them, to tell them what they needed to hear, and more importantly, to listen to them. You don’t see a lot of people like that. He had—he was so busy over the four, five years writing a book, covering the Middle East. Last year was really brutal. He was finishing the edits on the book. He was covering uprisings across the Arab world. And he still made time to whoever came asking for his help. You know, that’s the Anthony that I knew. He’s a hard, hard-working journalist who never turned down anyone.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the conversations between you, especially when he would go off to one of these conflict zones, and—obviously, in the interview he did with us at Democracy Now!, he said this is part of what he does. But I’m sure the conversations, before going and then coming back, between the two of you must have been different.

NADA BAKRI: You know what? It wasn’t all that different. When I met Anthony, he was already a successful and accomplished journalist. This is what he did. And he did what he did because he loved the Middle East, he loved journalism, and he loved being a journalist in the Middle East. So it was more of a commitment to the story, to the Middle East, to the people of the Middle East and to journalism. It was never a question of, you know, "I want to be in this war zone because I like covering war so much, I like seeing death and all that." It was more, "I want to be there, because I want to see how the lives of these people are being changed. I want to document that. I want to witness it, and I want to write about it."

AMY GOODMAN: He was captured for almost a week in Libya with three other colleagues, and they were beaten, threatened, not clear if they would survive that. Can you talk about that period and coming home, and then his decision to go to Syria? Clearly, extremely dangerous for those who live there and also for reporters trying to get in.

NADA BAKRI: You know, when he called me, when they allowed him to call family members when they were being—when they were still captured in Libya, he called, and the first thing he said was how sorry he was, you know, for all his family members about the pain that he—that, you know, the capture must have caused them. And then he came home. And, you know, he saw his family members, repeated again how sorry he was that they had to go through this for him. And then, you know, he went back to work.

And again, it was not about, "I’m going to be in a dangerous place, and maybe I should not go there because it’s dangerous." You know, of course he thought about it, because he has two kids and he has a family who loved him so much, but it was more of a commitment, you know? I think it might be hard for a lot of people to understand this, but it was just a pure commitment to journalism. I have never seen anything like it. You know, after I had my son, my priorities shifted, and I did not want to be—you know, to take any risks anymore. But then again, I’m not—or I realize I’m not as committed to journalism as he is. He was just truly, genuinely committed to journalism, to covering the Middle East, in particular.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, a video has been posted online showing Anthony Shadid being interviewed by Syrian activists in the city of Idlib just hours before he died. I want to play part of what he said.

ANTHONY SHADID: [translated] I am seeing how activists are working. They work in services, media and security. I see how activists work with the Free Syrian Army. I feel that there is a new regime in Saraqib and Binnish, and this makes me happy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And that was obviously the interview before he attempted to come back. I was really struck in reading the Tyler Hicks account of those days over there. Obviously, Tyler must have gone through an enormous emotional upheaval himself, having been captured with him once before and then having this happen. I’m wondering the conversations you’ve had with Tyler since then and how he’s doing.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times photographer.

NADA BAKRI: You know, I can’t speak for Tyler, but I—just like you, I can imagine that he must be in a lot of pain, you know, remembering all the events that had happened, and especially on that last day, bringing Anthony back from Turkey. You know, he—obviously, I’m very grateful for him, because he brought Anthony back and—

AMY GOODMAN: He carried his body over the border.

NADA BAKRI: Well, he didn’t—

AMY GOODMAN: Did he die in Syria or Turkey?

NADA BAKRI: He died in Syria. They were still in Syria. And so, he did bring back the body with the help of the other activists or smugglers who were bringing them back to Turkey. I’m, you know, incredibly grateful for that, and I’m also grateful that Anthony had someone with him that he could have—that he depended on, like Tyler.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened in those last days. He went for a week.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And when he went into Syria, he had had his first asthma attack, is that right?

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: Coming in with the horses.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And were you able to communicate with him during this period?

NADA BAKRI: You know, very briefly. The activists told him, for security reasons, that they need to be very careful on the phone. So Anthony checked twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, for just a few minutes. They told him not to be on the phone for more than five minutes, and he never was. So, you know, the line was really bad. I could hear half of the words that he was saying, so I did not get to know all the details of the trip or, you know, how he was feeling and all that.

But the thing—the one thing that he repeated every day was that it was the best reporting trip of his life, that he was having a lot of fun, you know, gathering a lot of great material, and could not wait to get back and write the stories. You know, he had already outlined them in his mind, three stories, maybe a fourth one. You know, they were going to be great, and he was just very excited to come back and write them.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And his attachment is obviously to the Middle East. He spent so much time there. You, yourself, were born in Beirut. The conversations between you about the importance of what he was doing at this particular time and in this incredible upsurge of the Arab Spring and these popular revolts all around the Middle East, the conversations he must have had with you about the importance of his work?

NADA BAKRI: He felt very lucky that he was witnessing these uprising, that he was covering it, that he was part of this moment. He felt like, you know, this is a dream coming true for every journalist covering the Middle East. You know, after covering it for so many years—oppression and dictatorships and wars and conflicts and violence—it was finally—you know, finally, there was a—something is changing, and something positive and optimistic. He felt like it was going to take a while, but it was at least happening, you know, the change that people had for so long aspired for.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion and talk about Anthony’s book that was published after his death, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East, and also, Nada, speak with you about your reporting. You, too, have been covering the Middle East uprising for the past year. And also, we want to ask you what your plans are now. Nada Bakri, New York Times correspondent and now widow of Anthony Shadid, fellow correspondent at the New York Times. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Nada Bakri. She is a New York Times correspondent, has been covering the uprisings in the Middle East, and she is now the widow of Anthony Shadid, who died three weeks ago today. He appeared on Democracy Now! last April, soon after he was released from captivity in Libya and described how he and three of his colleagues—Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks—were kidnapped for six days in Libya. They were detained at a military checkpoint.

