A teacher at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Tunis and a cartoon fan, Nadia Khiari was so dismayed by the former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s response to the popular uprising in January 2011, she started drawing a cat commenting on current events. Her ‘Willis from Tunis’ series quickly became very popular
Information is beautiful.
A visual representation of tweets/retweets at the time of the Egyptian revolution.
via Foreign Policy
It will be interesting to revisit this in 2012 and look at the impact of the ‘Arab Spring’
Level of freedom and democracy in the Middle East and North African countries
A disclaimer: I have never met Anthony Shadid and, unfortunately for me, following his death on Thursday while covering the conflict in Syria, I never will. Nevertheless, he is a person who inspired me greatly and to whom I will always feel an enormous amount of gratitude.
The first time I ever came across Anthony Shadid’s work was in August 2011 when I had only been in my role a couple of months. A large part of what I do is to filter through masses of Mid East content to decide what is fit for publication in our title. Skimming through very disturbing stories and images can become curiously mundane after a while, and I was beginning to feel depressed and disheartened. In my eyes, the violence in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria were blending into one long narrative of human suffering.
Here, amongst the quotidian, I found something that stood out. It was Shadid’s Syria’s Sons of No One and it was the beautifully-formed sentence “The hot wind of the Syrian summer billowed the thick drapes like sails in a storm” that struck me. I felt transfixed, transplanted even. I read all 5,000 words through and was almost surprised when I was finished to realise that I was still in my office in London.
Compared to other correspondents, who can seem disjointed, disconnected and even at times, haughty, Shadid’s work is beautiful in that it is poetic and yet so humble. Rather than imposing himself on the story and writing himself in unnecessarily, Shadid sits back, observing and gently draws the reader through. His writing shows that it is possible to tell any story with the sensitivity and compassion it deserves.
What I find abhorrent about a lot of other correspondents is that they inject themselves so overbearingly into the narrative. Constant comparisons are drawn between this conflict and the numerous others that they have covered. They like to remind the reader that nothing is new, and in doing so, they reduce the people they are writing about to mere puppets, literary devices who exist simply to prove their point. This approach inevitably ignores the subtle nuances of each situation; which I suppose could become easy to miss when one is battle-weary.
When you read Shadid’s work, you are acutely aware that you are reading about human beings and their suffering. He does not simplify and belittle people by constant comparison and seems understands their nuances. This is why ever since I read my first Anthony Shadid, my eye was instinctively drawn to his byline and I found myself always looking out of his next story. I would even read something quite compelling and find myself wondering how Shadid would have written it. I think I will have this feeling for some time to come. Despite my constant exposure to other writers, no one else has yet come close to having this effect on me.
Whilst his untimely passing at the age of 43 is absolutely tragic; I would instead like to think of all that he achieved and the legacy he created. He is a person who leaves behind an extraordinary body of work, who survived not only being shot in the back in Gaza in 2008 but also being captured by Gadhafi’s security forces in Libya in 2011. Perhaps I should be thankful that he survived long enough for my media beginnings at all!
What Anthony Shadid taught me most of all is the importance of remaining humble and not letting your ego get in the way of a story.