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.

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3:10pm

Fri May 4, 2012
Africa

Political Rift Widens Between Egyptian Islamists

Originally published on Fri May 4, 2012 4:31 pm

Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh is welcomed by supporters upon his arrival at a meeting north of Cairo, on April 26. He was formerly a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, but was kicked out of the organization.
Khalil Hamra AP

The two top Islamists running in Egypt's first real presidential race share a common history.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a physician, is a former senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood whose moderate stance has made him popular not only with Islamists, but with liberal and secular Egyptians.

Mohammed Morsi, an engineer, heads the Brotherhood's political party, which holds nearly half the seats in parliament.

Yet despite their common political background, the two men are bitter rivals.

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3:18am

Mon April 30, 2012
Middle East

Egypt Recalls Its Ambassador From Saudi Arabia

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 5:03 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Egypt has made a request to Saudi Arabia. In effect: Please, send your ambassador back here to Cairo. The Saudis recalled their ambassador over the weekend, exposing tension in one of the most important relationships in the Arab world. The Saudis have the most money. Egypt has the most people.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, on what they do now.

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8:02am

Sun April 29, 2012
Middle East

Egyptian Comedian's Case Raises Free Speech Concerns

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 10:31 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One of the Arab world's most popular comedic actors is facing jail time in Egypt after a judge ruled he insulted Islam in some of his past film roles. The case worries those already concerned about the growing influence of Islamists in Egypt. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has that story from Cairo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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2:06pm

Thu April 26, 2012
Africa

At Last, Egypt Settles On Presidential Candidates

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 4:27 pm

Amr Moussa, the front-runner in the Egyptian presidential race, speaks during a press conference in Cairo on Apr. 22. The country's election commission said Thursday that Moussa and 12 other candidates are eligible to compete in next month's election.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

After months of anticipation, and just a few weeks before the voting, Egypt now has a list of 13 officially approved presidential candidates.

Amr Moussa, the former secretary-general of the Arab League, is one of the 13, and he is ahead in most opinion surveys in advance of the May 23-24 election.

And in a reversal, Egyptian election officials agreed Thursday to let one of Hosni Mubarak's former prime ministers run for president.

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3:38pm

Mon April 23, 2012
Middle East

Egyptians Warily Await Final Slate Of Candidates

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 5:39 pm

During a demonstration at Cairo's Tahrir Square last week, veiled Egyptian women hold posters supporting Muslim cleric Hazem Abu Ismail, an ultra-conservative preacher who was disqualified from running for the presidential elections on technical grounds.
Amr Nabil AP

Egypt's election commission is expected to announce the final list of candidates this week for next month's presidential elections. But which candidate will win is far from clear.

A recent Egyptian poll shows nearly 40 percent of voters have no idea who to support. Another 30 percent who had decided will be forced to select someone else because their preferred candidates were among the 10 barred by election officials recently.

As a result, Egyptian voters who were once excited about the prospect of their first free presidential election are growing frustrated.

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1:12pm

Mon April 2, 2012
Africa

Once-Thriving Egyptian Port Suffers After Soccer Riot

Originally published on Mon April 2, 2012 3:12 pm

Egyptian soccer fans clash with riot police following a match between the hometown Al-Masry team and Cairo's Al-Ahly at the soccer stadium in Port Said, Egypt, on Feb. 1.
AP

The Egyptian city of Port Said is the northern gateway to one of the world's key shipping lanes, the Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. With its ornate buildings and clean streets, the sprawling city has one of the highest standards of living in Egypt.

But this year, Port Said has become known for something more sinister: It was the site of Egypt's deadliest soccer riot.

Many of the city's officials and residents say the tragedy has destroyed Port Said's reputation and left them in financial trouble.

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1:27am

Mon April 2, 2012
Africa

Unease Grows Over Islamist Political Agenda In Egypt

Egyptians protest outside the administrative court in the capital, Cairo, on Tuesday. The protesters are calling for the panel drafting the constitution to be made up entirely of non-parliamentarians. Controversy swirls around the 100-member panel — handpicked by Islamist lawmakers — which includes only a handful of women and Christians.
Gianluigi Guercia AFP/Getty Images

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in Egypt are flexing their growing political muscle. They control the legislative agenda in parliament, and in recent weeks introduced controversial proposals to curb social freedoms and legal rights.