ANTHONY SHADID: I think they were ready to leave earlier. And in replaying these events over in my head, I wish I had left earlier. You never know when to stop reporting. You never know when you have enough or feel that you have enough. There’s always—you know, I hate to put it this way, but there’s probably always another anecdote or another interview you can do, you know, somehow that’s going to make that story more understandable or more tangible. And, you know, it’s hard to say otherwise. I mean, I clearly made a mistake that day in staying too long. And by the time we got to the checkpoint, it was too late.

AMY GOODMAN: So then, talk about what happened. Who first took you? What happened at the checkpoint?

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, there’s that look. I think, you know, there was a look, I think, in those soldiers’ faces of just fear and rage, as they saw us. And they pulled us out of the car. Like I said, the gun battle started immediately. And when we ran, Tyler ran first, and then I fell on a sandbar and got to my feet, and then I ran after him. And Tyler and Lynsey—or, I’m sorry, Lynsey and Steve followed. And we got behind a kind of a concrete shack, basically, to take cover from the shooting, and the soldiers set upon us there.

They emptied our pockets, you know, slapped us, beat us, and forced us onto our knees. And then I think—you know, again, I’m going to say it was minutes, but it was probably just seconds—they told us to get on our stomachs, to lay flat on our stomachs. And we all resisted. I mean, I think all of us had the idea that if we were going to get on our stomachs, we might be shot or executed. We resisted, and they forced us down. And I remember looking up, hearing a tall—I remember him being a tall, lanky soldier, saying, you know, basically, "Shoot them." And again, I’m sure it was just a matter of seconds, but it did feel like minutes—another soldier looked at him and said, "You can’t shoot them. They’re Americans." And soon after that, they tied our legs and our hands and threw us in two pickup trucks.

And that kind of was the beginning of a 12-hour period where, you know, every—I’d say every couple hours, every three hours, another gun battle, another fight with the rebels, would start. We would pour out of the cars, trying to take cover on the ground. And then, by 2:00 a.m., they put us in a tank, drove us to another location, and that started a kind of a journey of seven or eight hours across—basically across the Libyan coast toward Sirte, where we were held in jail for a night.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Shadid and his three New York Times colleagues would go on to be held for five days before being released. Our guest, Nada Bakri, Anthony Shadid’s colleague at the New York Times, and before that at the Washington Post, also covering the uprisings in the Middle East. You’ve been going around the Middle East, as well, so while this is all happening to Anthony, you, too, are reporting, not to mention having your child, Malik.

NADA BAKRI: Excuse me. I was actually just covering Syria from Beirut. I wasn’t traveling at all, because we have a two-year-old son. And, you know, with Anthony on the road, it makes it hard for both of us to leave and not have anyone to stay with our son. So I was just covering Syria from Beirut the whole time. I went there a couple of times, but—you know, and wrote stories, but I didn’t—I didn’t stay there or—it was just two quick day trips.

But, you know, Syria was very interesting to cover, and it’s still very interesting to cover. It has been very hard to cover it, because you’re covering it by remote, and you’re relying on activists’ accounts, activists that you’ve never met or, you know, don’t know what their agendas are. It’s hard to reach citizens or, you know, witnesses. And even when you reach them, you cannot independently confirm or have another account to confirm what they’re saying. So it was really, really hard to cover Syria this past year. We rely a lot on, you know, YouTube videos, because they give you more of an image, a live picture of what is happening there.

AMY GOODMAN: Before Libya, in fact, Anthony wrote this book, House of Stone.

NADA BAKRI: That’s true.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re both deeply rooted in Lebanon.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And before that, Anthony was shot in 2002 in the West Bank, in Ramallah, as he described, he believed by Israeli soldiers, and his colleagues, as well, said that they were the only ones in the position to do this, so the Israelis never did an investigation at the time.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: So he writes this book, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. Talk about this ancestral home that he rebuilt for all of you.

NADA BAKRI: He always had an idea to go back to Marjayoun and look for his ancestors’ home, and I think he finally made the trip in January 2006 and looked for the house. And he stayed in the town for about a month. And I think it was then when he had this idea of moving to the town for a year, taking a leave from his Washington Post job as the foreign correspondent in the Middle East and just rebuilding the house. And he did, the following year. He went on book leave, moved to Marjayoun, rented a small apartment.

AMY GOODMAN: This is when you were just coming to know him?

NADA BAKRI: Yes, yes. Moved to Marjayoun, rented a small apartment, and, you know, hired engineers and workers and builders, and started rebuilding the house. And he was just—I think it must have been the happiest year of his life. He was actually involved in the smallest details of building, from laying tiles on the ground to planting trees in the garden and, you know, doing all the gardening works, to painting, the carpentry. Every little detail, he was involved in. And, you know, as the house was getting finished, he was just—he grew more and more fond of the house. He just loved this house so much. It was, for him, something that he had created, and created from imagination. In his imagination, it was where his family came from, where it all began. And sadly for him, it’s where it ended.

JUAN GONZALEZ: He also talks in the book about some of the conflicts he had with the people in the town and their sense that he was not appreciative of the town’s history.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you talk about that reconnection to history and to the importance of the town that he came through in the process of rebuilding the house?

NADA BAKRI: You know, in the beginning, it was just a disaster. He was fighting left and right with everybody who was working in his house. And then, you know, as he understood more how people worked or how builders worked and workers worked, he appreciated what they were doing. And as they understand him more, they appreciated more what he was doing. And, you know—and it became a friendship between them all. They were all devastated when they heard the news that he passed away. And, you know, as he was spending time with them, he learned some much about his ancestors. He learned so much about the town’s traditions and history and, you know, legacy and just the simple ways of life there.

AMY GOODMAN: While Anthony Shadid was working on rebuilding his family’s ancestral home, he recorded a number of home videos about the process and the significance of this home.

