Leila Fadel

Leila Fadel is NPR's international correspondent based in Cairo.

Before joining NPR, she covered the Middle East for The Washington Post. In her role as Cairo Bureau Chief she reported on a wave of revolts and their aftermaths in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria.

Prior to her position as Cairo Bureau Chief for the Post, she covered the Iraq war for nearly five years with Knight Ridder, McClatchy Newspapers and later the Washington Post. Her foreign coverage of the devastating human toll of the Iraq war earned her the George. R. Polk award in 2007.

Leila Fadel is a Lebanese-American journalist who speaks conversational Arabic and was raised in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

After the bloodshed, comes the grief.

A man weeps as he surveys row upon row of corpses. Some are completely burned. "They are all my brothers," he cries.

Nearby, men methodically break apart blocks of ice in two caskets inside this Cairo mosque. They then place them under the bodies to stop them from decomposing.

But still the sickly sweet smell of death hangs in the air.

Volunteers burn incense and spray air freshener to mask it, but that only adds to the stifling atmosphere.

Mass demonstrations are expected in Egyptian cities Friday amid fears of an imminent crackdown by security forces on supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi. The military chief who ousted Morsi urged Egyptians to come out in force to give the army a mandate to deal with "violence and terror." Muslim Brotherhood leaders have called for rival protests, after accusing the military chief of calling for civil war.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Egypt has undergone profound change over the past 10 days. The military has overthrown an elected Islamist president and is back in control of the country amid deadly clashes between Islamists and the state security forces.

There's been another change as well: Egypt's police, long reviled by much of the population, have become unlikely heroes for opponents of the now-ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

During Egypt's 2011 uprising, revolutionaries fought pitched street battles with the police force, the protector of the autocratic regime.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

Egypt has a new interim president.

ADLY MANSOUR: (Foreign language spoken)

Many of the militia fighters who rose up and ousted former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 have refused to lay down their arms and are still challenging the post-revolutionary government.

Yet the militias are facing a challenge of their own. They now come under verbal attack on one of Libya's newest radio stations, Radio Zone.

Little boys play soccer in the afternoon heat at a makeshift camp near Libya's capital Tripoli. Their homes, or what's left of them, are in Tawargha, a small town about 20 miles from the Mediterranean coast.

The town has been empty since August of 2011. Its residents fled in cars and on foot, under fire from rebel militiamen from the nearby town of Misrata.

The siege of Misrata was one of the bloodiest battles of the Libyan war. Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi shelled Misrata relentlessly, killing hundreds.

Egypt's capital, Cairo, is now synonymous with protests and sometimes violence. Late at night, the once-bustling downtown streets are largely empty these days. People worry about getting mugged or caught up in a mob.

But the recent Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival is an attempt to revitalize the area with music, art and culture in the old and forgotten venues of downtown Cairo, like the Qasr El Nil Theater.

Our perspectives on personal space — the distance we keep between the person in front of us at an ATM, the way we subdivide the area of an elevator — are often heavily influenced by the norms of the places we inhabit.

Jerry Seinfeld once focused an episode of his sitcom on the concept of personal space, giving us a new term: the "close talker."

Since Egypt's revolution began, tensions among Egypt's Muslims and Christians have only increased. Earlier this month, it once again turned deadly. Tit-for-tat killings left three Muslims and at least six Christians dead.

That and other religious violence is prompting a public debate about religious identity in Egypt. One group of young Egyptians wants to remove religious labels from national ID cards.

'Where The Trouble Starts'

It's 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night, and Bassem Youssef's show is on TV screens at cafes throughout downtown Cairo.

It's the Egyptian political satirist's first show since he was summoned to the prosecutor general's office to answer questions about the jokes he makes on TV. After the interrogation, he was released on about $2,200 bail.

On this night, the show opens with a joke about Youssef himself.

Two years after the revolution, Egypt is in a deep economic crisis. It's running out of money to purchase crucial imports like wheat and fuel, both of which are subsidized by the government, and an infusion of cash is desperately needed.

