Kelly McEvers

After many years in the Middle East, Kelly McEvers is back home and working as a national correspondent based at NPR West. She previously ran NPR's Beirut bureau, where she earned a George Foster Peabody award, an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia award, a Gracie award, and an Overseas Press Club mention for her 2012 coverage of the Syrian conflict. She recently made a radio documentary about being a war correspondent with renowned radio producer Jay Allison of Transom.org.

In 2011, she traveled undercover to follow Arab uprisings in places where brutal crackdowns followed the early euphoria of protests. She has been tear-gassed in Bahrain; she has spent a night in a tent city with a Yemeni woman who would later share the Nobel Peace Prize; and she spent weeks inside Syria with anti-government rebels known as the Free Syrian Army.

In Iraq, she covered the final withdrawal of U.S. troops and the political chaos that gripped the country afterward. Before arriving in Iraq in 2010, McEvers was one of the first Western correspondents to be based, full-time, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In 2008 and 2009, McEvers was part of a team that produced the award-winning "Working" series for American Public Media's business and finance show, Marketplace. She profiled a war fixer in Beirut, a smuggler in Dubai, a sex-worker in Baku, a pirate in the Strait of Malacca and a marriage broker in Vietnam.

She previously covered the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia as a freelancer for NPR and other outlets. She started her journalism career in 1997 at the Chicago Tribune, where she worked as a metro reporter and documented the lives of female gang members for the Sunday magazine.

Her writing also has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Monthly, Slate and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her work has aired on This American Life, The World, and the BBC. She's taught radio and journalism in the U.S. and abroad.

She lives with her family in California, where she's still very bad at surfing.

On the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, NPR is catching up with some of the people we encountered during the war. In 2006, at the height of the violence, we brought you the story of a woman who performed the Muslim ritual of washing and preparing the dead for burial. Kelly McEvers has this update on Um Abbas, who is now living in southern Iraq.

Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NPR is looking at where the country stands now. NPR's Kelly McEvers recently visited Baghdad and offered this take on how the Iraqi capital feels today.

I think the single word that would best describe Baghdad these days is traffic. It can take hours just to get from one place to another. And I guess that's both good and bad.

Ten years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, NPR is taking a look back, revisiting people and places first encountered during the war. In 2006, NPR aired a story about a 9-year-old girl who loved her father so much, she wrote him letters to take to work with him. Even after he died, in a carjacking that appeared to have a sectarian motive, she still wrote to him.

The Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra has been secretive, keeping to itself and refusing to meet Western journalists. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the Obama administration and was thought to be made up mostly of foreign fighters, working alongside Syrian rebels.

But lately, members are starting to open up as more Syrians join the group and they make more gains on the ground in the fight against the Syrian government.

Parts of the northern Syrian province of Idlib are a U.N. World Heritage site, known for its ancient archaeological wonders. Walking along muddy, rocky ground covered in new grass and wild daffodils, we start to see remnants of Roman structures — the columns and doorways of dwellings, temples and churches that date back to the 1st century.

They're known as the Dead Cities, and they trace the transition from ancient pagan Rome to Christian Byzantium. Until recently, they were deserted, frozen in time.

Kafr Nabl is surrounded by rocky hills covered with olive and fig trees. Located in northwest Syria near the Turkish border, it used to be a sleepy town of about 30,000 people. Then it rose up against the government in early 2011. More than a year later, the town was "liberated" by anti-government rebels who forced out soldiers and police who worked for the government.

Syria's war has thrown ordinary citizens into situations they never could have imagined and changed them in ways they never would have dreamed. It's turned carpenters, engineers and doctors into armed rebels. And in Aleppo, it has turned a young female teacher into a war photographer.

We first met Nour Kelze back in October, on our first trip to Aleppo. We asked her to work with us as an interpreter. She agreed but said she also would be shooting pictures.

Kelze, 25, had been teaching English and only recently became a war photographer.

In Syria, the staple of most meals is a thin, round, flat bread that we would probably call pita.

Back in November, as fierce fighting raged across Syria, people started to run out of this bread. Government forces were attacking bakeries in rebel-held areas and cutting off electricity so mills couldn't grind flour. By late last year, Syrians were desperate.

The situation for Syrian refugees is getting dire. Much has been reported about the worsening conditions for hundreds of thousands of Syrians taking up shelter just outside the country's borders, but inside Syria, the numbers are even higher. The United Nations says some 2 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria, and most of them end up squatting in mosques and schools. NPR's Kelly McEvers spent a night in one of those schools, in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and sent this report.

Aleppo's storied old city, which dates to the 12th century, has suffered much in the fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels over the past few months. But parts of the city remain intact, as I saw on a recent walk through the winding, stone alleys on the way to the front line.

Centuries ago, it took Muslims from this area months in a caravan to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, which is now part of Saudi Arabia.