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, it’s funny. When you walk through this house sometimes—and I did this a couple of weeks ago—you ask yourself that same question: you know, what is the—you know, what is the meaning of the house? What does the house mean? I remember looking at these stones on those arches. And there’s something about the stones, I think, that’s very evocative. The stone itself, it’s almost like a repository in a way, a repository of history, not necessarily tradition or culture, but a repository, in the sense that it’s borne witness to so much, both lives and events. And I think every time I look at this stone, at the size of it, you know, at how steadfast it is, in a way, it reminds me of that, that sense of it being a repository, the sense of it being a witness. And I think that’s what—I think that’s what it evokes in and of itself, and it also evokes that altogether as a building, as a structure.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We want to play more of Anthony Shadid’s video recorded while he’s rebuilding his family’s home in Lebanon. Here’s another clip.

ANTHONY SHADID: I think the notion why this, I think—how it has become important, in a way, is, I think, just how it represents an older Levant, an older Middle East. And we’re losing that, that older Middle East, you know, a Middle East that—you know, it’s, in some ways, nostalgia, but I think, nevertheless, it represented a certain tolerance, a certain secularism, a certain kind of liberal notion, a respect of diversity. And we are losing that these days, and especially in Lebanon. I think in southern Lebanon—I mean, you know, let’s face it: this town is dying. And with the death of the town is a loss of some of the diversity that southern Lebanon used to represent. You know, this house—you know, at one level, this house is a stand against loss. It’s a stand against that kind of loss. And it’s a futile gesture, I’m sure. It’s so small, it’s insignificant. But, you know, I think this tile—this tile represents an older notion of the Levant, the Middle East, that by putting it in this house, you know, I keep a part of that older Middle East, I keep a part of that older Levant alive. And, you know, if we have this notion or this idea that the house is living, you know, here’s something that brings even more life to it.

AMY GOODMAN: After the renovations were complete, Anthony Shadid recorded this video talking about his relationship with the village of Marjayoun.

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, what I realize as I end this year here, and as I try to make sense of it, that I don’t have a very deep connection to the town itself, to Jedeidet Marjayoun, this name that was always kind of—kind of expressed as an idea rather than a place, you know, among the family. I think I realize I have a connection to my friends here, to this house, that, in a way, I have an imaginary Jedeida, an imaginary town, and this town is what I’ve created out of it, or the things that I’ve come into contact that represent the town to me. And there’s something nice about that, I think, you know? That, you know, let’s say Jedeida dies in 20 or 30 years. I’m still going to have my own Jedeida, and that’s the house, the friends, the views, the history itself, and what this house has become—recreated, reinvented, renovated. And I think that Jedeida is going to last forever. Even after I leave, I’ll be able to take that Jedeida with me.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent and now—was with the New York Times, rebuilding his family’s home in Marjayoun. Nada Bakri, also a New York Times correspondent, with us, the widow of Anthony Shadid. Who owned the home? Tell us about the research. And I know how hard this is for you, especially because this was your refuge, as well.

NADA BAKRI: It’s actually owned by a Anthony’s great-grandfather and all his family, so it’s Isber Samara and all his descendants. So, I don’t know how many exactly, but like Anthony’s aunts and uncles and cousins and—

AMY GOODMAN: In one of the videos, he describes his great-grandmother scrubbing the floors, shining the floors, and the marriage of her first son and what would that mean for the floors.

NADA BAKRI: Yeah, Anthony was the same way, too. We would get there. The house would already have been cleaned, but it was never good enough for him, because he loved the house so much. So he would get on the floor and start scrubbing. He would, you know, wipe the walls, the furniture, the kitchen counter, everything. He just obsessed about every little detail about the house, because he loved it so much. And then, when someone told him the story about his grandmother only thinking about how the dance was going to hurt her floor, it just all made sense, because he was just like her.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this book, as you had said during the break, that it was actually written and completed several years ago and sort of laid around for a while, what—the story of the book itself, and its finally coming out?

NADA BAKRI: I think they—they had originally planned to publish it last year, and then—I don’t—I can’t remember all the details right now, but then they decided to move the publication date or to postpone the publication date until this spring. And then, of course, after he passed away, they moved it by a month. But it was—he finished it a couple of years ago and then started editing like two years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there a few paragraphs of the book, House of Stone, that you would like to read?

NADA BAKRI: Anthony wrote the epilogue after he—last September. He had already gone through Libya. And it—you know, after he was kidnapped in Libya and released. And that had a tremendous effect on him. It just, you know—so he wrote this epilogue after, and he was very happy with it. And so, I’m going to read two paragraphs from it.

“When they arrived in Marjayoun, the forefathers of Isber Samara carried with them the nomadic ways of the Houran and its Bedouin residents. Their possessions were few, but each family was said to have brought the wooden mihbaj, to prepare their coffee, and the iron saj, to bake their bread. The very sound of grinding coffee was considered an invitation to anyone and everyone to come. Stay, it suggested. Seek shelter. I thought of this as I returned to Marjayoun; I thought of what was lost and what might, somehow, return. I envisioned desert wanderers of different faiths and creeds offering aid and succor to each other as they crossed the steppe. I recalled the silent respect of the women in Tyre mourning in black before eighty-six numbered coffins, destined for a single grave. I remembered Tahrir Square and what had once more, for a moment, been imagined.

“As I had so often, I walked beside Isber’s house of stone, passing the two most ancient olive trees, still standing from the day my grandmother had said goodbye. I thought of my daughter, soon to arrive, walking up the steps from which her great-grandmother had departed, waiting to hear Raeefa’s songs. In my mind’s eye I saw Laila, suddenly grown, beside these trees and repeating the Arabic words that I would one day teach her, words that would take her back to Isber’s world, where the Litani River runs, over Marjayoun, over what was once our land.

