Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Anthony Shadid endured beatings and fears of imminent death last month as a captive of soldiers loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
He emerged from that and other recent journalistic experiences with something most people might not expect — a sense of optimism about the future of the Arab world.
“I think peace in the Middle East is coming,” Shadid said Thursday. “I have to say. I'm optimistic.”
Shadid, who has reported on rebellions and conflicts from about every Arab hot spot as a journalist for The New York Times and other publications during the past 15 years, said he is particularly heartened by recent events in Egypt and Tunisia.
“I think what we saw in Egypt and Tunisia was some of the most breathtaking events in the Arab World since World War I,” he said. “I think it's going to force Israel to make peace, and I think we're going to see a healthier Arab world — an Arab world where governments will reflect the aspirations of their people, where people are citizens and not subjects, and their rights are enshrined in law.
“I think that's coming. I think it's going to be tough. I think what we saw in Egypt and Tunisia were the easy steps. I think what we're seeing in Libya is in some ways more of what we're going to see in years ahead. It's going to be tough. There are going to be tragedies. There's going to be conflict, and there's going to be bloodshed.”
A hero's welcome
Shadid, 43, made his remarks Thursday to an appreciative homecoming audience of about 250 people who gathered at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum to welcome him back to the city where he was raised and to hear about the brutality he and three other New York Times journalists endured last month while being held captive by Gadhafi forces.
The audience appeared anxious to give Shadid a hero's welcome, greeting him with a standing ovation, but it was a mantle he refused to accept.