While a delegation from the International Monetary Fund is in Cairo continuing negotiations on a $4.8 billion loan, Egyptians are strained by the rising costs of food — and the gas needed to cook it.

For Mosaad el Dabe, it's a disaster.

In the lush Nile Valley city of Assiut, the police went on strike earlier this month, along with thousands of other cops across the country. They demanded the ouster of the minister of interior, and more guns and equipment to deal with anti-government protests.

A group of hard-line Islamists then stunned the city, which is south of Cairo, by promising to handle security during the strike. The next day, the policemen were back at work.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Now to Egypt, where police officers are on strike.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS)

Egypt's police force was the underpinning of former President Hosni Mubarak's iron-fisted regime, and it quickly became the enemy of Egypt's 2011 revolution.

Yet there has been little to no reform of the police force to date. Human rights groups say the police have begun to act like armed gangs, laying down collective punishment in restive areas across the country. But the police say they are the victims, under constant attack by anti-government protesters.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday became the first Iranian leader to visit Egypt since the 1970s, the latest sign of the thawing of relations between the rival Muslim nations.

Ahmadinejad received a red-carpet welcome as Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi greeted him on the tarmac at Cairo International Airport with a kiss on each cheek.

Under Egypt's former leader, Hosni Mubarak, a visit like this would never have happened.

The uprisings of the Arab Spring unleashed a new political force in the region — Salafis, ultraconservative Muslims who aspire to a society ruled entirely by a rigid form of Islamic law. Their models are the salaf, or ancestors, referring to the earliest Muslims who lived during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad.

The uprisings of the Arab Spring unleashed a new political force in the region — Salafis. These ultra-conservative Muslims aspire to a society ruled entirely by a rigid form of Islamic law. Their models are the salaf, or ancestors, referring to the earliest Muslims who lived during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad.

To their critics, the Salafis are religious fanatics who are trying to drag the region back to 7th-century Arabia. But the Salafis maintain that they are offering the purest alternative to the dictatorships that have long dominated the region.

Update Dec. 23, at 5:30 a.m.:

Egypt's constitution appears to have passed with 64 percent of Egyptians voting "yes," according to preliminary results issued by state-run media. But the document passed under a cloud of controversy as the opposition to the Islamist-backed document cried fraud.

When Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was elected, some Egyptians jokingly referred to him as the Muslim Brotherhood's "spare tire." He was the backup candidate of the Islamist organization, whose first choice for the presidency was barred from running.

But Morsi has proved much more formidable than many Egyptians believed.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And in Egypt, a panel of Islamist lawmakers has approved a new draft constitution, but what should have been a welcome step in the country's transition to democracy is instead mired in controversy. NPR's Leila Fadel has our story from Cairo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI: (Foreign language spoken)

After a series of controversial decrees by Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi, the country's judges are conflicted over what to do.

The president and Egypt's highest judicial authority met Monday to try to resolve the crisis, but the decrees, which essentially nullify judicial oversight, remained in place. And the judges are going ahead with plans for a strike.

Yussef Auf has been a judge for 10 years and says he has never witnessed such an affront to his profession.

Cairo's Tahrir Square was nearly empty as the sun rose Saturday. A few demonstrators camped out overnight after mass protests on Friday condemned controversial decrees by Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi.

Earlier this week, Morsi gave himself unchecked powers until a constitution is written and passed by a popular referendum — in about two months. He also decreed that neither the body writing the constitution nor the upper house of Parliament could be dissolved by the courts.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Thousands of protesters flooded into the streets of Egypt today, some in support of the Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, others condemning what they called a power grab by the president that puts Egypt on the path to one-man rule. It is, in short, a nation visibly divided today. NPR's Leila Fadel reports from Cairo.

CROWD: (Chanting) Morsi, Morsi...

The cease-fire between Hamas and Israel has been a political boost for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The Islamist leader spent hours in meetings and on the phone with world leaders, including President Obama, and got results: a cessation of violence that puts Egypt back on the international map. But Morsi faces a test Thursday night, when negotiations on the details begin.

Pages