"This is bayt. This is what we imagine."

And it was Anthony’s bayt.

AMY GOODMAN: Nada Bakri, reading the epilogue of House of Stone, Anthony Shadid’s book that was just published—really, their book. "The lost Middle East" that he talks about, that you both shared, that you both covered and reported on, can you talk more about this?

NADA BAKRI: You know, Anthony was really interested or fascinated by the Middle East of, you know, a hundred years ago, the cosmopolitanism of that era, when Marjayoun was a live town. It was an intersection. It was a kind of a center that brought people from, you know, all around it—people from Syria, people from Israel and Palestine, people from Lebanon—regardless of faith, of origins, of anything, of class. He was interested in that Middle East a lot. And, you know, when he moved there in the 1990s, early 1990s, it was not the Middle East that he had read about so much in books and he had heard about so much. You know, it was a place of violence and wars and conflicts and, you know, deaths and bloodshed. And so, he talks a lot about this lost Middle East and the longing for a Middle East that was once or a Middle East that he had imagined would be there.

AMY GOODMAN: In the last video that we saw of Anthony, in those last days before he died, he was wearing the scarf, the kafiya.

NADA BAKRI: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Is that the scarf that you’re wearing right now?

NADA BAKRI: That is the scarf. He was wearing it when he died, as they were hiking back to Turkey. And Tyler said that he was covering his face with it. And then, after he died, Tyler brought it back to me, and I’ve been wearing it since.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And your sense, as you’re talking about his desire to learn and understand the old Middle East, that—the changes now and what he was able to—so lucky to be able to witness and record, and your sense of the new Middle East that’s arising out of all of this popular upsurge of the last several—over the last couple of years?

NADA BAKRI: You know, I—yeah, I think he was very—felt very lucky to be witnessing this change, but also knew that it was going to be years before we could actually realize what the new order was going to be. You know, with so many moving parts and so many uncertainties still out there in the Middle East—in Syria, in Egypt, in Libya, really everywhere—it was not clear what kind of Middle East it was going to be. But he was really looking forward to, you know, witnessing that, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Nada, you are a reporter.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: You are a mother.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re now a widow. What are your plans now? You’re back in the United States.

NADA BAKRI: Right. I can talk about my immediate plans. I’m just—you know, I promised Anthony that I would help him promote the book once it’s published, so this is my very immediate plan. And then, of course, I have my son. I’m going to be taking care of him. There’s, you know, so many changes in his life. But then I don’t know what I’m going to do after this. I’m just not sure if I’m going to go back to work the way I worked before. I don’t know if I can still cover Syria. You know, I’m just—I have so many different feelings, and I just have to come to have—to sort them all out and figure out what I want to do.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re on leave from New York Times now?

NADA BAKRI: For now, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think you’ll continue to report? Your thoughts about reporting now?

NADA BAKRI: Right now I can’t imagine myself reporting or writing any story. I mean, right now, today or tomorrow, if you tell me, "Can you do a story tomorrow?" I would not be able to. But who knows?

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about journalism?

NADA BAKRI: I feel like when you give so much to something, not just journalism, but in general, they should—you know, it should be more generous to you. And, you know, it wasn’t this case for Anthony. He gave so much to journalism, and it wasn’t as generous as it should have been with him.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Nada Bakri, you’re very brave to come on now, so soon after Anthony’s death, three weeks ago today. Nada Bakri, a New York Times correspondent, is here talking about Anthony’s, well, now last book, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East, that they both shared. Thanks so much, Nada.

NADA BAKRI: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: And all the best to you and your family.

NADA BAKRI: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at Democracy Now! You can also see our interviews with Anthony over the years, as well as an excerpt of House of Stone, and we’ll link to the videos of his building of his house in his ancestral home in Marjayoun. This Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. Back in a minute.


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Nada Bakri, Widow of Anthony Shadid, on Her Husband’s Life and Posthumous Memoir, "House of Stone"

Thursday, 08 March 2012 08:02 By Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Interview & Video

TRANSCRIPT:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Three weeks ago, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid died of an apparent asthma attack while reporting on the conflict in Syria. Described as the "most gifted foreign correspondent in a generation," the 43-year-old Shadid had been reporting inside Syria for a week, gathering information on the Free Syrian Army and other elements of the armed resistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. He died as he was attempting to sneak back into Turkey. An allergy to horses set off the fatal asthma attack.

Shadid’s work often entailed great peril. In 2002, he was shot while reporting in Ramallah in the West Bank for the Boston Globe. He spent years covering the U.S. occupation of Iraq for the Washington Post. Last March, Shadid and three other New York Times journalists were kidnapped in Libya by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. They were held for six days, beaten before being released. Shortly after he was released, Anthony Shadid appeared on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: What makes you keep going back? You were shot in the shoulder in the West Bank in 2002. Why do you keep going back to war zones?

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, not to be flip, but it’s kind of pretty much the only thing I know how to do—not cover conflict. I actually don’t like covering conflict. I think you have to cover conflict when it’s part of what you do cover. And I do cover the Arab world. You know, I’ve been covering it for 15 years. I think now, finally, is the moment that we see that is transformative in the Arab world, and it does make you even more, I think, eager, in some ways, to cover, to try to bring meaning to it, to witness it. And it matters, I guess. I think at each time you make these decisions—say, in Baghdad in 2003, in Lebanon in 2006, you know, as you pointed out, in Ramallah in 2002—you think that if you’re not there, that the story won’t be told. You know, that might be a little bit arrogant or conceited. It’s absolutely—you know, it’s the only way to bring altruism to the story, that it’s not just about ambition, that you’re trying to do something that’s meaningful. You know, I hope that’s the case. It’s probably a mix of all of them together. But you do want to—I think especially people who have been covering this for a long time and who have a sense of the place, you know, I think those people want to have role, at least, in how these stories, how these conflicts, how these uprisings are covered.