It's called Beit Qamishlo, or the House of Qamishlo. It's named after a city in northeastern Syria, though the house isn't even in Syria — it's just across the border in southern Turkey.

The house is humble, made of concrete blocks, with tile floors. Arabic slogans are taped on the walls: "Beit Qamishlo is a house for everyone," "It's a window to Syria's future," "Under one roof we plant life together and freedom."

Ibrahim Abazid had no idea he would be part of a nationwide revolt in Syria — or that his role would keep evolving.

It was March 2011. Some teenagers in his hometown, Dera'a, got arrested for spray painting anti-government slogans outside a school. Rumors began circulating that the teenagers were being tortured while in detention in the southern town.

In the broader region, Arab protesters had been filling the streets for months. Dictators in Tunisia and Egypt had already fallen. Abazid and his friends went to pray.

The U.S. has now formally recognized a new Syrian opposition group as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. But the U.S. has repeatedly declined to provide weapons for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's army.

However, NPR has learned that there are movements behind the scenes. In Jordan, several Syrian sources said that Jordanian authorities, along with their U.S. and British counterparts, have organized training for Syrian rebels on sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons.

It's about 9 o'clock in the morning, and already it's been a long day for Abu Anas. He has lost two men to a sniper serving the Syrian regime. Four more have been injured.

But Abu Anas walks with a striking calm through the bombed-out, ruined streets of Aleppo, a city that has been at war for months. He wears a black headband bearing Islam's holy creed: "There is no God but God. And Muhammad is his messenger."

Syrian rebels claim they shot down a MiG fighter jet not far from the Syrian-Turkish border on Wednesday. Along with the downing of a military helicopter on Tuesday, it would appear to be one of the first times rebels have successfully used a kind of weapon called a MANPAD, or portable, shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile that can hit a plane in fight.

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We've heard about how U.S. and European sanctions on Iran have caused that country's currency to plummet and how Iran is now buying up gold and trying to dump its own currency outside its borders. Well, Iran is part of a regional economy and the falling currency is starting to hurt at least one of Iran's neighbors. NPR's Kelly McEvers sent this report from southern Iraq.

Before the Syrian uprising, Aleppo was many things: Syria's largest city, its economic hub and cultural capital, one of the oldest, continuously occupied cities in the world.

Now, Aleppo has a more ominous distinction: a city that's seen some of the worst destruction, not only in Syria, but of any battleground in many years.

It's been more than three months since rebels in Syria launched an offensive to take Aleppo. In the early days of the offensive, the rebels were able to take about half the city.

Eid al-Adha is one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar. The day marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. It's the feast of the sacrifice, when any Muslim who is able should sacrifice an animal and donate the meat to the poor.

There is little to celebrate in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, however. A cease-fire called for the holiday is already crumbling, and in some areas it never took hold.

"I'm not crazy," the figure says, standing alone in a dark room, as if trying to convince himself.

"I'm not crazy?" almost a question this time.

"I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy!" he yells, finally making up his mind.

And, of course, he sounds crazy.

Meet Beeshu, an avatar of the embattled president of Syria, Bashar Assad, rendered in papier-mache and mounted on someone's finger. He's the star of the show Top Goon and the inspiration for its title.

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We are standing on a roof, leaning back against the wall because of the snipers. We're right at the Syrian-Lebanese border, looking into the Syrian town of Jusiyah, standing with a rebel fighter who has his walkie-talkie going.

The rebel is part of a group fighting against the Syrian regime's army. The rebels have controlled a route into and out of Jusiyah for nearly a year.

The United Nations' special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is on his way to Syria's capital, Damascus, where he will hold talks with Syrian leaders about a proposal to call a cease-fire between government troops and rebel fighters. Brahimi has said he hopes the cease-fire will start next week, for the Eid al Adha holiday.

The numbers coming out of Syria these days are staggering: hundreds of thousands of refugees, tens of thousands dead. The struggle, and the death, is being captured regularly on social media. The documentation not only serves as a bulletin for foreigners, but also as an alert for those with family members who become victims.

When Syrians first started protesting in March of last year, Fadi Zeidan was there. He and his friends thought the Syrian uprising would be fast, like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt.

Long before the Syrian uprising, Antakya, Turkey, was a storied place. Once known as Antioch, the city was home to Greeks, some of the earliest Christians, Jews and Armenians. It once was a major stop on the Silk Road.

Most recently, the Turkish city became a hub for the Syrian rebellion. For many months, Turkish authorities tolerated Antakya's status, and even encouraged it. Turkey built refugee camps for tens of thousands of Syrians, and even one for officers who defected from the Syrian army to join the rebel cause.

That support, however, is starting to fade.

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Day after day in Syria, people are being killed, but sometimes it takes a weekend like this past one to remind us just how horrifying the conflict is. Government troops were battling rebels were for control of Aleppo, Syria's largest such city. And as they fought, flames spred through a centuries-old market, burning huge sections to the ground.

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