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.

Millions of people in Yemen turned out to vote Tuesday in an unusual presidential election. There was only one candidate and only one way to vote — yes.

That candidate, Abdrabu Mansour Hadi, was the vice president under Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades. Saleh finally agreed to step down and transfer power to his vice president after nearly a year of mass protests against his rule.

The offensive started on the city of Homs, where neighborhoods that have seen some of the largest protests and armed resistance to the government are now under constant fire from tanks, rockets and mortars.

Homs is in central Syria, and it is thought that if the regime lost it to the opposition, that would cut the country in half. The offensive continued in the city of Zabadani, a mountain resort town just outside of Syria's capital of Damascus.

Now that the uprising in Syria has turned into a heavily armed conflict, many in the region are worried that the violence will spread beyond its territory.

Syria borders Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Israel, as well as Lebanon, where clashes erupted last Friday in the northern coastal city of Tripoli.

Sunni Muslims in one Tripoli neighborhood began protesting against Syrian President Bashar Assad. They put up a huge banner on the side of a mosque that had a picture of Assad, wearing a military uniform, with a big red X across his face.

Syrian troops have fired rockets and mortars at neighborhoods in the city of Homs that have most fiercely resisted the government throughout the uprising.

Mainstream journalists are barred from entering Homs, so a team of activists decided to record the offensive themselves. The activists positioned their cameras atop buildings in the city. Each morning the view is blue sky, a minaret, a sea of rooftops. Then come the booms.

Syria's state-run news agency says a high-ranking military officer has been assassinated. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports the attack comes as violence in Syria is quickly escalating.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

NPR's Kelly McEvers has been following events in Syria from neighboring Lebanon, and she joins me now from Beirut. Kelly, as we just heard, the UN Security Council has failed to agree on a resolution condemning Bashar Assad. Any reaction from Syria?

Violence is increasing in Syria, with activists reporting multiple clashes in cities. The U.N. Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss a resolution on the conflict there. It's also likely to ask President Bashar Assad to step down.

One thing that's certain about the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad is that there is nothing romantic about it.

Unlike Egypt, there's no Tahrir Square filled with hundreds of thousands of people calling for democracy. Unlike Libya, there's no Mad Max warriors in the desert fighting a dictator with guns they've welded to the backs of their pickup trucks.

Instead, grim news seeps out piecemeal from unofficial sources. Most of the reports are little more than body counts, with most of the fatalities blamed on the Syrian security forces.

Arab revolts against secular leaders have been much more successful over the past year than those against monarchs. The one monarchy that faced a serious threat was the tiny Persian Gulf island of Bahrain. But after weeks of protests, troops from Saudi Arabia rolled into the country, the Bahraini regime imposed martial law, and a government crackdown followed. Kelly McEvers made several trips to Bahrain this past year and filed this report as part of NPR's series looking at the Arab Spring and where it stands today.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

It's not clear how the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will affect nuclear talks. Just ahead, we'll explore the concerns about the power transition in the secretive communist state.

The "end of days," as soldiers were calling it, started at Contingency Operating Base Adder in southern Iraq. The base was the main staging ground for all U.S. troops exiting the country, and it was the last U.S. base to close.

There were a lot of lasts at COB Adder: the last signing ceremony, formally handing the last base over to the Iraqi government, the last briefing, the last patrol, the last hot meal.

The final convoy from the base left Iraq and crossed the border into Kuwait at dawn Sunday.

A 'Difficult Undertaking'

Nadia Karim Hassan says she stayed in her Baghdad neighborhood as long as she could, but by the height of the sectarian war in 2007, too many fellow Shiites were getting killed, and she had to leave the area and move into an abandoned building.

As American troops pull out of Iraq, one of the most striking consequences of the war remains unresolved today: the issue of people who were forced out of their homes and still can't go back. Relief organizations estimate there are some 2 million displaced people inside Iraq.

After nearly nine years of war in Iraq, a subdued flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad on Thursday marked the official end of one of the longest U.S. military missions in American history.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta watched over what's known as the casing of the colors — when the U.S. military flag is put away and sent back to the United States. The flag will then be retired and perhaps later go on display at the Pentagon.

Earlier this month, a ceremony took place in Baghdad that was unthinkable under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Ashura, the annual Shiite ritual marking the slaying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.

As the trumpets sounded in Baghdad's notorious Shiite slum of Sadr City, boys and men wearing white shrouds brought swords down onto their shaven heads. Thick red blood gushed onto their faces. Hussein sacrificed for us, the belief goes, and devoted followers are ready to sacrifice for him.