AMY GOODMAN: By the way, who were you shot by in 2002?

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, there was an—the investigation was never—the Israelis did the investigation, so they couldn’t determine. In my mind, there was no one who could have shot me except for an Israeli soldier.

AMY GOODMAN: The late Anthony Shadid speaking on Democracy Now! last year.

Over the past three weeks, memorial services have been held for Anthony in Lebanon, where he lived, and Oklahoma City, where he grew up. His ashes have been buried between two olive trees at his ancestral home in the Lebanese village of Jedeidet Marjayoun. In 2007, Anthony rebuilt the family home there after it had been abandoned for decades. He wrote about the home in a memoir he completed just before his death. It’s called House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. It was published last week. Anthony Shadid dedicated the book, quote, "To my wife Nada, daughter Laila, and son Malik. And to Jedeidet Marjayoun, as it was and will always be."

Today we’re joined by Anthony Shadid’s widow Nada Bakri. She is a Lebanese-born journalist who also writes for the New York Times and was waiting with their little son in Turkey for Anthony as he was returning from Syria.

Nada, I know this is very difficult for you to do, and we thank you so much for joining us today.

NADA BAKRI: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: You have been through a tremendous amount over these last three weeks, including this book that Anthony wrote and was just published, this journey of your—of his rebuilding the family home. Can you start by telling us a little about who Anthony Shadid, your husband, your colleague, your friend, was?

NADA BAKRI: I met Anthony in 2006 after the Israeli war between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon. And, you know, the first thing that just struck me about him was how—you know, I’ve always heard his name and read his stories, but I’ve never met him. And, you know, the first thing that struck me about him is how modest he was. I just could not believe that someone like him would be as modest as this, you know, in a profession where, you know, people have such big egos and successful journalists have big egos. He had none of that. And, you know, that just instantly drew me to him. And then, as I knew him more, I just realized that maybe what best characterized him is how nice he was. Whoever came knocking on his door asking for a favor, asking for a contact, asking for a tip, asking for advice, wherever it was that they would be asking from him, he made time to sit with them, to tell them what they needed to hear, and more importantly, to listen to them. You don’t see a lot of people like that. He had—he was so busy over the four, five years writing a book, covering the Middle East. Last year was really brutal. He was finishing the edits on the book. He was covering uprisings across the Arab world. And he still made time to whoever came asking for his help. You know, that’s the Anthony that I knew. He’s a hard, hard-working journalist who never turned down anyone.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the conversations between you, especially when he would go off to one of these conflict zones, and—obviously, in the interview he did with us at Democracy Now!, he said this is part of what he does. But I’m sure the conversations, before going and then coming back, between the two of you must have been different.

NADA BAKRI: You know what? It wasn’t all that different. When I met Anthony, he was already a successful and accomplished journalist. This is what he did. And he did what he did because he loved the Middle East, he loved journalism, and he loved being a journalist in the Middle East. So it was more of a commitment to the story, to the Middle East, to the people of the Middle East and to journalism. It was never a question of, you know, "I want to be in this war zone because I like covering war so much, I like seeing death and all that." It was more, "I want to be there, because I want to see how the lives of these people are being changed. I want to document that. I want to witness it, and I want to write about it."

AMY GOODMAN: He was captured for almost a week in Libya with three other colleagues, and they were beaten, threatened, not clear if they would survive that. Can you talk about that period and coming home, and then his decision to go to Syria? Clearly, extremely dangerous for those who live there and also for reporters trying to get in.

NADA BAKRI: You know, when he called me, when they allowed him to call family members when they were being—when they were still captured in Libya, he called, and the first thing he said was how sorry he was, you know, for all his family members about the pain that he—that, you know, the capture must have caused them. And then he came home. And, you know, he saw his family members, repeated again how sorry he was that they had to go through this for him. And then, you know, he went back to work.

And again, it was not about, "I’m going to be in a dangerous place, and maybe I should not go there because it’s dangerous." You know, of course he thought about it, because he has two kids and he has a family who loved him so much, but it was more of a commitment, you know? I think it might be hard for a lot of people to understand this, but it was just a pure commitment to journalism. I have never seen anything like it. You know, after I had my son, my priorities shifted, and I did not want to be—you know, to take any risks anymore. But then again, I’m not—or I realize I’m not as committed to journalism as he is. He was just truly, genuinely committed to journalism, to covering the Middle East, in particular.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, a video has been posted online showing Anthony Shadid being interviewed by Syrian activists in the city of Idlib just hours before he died. I want to play part of what he said.

ANTHONY SHADID: [translated] I am seeing how activists are working. They work in services, media and security. I see how activists work with the Free Syrian Army. I feel that there is a new regime in Saraqib and Binnish, and this makes me happy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And that was obviously the interview before he attempted to come back. I was really struck in reading the Tyler Hicks account of those days over there. Obviously, Tyler must have gone through an enormous emotional upheaval himself, having been captured with him once before and then having this happen. I’m wondering the conversations you’ve had with Tyler since then and how he’s doing.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times photographer.

NADA BAKRI: You know, I can’t speak for Tyler, but I—just like you, I can imagine that he must be in a lot of pain, you know, remembering all the events that had happened, and especially on that last day, bringing Anthony back from Turkey. You know, he—obviously, I’m very grateful for him, because he brought Anthony back and—

AMY GOODMAN: He carried his body over the border.

NADA BAKRI: Well, he didn’t—

AMY GOODMAN: Did he die in Syria or Turkey?

NADA BAKRI: He died in Syria. They were still in Syria. And so, he did bring back the body with the help of the other activists or smugglers who were bringing them back to Turkey. I’m, you know, incredibly grateful for that, and I’m also grateful that Anthony had someone with him that he could have—that he depended on, like Tyler.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened in those last days. He went for a week.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And when he went into Syria, he had had his first asthma attack, is that right?