Islamist lawmakers also handpicked a 100-member panel that began meeting this week to write a new constitution, which is widely expected to enshrine Islamic law.

Even so, Islamist leaders say they want Egypt to remain a secular state. But many secular Egyptians are not convinced.

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9:05am

Thu March 22, 2012
Africa

To Be Heard, Egypt's Bedouin Take Tourists Hostage

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 2:05 pm

A Bedouin guide makes his way down from Mount Sinai to the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The Bedouins depend on tourism, but have been kidnapping visitors in recent months in an attempt to pressure Egypt's government.
Mike Nelson EPA/Landov

Bedouin tribesmen on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula rely on tourists for their livelihood — taking them on safaris, selling them trinkets, renting them huts at no-frills resorts on the Red Sea.

But these days, some Bedouins are using tourists for something completely different: as hostages in their political battle with the Egyptian government. In one recent incident, the tribesmen kidnapped two Brazilian tourists to secure the release of imprisoned relatives. The kidnappers released the women unharmed a few hours later.

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10:01pm

Tue March 13, 2012
Sports

An American Soccer Coach In Egypt's National Court

Originally published on Wed March 14, 2012 10:24 am

The Egyptian national soccer team's American coach, Bob Bradley, attends his team's friendly match against Kenya in the Qatari capital, Doha, in February. The Egyptian team won 5-0.
Karim Jaafar AFP/Getty Images

Anti-Americanism is on the rise in Egypt these days. A highly publicized trial is under way in Cairo against U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups, and Egyptians are making it clear they reject any American involvement in their country's affairs.

There's one exception, however: an American living in Cairo whom Egyptians are counting on to shake things up. His name is Bob Bradley, and he's the New Jersey-born coach of Egypt's struggling national soccer team.

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1:25pm

Tue February 28, 2012
Middle East

Egyptians Prepare For Wide-Open Presidential Poll

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 1:00 pm

Egyptian presidential candidate and former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa delivers a speech to Bedouins in Ras Sidr during a campaign trip to the South Sinai last week. Egyptians are anticipating the first presidential elections after last year's ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Asmaa Waguih Reuters/Landov

Egypt's presidential race officially kicks off Saturday, and there are already more than a dozen contenders for what is expected to be the most competitive presidential election ever.

Nevertheless, many Egyptians fear those currently in power will try to manipulate the process to make sure that a candidate of their choosing wins.

At 41, Khaled Ali is the youngest Egyptian vying to be his country's next president.

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4:11am

Sat February 25, 2012
Middle East

In Egypt, Christian-Muslim Tension Is On The Rise

Originally published on Thu March 29, 2012 3:18 pm

A Coptic Christian man holds a cross made of flowers during a clash between Christians and Muslims in Cairo in November. Relations are becoming more strained between the two communities, and there has been periodic violence.
Khalil Hamra AP

Blackened rubble is all that is left of Abskharon Suleiman's appliance store in the northern Egyptian village of Sharbat.

Suleiman is a Coptic Christian, and his upstairs apartment, as well as his children's homes and shops, were gutted and looted in an attack last month by young Muslim men.

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2:59pm

Thu February 16, 2012
Middle East

The Woman Behind Egypt's Crackdown On Aid Groups

Originally published on Thu February 16, 2012 4:39 pm

Egyptian Planning and International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga (shown here in Washington, D.C., last April) has repeatedly warned Egyptians about the alleged danger foreigners pose to their country. She is the driving force behind recent efforts to prosecute 43 people, including American and other foreign democracy activists, for operating illegally in Egypt.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

In Egypt, a female Cabinet minister has emerged as the driving force behind a crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups.

The attacks of Faiza Aboul Naga — a holdover from the regime of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — have made her a hero to many Egyptians who believe she is defending their country's honor. But the threat she poses to billions of dollars in U.S. aid and international loans could make her power short-lived.

