Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

International correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin and covers Central Europe for NPR. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

She was previously based in Cairo and covered the Arab World for NPR from the Middle East to North Africa. Nelson returns to Egypt on occasion to cover the tumultuous transition to democracy there.

In 2006, Nelson opened the NPR Kabul Bureau. During the following three and a half years, she gave listeners in an in-depth sense of life inside Afghanistan, from the increase in suicide among women in a country that treats them as second class citizens to the growing interference of Iran and Pakistan in Afghan affairs. For her coverage of Afghanistan, she won a Peabody Award, Overseas Press Club Award and the Gracie in 2010. She received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award from Colby College in 2011 for her coverage in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Nelson spent 20 years as newspaper reporter, including as Knight Ridder's Middle East Bureau Chief. While at the Los Angeles Times, she was sent on extended assignment to Iran and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She spent three years an editor and reporter for Newsday and was part of the team that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for covering the crash of TWA Flight 800.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Nelson speaks Farsi, Dari and German.

Many Germans were surprised in December when Ursula von der Leyen was named the country's first female defense minister.

Some people questioned whether a medical doctor with seven children, who championed Germany's generous parental leave policy, was the right choice to shepherd the country's military through the challenges of being a newly minted volunteer force.

"The Handwriting of a Mass Murderer" is how Germany's Die Welt newspaper bills its eight-part series featuring excerpts of Heinrich Himmler's personal letters accompanied by family photos, which are reportedly being published for the first time.

(An English-language version is here.)

Taverna du Liban was a welcome respite from the pressures of living in a third-world war zone.

The cozy, Kabul restaurant with its Middle Eastern décor served up a tasty variety of Lebanese dishes and the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten, courtesy of the Lebanese owner, Kamal Hamade, who baked the cakes himself.

But the appeal of Taverna — where I ate nearly every week when I lived in Afghanistan — was about much more than the food. It was about friendship.

When German farmers and activists descended upon Chancellor Angela Merkel's office building Wednesday morning, they brought along some special guests — 17 pigs. The stunt was the latest European backlash against a proposed free trade deal with the U.S. that could lift restrictions on American meat sold in Europe.

Under the watchful eye of German police officers, the pigs munched happily on straw strewn across the pavement to keep the herd from running amok.

Human rights officials say the Syrian civil war is creating Europe's biggest refugee crisis in decades, but that countries across the continent are doing little about it.

Most European nations are refusing to take in Syrian refugees, choosing instead to send money to the United Nations and other international agencies. The few EU countries like Germany that are welcoming Syrians only offer refuge to a few thousand out of the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled their homeland.

But the cool reception isn't stopping Syrians from risking their lives to get to Europe.

At a recent sewing class held in Berlin at Mama Afrika, which helps immigrants adjust to life in Germany, most of the African and Middle Eastern students feign ignorance when founder Hadja Kaba asks them about female genital mutilation.

Turning to one young woman wearing a veil she asks, "Have you been cut?"

"Yes," the woman answers, holding up the cloth she is sewing.

Kaba tries again. "No, not the cloth — down there!"

The veiled woman shakes her head and turns back to her fabric.

More than 240 people have left Germany to join the civil war in Syria — the largest reported number from a European country.

One was Burak Karan, a rising German-Turkish soccer player who died in northern Syria in October at age 26. Bild newspaper quoted his brother saying Karan had gone to the border region between Turkey and Syria to help distribute aid.

Germans are serious about their beer. Serious enough for the European country's main brewers association to urge the United Nations to recognize that fact.

The brewers association wants a five-century-old law governing how German beer is made to become part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It would join the Argentinian tango, Iranian carpet weaving and French gastronomy, among other famous traditions, that are considered unique and worth protecting.

Weeks of post-election political limbo have ended in Germany. The country's main center-left party has voted to join the coalition government of Angela Merkel. The move clears the way for her to start her third term as chancellor.

A handful of German and Polish residents at a nursing home in the Polish mountain town of Szklarska Poreba play a Scrabble-like game using blocks with large letters.

The seniors are tended to by Polish workers who offer a steady supply of smiles, hugs and encouragement.

Leonardo Tegls says such personal attention makes this nursing home, Sun House, special. The 87-year-old Dutch-born immigrant to Germany says he first learned about the Polish nursing home from a TV ad.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

German voters are expected to elect Chancellor Angela Merkel to a third term on Sunday. Now, if she wins, Merkel, who is a former physicist, will be on the path to becoming Europe's longest-serving female head of government. The prospect of another four years of Merkel unsettles many Europeans outside Germany. But she is respected at home. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson sent us this profile from Berlin of the woman the German media call Mutti, or mommy of the nation.