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: Coming in with the horses.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And were you able to communicate with him during this period?

NADA BAKRI: You know, very briefly. The activists told him, for security reasons, that they need to be very careful on the phone. So Anthony checked twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, for just a few minutes. They told him not to be on the phone for more than five minutes, and he never was. So, you know, the line was really bad. I could hear half of the words that he was saying, so I did not get to know all the details of the trip or, you know, how he was feeling and all that.

But the thing—the one thing that he repeated every day was that it was the best reporting trip of his life, that he was having a lot of fun, you know, gathering a lot of great material, and could not wait to get back and write the stories. You know, he had already outlined them in his mind, three stories, maybe a fourth one. You know, they were going to be great, and he was just very excited to come back and write them.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And his attachment is obviously to the Middle East. He spent so much time there. You, yourself, were born in Beirut. The conversations between you about the importance of what he was doing at this particular time and in this incredible upsurge of the Arab Spring and these popular revolts all around the Middle East, the conversations he must have had with you about the importance of his work?

NADA BAKRI: He felt very lucky that he was witnessing these uprising, that he was covering it, that he was part of this moment. He felt like, you know, this is a dream coming true for every journalist covering the Middle East. You know, after covering it for so many years—oppression and dictatorships and wars and conflicts and violence—it was finally—you know, finally, there was a—something is changing, and something positive and optimistic. He felt like it was going to take a while, but it was at least happening, you know, the change that people had for so long aspired for.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion and talk about Anthony’s book that was published after his death, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East, and also, Nada, speak with you about your reporting. You, too, have been covering the Middle East uprising for the past year. And also, we want to ask you what your plans are now. Nada Bakri, New York Times correspondent and now widow of Anthony Shadid, fellow correspondent at the New York Times. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Nada Bakri. She is a New York Times correspondent, has been covering the uprisings in the Middle East, and she is now the widow of Anthony Shadid, who died three weeks ago today. He appeared on Democracy Now! last April, soon after he was released from captivity in Libya and described how he and three of his colleagues—Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks—were kidnapped for six days in Libya. They were detained at a military checkpoint.

ANTHONY SHADID: I think they were ready to leave earlier. And in replaying these events over in my head, I wish I had left earlier. You never know when to stop reporting. You never know when you have enough or feel that you have enough. There’s always—you know, I hate to put it this way, but there’s probably always another anecdote or another interview you can do, you know, somehow that’s going to make that story more understandable or more tangible. And, you know, it’s hard to say otherwise. I mean, I clearly made a mistake that day in staying too long. And by the time we got to the checkpoint, it was too late.

AMY GOODMAN: So then, talk about what happened. Who first took you? What happened at the checkpoint?

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, there’s that look. I think, you know, there was a look, I think, in those soldiers’ faces of just fear and rage, as they saw us. And they pulled us out of the car. Like I said, the gun battle started immediately. And when we ran, Tyler ran first, and then I fell on a sandbar and got to my feet, and then I ran after him. And Tyler and Lynsey—or, I’m sorry, Lynsey and Steve followed. And we got behind a kind of a concrete shack, basically, to take cover from the shooting, and the soldiers set upon us there.

They emptied our pockets, you know, slapped us, beat us, and forced us onto our knees. And then I think—you know, again, I’m going to say it was minutes, but it was probably just seconds—they told us to get on our stomachs, to lay flat on our stomachs. And we all resisted. I mean, I think all of us had the idea that if we were going to get on our stomachs, we might be shot or executed. We resisted, and they forced us down. And I remember looking up, hearing a tall—I remember him being a tall, lanky soldier, saying, you know, basically, "Shoot them." And again, I’m sure it was just a matter of seconds, but it did feel like minutes—another soldier looked at him and said, "You can’t shoot them. They’re Americans." And soon after that, they tied our legs and our hands and threw us in two pickup trucks.

And that kind of was the beginning of a 12-hour period where, you know, every—I’d say every couple hours, every three hours, another gun battle, another fight with the rebels, would start. We would pour out of the cars, trying to take cover on the ground. And then, by 2:00 a.m., they put us in a tank, drove us to another location, and that started a kind of a journey of seven or eight hours across—basically across the Libyan coast toward Sirte, where we were held in jail for a night.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Shadid and his three New York Times colleagues would go on to be held for five days before being released. Our guest, Nada Bakri, Anthony Shadid’s colleague at the New York Times, and before that at the Washington Post, also covering the uprisings in the Middle East. You’ve been going around the Middle East, as well, so while this is all happening to Anthony, you, too, are reporting, not to mention having your child, Malik.

NADA BAKRI: Excuse me. I was actually just covering Syria from Beirut. I wasn’t traveling at all, because we have a two-year-old son. And, you know, with Anthony on the road, it makes it hard for both of us to leave and not have anyone to stay with our son. So I was just covering Syria from Beirut the whole time. I went there a couple of times, but—you know, and wrote stories, but I didn’t—I didn’t stay there or—it was just two quick day trips.

But, you know, Syria was very interesting to cover, and it’s still very interesting to cover. It has been very hard to cover it, because you’re covering it by remote, and you’re relying on activists’ accounts, activists that you’ve never met or, you know, don’t know what their agendas are. It’s hard to reach citizens or, you know, witnesses. And even when you reach them, you cannot independently confirm or have another account to confirm what they’re saying. So it was really, really hard to cover Syria this past year. We rely a lot on, you know, YouTube videos, because they give you more of an image, a live picture of what is happening there.

AMY GOODMAN: Before Libya, in fact, Anthony wrote this book, House of Stone.

NADA BAKRI: That’s true.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re both deeply rooted in Lebanon.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And before that, Anthony was shot in 2002 in the West Bank, in Ramallah, as he described, he believed by Israeli soldiers, and his colleagues, as well, said that they were the only ones in the position to do this, so the Israelis never did an investigation at the time.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: So he writes this book, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. Talk about this ancestral home that he rebuilt for all of you.