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2:56pm

Tue February 14, 2012
Middle East

Egyptians Harbor Suspicions About U.S. Aid Groups

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 4:16 pm

An Egyptian soldier on an armored vehicle guards an exchange office in Cairo on Monday. Tensions between the U.S. and Egypt are rising over Cairo's investigation of aid workers, many of them American. An Egyptian Cabinet minister, Faiza Aboul Naga, recently accused the U.S. of directly funding pro-democracy groups in order to create chaos in Egypt.
Amr Nabil AP

The Egyptian government has further escalated tensions with Washington by accusing U.S. officials of directly funding nonprofit groups to create chaos in the Arab country.

The latest comments were made by an Egyptian Cabinet member to prosecutors conducting a criminal probe into the activities of 43 aid workers, many of them American.

Such claims anger U.S. officials, who have threatened to hold back more than $1 billion in military aid if the crackdown on private, pro-democracy organizations doesn't end.

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6:00am

Sat February 11, 2012
Middle East

A Year After Mubarak Fell, What Has Egypt Achieved?

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 9:46 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now let's move to Egypt where one year ago today mounting protests forced Hosni Mubarak to step down as president. Last February, millions of jubilant Egyptians poured out onto the streets across the country, but that mood has given way to widespread frustration. Many Egyptians object to the continued hold on power by Mubarak's military allies, a rapidly weakening economy and the failure to bring the former president to justice. This week we spoke with people around Cairo about their impressions one year on.

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2:23am

Fri January 27, 2012
Middle East

Authorities Bar 6 Americans From Leaving Egypt

Egyptian authorities are preventing six Americans, including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, from leaving the country. They work for non-governmental agencies that were raided by Egyptian security forces last month.

4:36am

Wed January 25, 2012
Africa

Egyptians Look Back On 1 Year Since The Revolution

It was year ago Wednesday that Egyptians first rose against then President Hosni Mubarak in a tour de force that drove him from power. A lot has changed for Egyptians this past year. They elected their first free parliament in six decades. And Islamists, long banned by Mubarak, are now the country's main political force.

2:31pm

Mon January 23, 2012
Middle East

In Egypt, Islamists Take Control Of A New Parliament

Egypt's recently elected parliament, which is dominated by Islamists, held its first session in Cairo on Monday. The challenges facing the legislature include coming up with a new constitution.
Asmaa Waguih AP

Egypt's Islamists formalized their new stature on Monday as the first freely elected parliament in six decades held its inaugural session in Cairo.

The session was broadcast live on Egyptian state television and was largely spent swearing in the 508 members, most of whom belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Salafist movement.

But outside the parliament, not everyone was celebrating.

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1:43pm

Wed January 4, 2012
Middle East

Egypt's Street Kids Are Revolution's Smallest Soldiers

In Egypt, a disturbing trend has emerged in recent clashes between protesters and security forces: children placing themselves on the front lines.

Activists say several have been killed or wounded in recent months by gunfire and tear gas. Plus, one out of every four protesters thrown in jail following clashes in December was a child.

Their advocates say most, if not all, of these kids live on Cairo's streets, and that they see the revolution as a way to escape their isolation from society.

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3:37pm

Tue January 3, 2012
World

Egyptians Vote In Final Stage Of Parliamentary Elections

Originally published on Tue January 3, 2012 3:37 pm

The third stage in Egypt's parliamentary elections got underway Tuesday. In upper Egypt, tensions between Muslims and Christians have intensified in the aftermath of the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Qena is a stronghold of the ultra-conservative Salafi movement, and its members have clashed repeatedly with local Coptic Christians over the past year.

10:01pm

Sun January 1, 2012
Middle East

Egypt, Tunisia Try To Turn Elections Into Democracy

Egypt is holding parliamentary elections, but the military remains the most powerful force in the country. Here, election officials take away ballot boxes from a polling station in Cairo on Nov. 29, 2011.
Odd Andersen AFP/Getty Images

One year ago, the people of Tunisia and Egypt rose up against their autocratic rulers and forced them from power. Those revolutions spread across the Arab World, leading to the region's biggest upheaval in decades. It's still not clear how these seismic changes will play out, and so far, the results have been mixed. Today, NPR begins a six-part series looking at where the region stands today. In our first story, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports on the elections in Egypt and Tunisia as these countries struggle to build democracies.

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