As many as 5,000 Syrian refugees are moving to Germany this month after Chancellor Angela Merkel's government agreed to a U.N. request to host them. But they aren't receiving the warmest welcome in a country where a growing number of Germans are unhappy about the steady stream of asylum seekers. Fanning the flames are right wing extremists, who want Germany to close its doors to refugees.

If two politicians on different continents both give an upthrust middle finger to the camera in the same week, is that enough to call it a global trend?

Perhaps we need one more, but here's what we have so far.

First there was failed New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who, in a rare display of impulsive behavior, expressed his feelings toward a reporter as he left his election night party Tuesday.

Tensions are running high in Egypt, as supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continue their protests. But they aren't the only ones.

Barely two weeks after Morsi was toppled in early July, a new protest movement emerged on the scene in Cairo.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Susan Stamberg.

Egypt's Health Ministry reports more than 70 people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters that took place on a major road in Cairo. Most of them were supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails.

Reaction to the fighting in Egypt is rather muted at the moment. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, a growing number of Egyptians are concerned over what the government is planning next.

In Egypt, protests against the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi turned deadly Saturday, after Egyptian security forces launched the most violent crackdown yet on those demonstrators.

The Egyptian Health Ministry says around 80 people were killed — most of them in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which the deposed president hails, put the death toll at nearly twice that number. Hundreds more were injured.

Estonia's capital, Tallinn, is considered one of the world's leading "smart" cities, where the government and businesses alike rely heavily on computer technology.

But one group in the Estonian capital is using the Internet for something completely different: an online forum that markets good deeds.

From afar, Tahrir Square appears almost festive as protesters chant against the Islamist president who was overthrown by the Egyptian military last week. But inside the crushing crowds, the scene can be a lot more sinister.

In a video posted by the Muslim Brotherhood, an unidentified woman cries out as men attack her. The group, from which former President Mohammed Morsi hails, claims the attack occurred in Tahrir Square in late June.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

This is a week when Egypt is divided on what democracy means. In what amounted to a second uprising, millions of Egyptians poured into the streets to demand that their democratically elected president step down. When he balked, the army ousted Mohamed Morsi, which led his supporters to say it is a dark day for democracy there. Today, thousands of Morsi supporters are out protesting that military coup, in demonstrations that have reportedly turned violent.

German officials say they've uncovered a radical Islamist plot to use remote-controlled model airplanes packed with explosives to carry out terrorist attacks in Germany.

Police carried out nine predawn raids in southern and eastern Germany as well as Belgium in search of evidence of what prosecutors allege was a plan for a "serious, state-threatening act of violence." There were no arrests.

German police say they have arrested a 57-year-old trucker whom they accuse of carrying out 762 shootings on European highways over the past five years.

"We found the famous needle in a hay stack," said Joerg Ziercke, chief commissioner of the German Federal Criminal Police. "A dangerous criminal who on several thousands of kilometers of highway in Germany, France, Belgium and Austria would reach for a gun whenever, wherever to shoot at other vehicles and endanger people's lives. It's unprecedented in Germany criminal history."

Revelations of widespread U.S. spying on foreign Internet communications put a damper on President Obama's first state visit to Berlin. The German chancellor and other officials there say they want to know more about what the National Security Agency is looking at.

Yet the backlash has been more muted than expected. One reason is that the German government is doing similar surveillance.

The Baltic city of Tallinn hardly looks modern with its blend of medieval towers and Soviet-era architecture. Smoke-spewing buses and noisy streetcars look as if they have been plucked from the past.

Even so, the Estonian capital is one of the world's most technologically advanced cities. The birthplace of Skype has repeatedly been cited for its digital accomplishments. Last week, Tallinn once again made the short list of the world's most intelligent cities as selected by the Intelligent Community Forum.

Emotions ran high as Germany's biggest terrorism trial in decades got underway Monday in Munich. The hearing is on the murders of 10 people who were the victims of a nearly decadelong neo-Nazi terror campaign against the Turkish community there.

Germany is preparing for its most important terrorism trial in decades.

Ten people — eight of them of Turkish descent, one of Greek extraction and one a German policewoman, were gunned down between 2000 and 2007. For years, German authorities failed to see a link between the crimes, even though the same gun was used in all of the shootings. They also rejected any link to right-wing extremism.

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