NADA BAKRI: He always had an idea to go back to Marjayoun and look for his ancestors’ home, and I think he finally made the trip in January 2006 and looked for the house. And he stayed in the town for about a month. And I think it was then when he had this idea of moving to the town for a year, taking a leave from his Washington Post job as the foreign correspondent in the Middle East and just rebuilding the house. And he did, the following year. He went on book leave, moved to Marjayoun, rented a small apartment.

AMY GOODMAN: This is when you were just coming to know him?

NADA BAKRI: Yes, yes. Moved to Marjayoun, rented a small apartment, and, you know, hired engineers and workers and builders, and started rebuilding the house. And he was just—I think it must have been the happiest year of his life. He was actually involved in the smallest details of building, from laying tiles on the ground to planting trees in the garden and, you know, doing all the gardening works, to painting, the carpentry. Every little detail, he was involved in. And, you know, as the house was getting finished, he was just—he grew more and more fond of the house. He just loved this house so much. It was, for him, something that he had created, and created from imagination. In his imagination, it was where his family came from, where it all began. And sadly for him, it’s where it ended.

JUAN GONZALEZ: He also talks in the book about some of the conflicts he had with the people in the town and their sense that he was not appreciative of the town’s history.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you talk about that reconnection to history and to the importance of the town that he came through in the process of rebuilding the house?

NADA BAKRI: You know, in the beginning, it was just a disaster. He was fighting left and right with everybody who was working in his house. And then, you know, as he understood more how people worked or how builders worked and workers worked, he appreciated what they were doing. And as they understand him more, they appreciated more what he was doing. And, you know—and it became a friendship between them all. They were all devastated when they heard the news that he passed away. And, you know, as he was spending time with them, he learned some much about his ancestors. He learned so much about the town’s traditions and history and, you know, legacy and just the simple ways of life there.

AMY GOODMAN: While Anthony Shadid was working on rebuilding his family’s ancestral home, he recorded a number of home videos about the process and the significance of this home.

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, it’s funny. When you walk through this house sometimes—and I did this a couple of weeks ago—you ask yourself that same question: you know, what is the—you know, what is the meaning of the house? What does the house mean? I remember looking at these stones on those arches. And there’s something about the stones, I think, that’s very evocative. The stone itself, it’s almost like a repository in a way, a repository of history, not necessarily tradition or culture, but a repository, in the sense that it’s borne witness to so much, both lives and events. And I think every time I look at this stone, at the size of it, you know, at how steadfast it is, in a way, it reminds me of that, that sense of it being a repository, the sense of it being a witness. And I think that’s what—I think that’s what it evokes in and of itself, and it also evokes that altogether as a building, as a structure.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We want to play more of Anthony Shadid’s video recorded while he’s rebuilding his family’s home in Lebanon. Here’s another clip.

ANTHONY SHADID: I think the notion why this, I think—how it has become important, in a way, is, I think, just how it represents an older Levant, an older Middle East. And we’re losing that, that older Middle East, you know, a Middle East that—you know, it’s, in some ways, nostalgia, but I think, nevertheless, it represented a certain tolerance, a certain secularism, a certain kind of liberal notion, a respect of diversity. And we are losing that these days, and especially in Lebanon. I think in southern Lebanon—I mean, you know, let’s face it: this town is dying. And with the death of the town is a loss of some of the diversity that southern Lebanon used to represent. You know, this house—you know, at one level, this house is a stand against loss. It’s a stand against that kind of loss. And it’s a futile gesture, I’m sure. It’s so small, it’s insignificant. But, you know, I think this tile—this tile represents an older notion of the Levant, the Middle East, that by putting it in this house, you know, I keep a part of that older Middle East, I keep a part of that older Levant alive. And, you know, if we have this notion or this idea that the house is living, you know, here’s something that brings even more life to it.

AMY GOODMAN: After the renovations were complete, Anthony Shadid recorded this video talking about his relationship with the village of Marjayoun.

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, what I realize as I end this year here, and as I try to make sense of it, that I don’t have a very deep connection to the town itself, to Jedeidet Marjayoun, this name that was always kind of—kind of expressed as an idea rather than a place, you know, among the family. I think I realize I have a connection to my friends here, to this house, that, in a way, I have an imaginary Jedeida, an imaginary town, and this town is what I’ve created out of it, or the things that I’ve come into contact that represent the town to me. And there’s something nice about that, I think, you know? That, you know, let’s say Jedeida dies in 20 or 30 years. I’m still going to have my own Jedeida, and that’s the house, the friends, the views, the history itself, and what this house has become—recreated, reinvented, renovated. And I think that Jedeida is going to last forever. Even after I leave, I’ll be able to take that Jedeida with me.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent and now—was with the New York Times, rebuilding his family’s home in Marjayoun. Nada Bakri, also a New York Times correspondent, with us, the widow of Anthony Shadid. Who owned the home? Tell us about the research. And I know how hard this is for you, especially because this was your refuge, as well.

NADA BAKRI: It’s actually owned by a Anthony’s great-grandfather and all his family, so it’s Isber Samara and all his descendants. So, I don’t know how many exactly, but like Anthony’s aunts and uncles and cousins and—

AMY GOODMAN: In one of the videos, he describes his great-grandmother scrubbing the floors, shining the floors, and the marriage of her first son and what would that mean for the floors.

NADA BAKRI: Yeah, Anthony was the same way, too. We would get there. The house would already have been cleaned, but it was never good enough for him, because he loved the house so much. So he would get on the floor and start scrubbing. He would, you know, wipe the walls, the furniture, the kitchen counter, everything. He just obsessed about every little detail about the house, because he loved it so much. And then, when someone told him the story about his grandmother only thinking about how the dance was going to hurt her floor, it just all made sense, because he was just like her.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this book, as you had said during the break, that it was actually written and completed several years ago and sort of laid around for a while, what—the story of the book itself, and its finally coming out?