As American troops leave Iraq, the one place in the country that's most likely to erupt into violence, at least in the short term, is the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The city is a complicated ethnic mix of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and others. The question of whether it belongs to the autonomous Kurdish region in the north or to the Arab-dominated central government of Baghdad has long been a point of contention.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

Nearly nine years after the Iraq War began, the U.S. is winding down its involvement there. U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by December 31st. The Obama administration says what comes next will be a new phase in the relationship with Iraq. What that involves will most likely be part of the discussion when Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, heads to Washington to meet with President Obama tomorrow.

NPR's Kelly McEvers reports from Baghdad.

This summer, NPR told the story of a young man in Syria who worked a regular job by day and was a protester by night. At the end of that story, the activist made a prediction that was later tweeted to thousands of people: "One day my time is coming. Until the world realizes what's happening in Syria, they will try and get us all."

Many weeks later, his prediction came true.

In Syria, the clashes between the opposition movement and the government's security forces are starting to look more and more like a civil war. Protests across the country still remain mostly peaceful, but soldiers who have defected are assembling a force called the Free Syrian Army, which has been launching attacks on government targets. NPR's Kelly McEvers recently met up with members of the Free Syrian Army when she crossed from Lebanon into Syria on a secret nighttime excursion.

In the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, a special commission accused the government of using excessive force against protesters during an anti-government uprising earlier this year.

The report released Wednesday was unusual in that it was requested by the government itself. But questions remain over what the government will do with the findings.

The commission that issued the report was a rare thing in the Arab world. At a gilded palace with chandeliers and red carpets, a panel of international jurists sat in judgment of a king.

In an emergency meeting on Saturday, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria, warning that the country could face sanctions if it does not end its brutal crackdown on protestors. Meanwhile, NATO leaders say a Libya-style military intervention is out of the question. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports on what other choices remain.

Syria's brutal repression of an anti-government movement that began in March continues — even outside its borders. In neighboring Lebanon, the disappearance of an elderly government critic underscores the long reach of the Syrian regime.

Until recently, 89-year-old Shibli al-Aisamy spent most of his time in the United States. As a founder of the pan-Arab Ba'ath Party in the 1960s, Aisamy had once served as a vice president of Syria. He later broke with then-Syrian President Hafez Assad, the father of the current president, Bashar Assad.

Syrian President Bashar Assad warned of an "earthquake" if any outside forces intervened in his country. Meanwhile, protesters say dozens of people were killed in the last few days, making this one of the bloodiest weekends since the uprising began.

How do Iraqis feel about the U.S. decision to withdraw all its remaining troops by the end of this year? The issue of a residual American force to train the Iraqi military was hotly debated in Baghdad.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Turkish troops are in what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling hot pursuit. They're chasing Kurdish rebels who ambushed and killed Turkish soldiers earlier today along Turkey's border with Iraq. Turkish and Iraqi media are reporting that these troops have crossed into Iraq to retaliate against the militants.

NPR's Kelly McEvers has the story from Baghdad.

A Syrian official has released a YouTube video announcing his resignation and accusing President Bashar Assad's regime of killing dozens of unarmed protesters while they were in custody.

In the video, Adnan Mohammad al-Bakkour, the attorney general of the embattled central city of Hama, says he has detailed information on the deaths of scores of anti-government protesters on a single day.

The statement is one of the most detailed accounts of the government's crackdown since the Syrian uprising began in March.

Now that Hama has been crushed and demoralized, Homs is emerging as the center of anti-government activity in Syria, as protesters have taken up arms to conduct targeted operations against security forces and the army.

During a recent trip to Syria, I managed to sneak away from my minders one night and spend an evening with a man in the capital, Damascus, who's an IT engineer by day and an activist by night.

I was able to see up close that protesting in Syria is not just a matter of raising your fist. It's a matter of life and death.

Let's start this story with how I was able to meet the activist.

The Syrian economy has so far weathered the mass protests and widespread violence that have rocked most every major city. But in a move that could increase the pressure, the European Union is considering a ban on imported Syrian oil, similar to sanctions the U.S. imposed earlier this month.

Western governments say the Syrian regime's harsh response to an anti-government uprising has demonstrated that it is not fit to lead.

NPR's Kelly McEvers is in Syria on a tour organized by a youth group aligned with the government of President Bashar Assad. Most foreign journalists are barred from entering the country otherwise. The tour's theme is "Syria Is Fine." Most of the reporters are from countries that have a history of supporting the Syrian regime — Russia and Iran among them. McEvers is the only American reporter in the group, which also includes some European journalists.

Over the past five months, the Syrian military has repeatedly used tanks and heavy weaponry on cities and towns that are centers of protest.

As has been the case most every Friday since March, demonstrators turned out in huge numbers after the midday prayers, and there was more violence. Activists said that Syrian security forces fired at protesters across the country, reportedly killing at least 20.

Assessing whether this Syrian strategy is working depends on who you ask — and what version of the military crackdown in Syria you accept.

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