NADA BAKRI: I think they—they had originally planned to publish it last year, and then—I don’t—I can’t remember all the details right now, but then they decided to move the publication date or to postpone the publication date until this spring. And then, of course, after he passed away, they moved it by a month. But it was—he finished it a couple of years ago and then started editing like two years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there a few paragraphs of the book, House of Stone, that you would like to read?

NADA BAKRI: Anthony wrote the epilogue after he—last September. He had already gone through Libya. And it—you know, after he was kidnapped in Libya and released. And that had a tremendous effect on him. It just, you know—so he wrote this epilogue after, and he was very happy with it. And so, I’m going to read two paragraphs from it.

“When they arrived in Marjayoun, the forefathers of Isber Samara carried with them the nomadic ways of the Houran and its Bedouin residents. Their possessions were few, but each family was said to have brought the wooden mihbaj, to prepare their coffee, and the iron saj, to bake their bread. The very sound of grinding coffee was considered an invitation to anyone and everyone to come. Stay, it suggested. Seek shelter. I thought of this as I returned to Marjayoun; I thought of what was lost and what might, somehow, return. I envisioned desert wanderers of different faiths and creeds offering aid and succor to each other as they crossed the steppe. I recalled the silent respect of the women in Tyre mourning in black before eighty-six numbered coffins, destined for a single grave. I remembered Tahrir Square and what had once more, for a moment, been imagined.

“As I had so often, I walked beside Isber’s house of stone, passing the two most ancient olive trees, still standing from the day my grandmother had said goodbye. I thought of my daughter, soon to arrive, walking up the steps from which her great-grandmother had departed, waiting to hear Raeefa’s songs. In my mind’s eye I saw Laila, suddenly grown, beside these trees and repeating the Arabic words that I would one day teach her, words that would take her back to Isber’s world, where the Litani River runs, over Marjayoun, over what was once our land.

"This is bayt. This is what we imagine."

And it was Anthony’s bayt.

AMY GOODMAN: Nada Bakri, reading the epilogue of House of Stone, Anthony Shadid’s book that was just published—really, their book. "The lost Middle East" that he talks about, that you both shared, that you both covered and reported on, can you talk more about this?

NADA BAKRI: You know, Anthony was really interested or fascinated by the Middle East of, you know, a hundred years ago, the cosmopolitanism of that era, when Marjayoun was a live town. It was an intersection. It was a kind of a center that brought people from, you know, all around it—people from Syria, people from Israel and Palestine, people from Lebanon—regardless of faith, of origins, of anything, of class. He was interested in that Middle East a lot. And, you know, when he moved there in the 1990s, early 1990s, it was not the Middle East that he had read about so much in books and he had heard about so much. You know, it was a place of violence and wars and conflicts and, you know, deaths and bloodshed. And so, he talks a lot about this lost Middle East and the longing for a Middle East that was once or a Middle East that he had imagined would be there.

AMY GOODMAN: In the last video that we saw of Anthony, in those last days before he died, he was wearing the scarf, the kafiya.

NADA BAKRI: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Is that the scarf that you’re wearing right now?

NADA BAKRI: That is the scarf. He was wearing it when he died, as they were hiking back to Turkey. And Tyler said that he was covering his face with it. And then, after he died, Tyler brought it back to me, and I’ve been wearing it since.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And your sense, as you’re talking about his desire to learn and understand the old Middle East, that—the changes now and what he was able to—so lucky to be able to witness and record, and your sense of the new Middle East that’s arising out of all of this popular upsurge of the last several—over the last couple of years?

NADA BAKRI: You know, I—yeah, I think he was very—felt very lucky to be witnessing this change, but also knew that it was going to be years before we could actually realize what the new order was going to be. You know, with so many moving parts and so many uncertainties still out there in the Middle East—in Syria, in Egypt, in Libya, really everywhere—it was not clear what kind of Middle East it was going to be. But he was really looking forward to, you know, witnessing that, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Nada, you are a reporter.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: You are a mother.

NADA BAKRI: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re now a widow. What are your plans now? You’re back in the United States.

NADA BAKRI: Right. I can talk about my immediate plans. I’m just—you know, I promised Anthony that I would help him promote the book once it’s published, so this is my very immediate plan. And then, of course, I have my son. I’m going to be taking care of him. There’s, you know, so many changes in his life. But then I don’t know what I’m going to do after this. I’m just not sure if I’m going to go back to work the way I worked before. I don’t know if I can still cover Syria. You know, I’m just—I have so many different feelings, and I just have to come to have—to sort them all out and figure out what I want to do.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re on leave from New York Times now?

NADA BAKRI: For now, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think you’ll continue to report? Your thoughts about reporting now?

NADA BAKRI: Right now I can’t imagine myself reporting or writing any story. I mean, right now, today or tomorrow, if you tell me, "Can you do a story tomorrow?" I would not be able to. But who knows?

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about journalism?

NADA BAKRI: I feel like when you give so much to something, not just journalism, but in general, they should—you know, it should be more generous to you. And, you know, it wasn’t this case for Anthony. He gave so much to journalism, and it wasn’t as generous as it should have been with him.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Nada Bakri, you’re very brave to come on now, so soon after Anthony’s death, three weeks ago today. Nada Bakri, a New York Times correspondent, is here talking about Anthony’s, well, now last book, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East, that they both shared. Thanks so much, Nada.

NADA BAKRI: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: And all the best to you and your family.

NADA BAKRI: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at Democracy Now! You can also see our interviews with Anthony over the years, as well as an excerpt of House of Stone, and we’ll link to the videos of his building of his house in his ancestral home in Marjayoun. This Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. Back in a minute.


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