Peter Kenyon

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Prior to taking this assignment in 2010, Kenyon spent five years in Cairo covering Middle Eastern and North African countries from Syria to Morocco. He was part of NPR's team recognized with two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University awards for outstanding coverage of post-war Iraq.

In addition to regular stints in Iraq, he has followed stories to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco and other countries in the region.

Arriving at NPR in 1995, Kenyon spent six years in Washington, D.C., working in a variety of positions including as a correspondent covering the US Senate during President Bill Clinton's second term and the beginning of the President George W. Bush's administration.

Kenyon came to NPR from the Alaska Public Radio Network. He began his public radio career in the small fishing community of Petersburg, where he met his wife Nevette, a commercial fisherwoman.

Monday was a rough day for the opposition in Syria. Senior officials in the main opposition group announced that they're forming a new organization. The development was the latest sign of the divisions within the Syrian opposition that's trying to oust the government of President Bashar Assad.

At the same time, Assad's government said that nearly 90 percent of voters endorsed constitutional reforms in a referendum a day earlier, even though the Syrian opposition and international critics called the balloting a farce.

The Syrian army has cut off all escape routes from a rebel-held neighborhood in Homs, the city that has seen the most intense fighting in recent days, according to opposition activists.

Syrian tanks were seen moving closer to the Baba Amr neighborhood Thursday, as efforts continued to negotiate a cease-fire to evacuate the wounded, including two Western journalists.

Syrian government troops are continuing to bombard the central city of Homs. The United Nations says more than five thousand people have been killed during the 11-month uprising. Syrian activists say the number is much higher. Yesterday, two foreign journalists were among those killed.

The dispute over Iran's nuclear program has again rocked oil markets. And Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is just 34 miles wide yet serves as the passageway for 20 percent of the world's oil.

This is not a new drama. In fact, it was a recurring issue in the 1980s. Still, there's been relatively little activity among Gulf oil producers to find alternative routes to get their oil to market.

On a frigid January morning, bundled-up travelers step off a ferry and scurry toward the imposing stone walls of the Haydarpasa train station, a 19th century landmark in Istanbul, a city full of history.

The people boarding this morning are nostalgic. They're longtime station employees, taking one of the last train runs to Eskesihir, where the station's first director-general is buried.

They're going, as it were, to give him bad news — that Haydarpasa's 150-year service as a public transportation center may be coming to an end.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, some Muslims in North Africa are looking across the Mediterranean to Turkey as a potential model of a state that can be modern, Islamic and democratic.

But some analysts in the region say that model is flawed, and they are questioning Turkey's human-rights record and its dealings with the press.

An explosion in Tehran Wednesday killed an Iranian nuclear scientist while he was driving his car. It's the fifth such death in five years, and Iranian officials immediately blamed Israel. The attack is the latest manifestation of escalating tensions between Iran and the West.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad delivered a defiant speech today. He called protesters mongrels misled by foreigners and he vowed to stay in power. Assad also criticized the Arab League, which has an observer mission inside Syria.

NPR's Peter Kenyon has more on the story from Istanbul in neighboring Turkey.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Syrian officials are vowing to respond with an iron fist to a suicide bombing in Damascus today, 25 people were killed. It was the second deadly bomb attack in the Syrian capital in recent weeks. The government and opposition activists traded accusations as to who was responsible. And the bombing raised fears of escalating violence, as the Arab League presses Syria to implement a peace plan.

NPR's Peter Kenyon is monitoring developments in Syria from Istanbul.

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In the Arab states that have ousted dictators and begun building new political and economic systems, many are looking to Turkey as an example of a modern, moderate Muslim state that works. Perhaps no country has seen its image in the Arab world soar as quickly as Turkey, a secular state that's run by a party with roots in political Islam. As part of our series on the Arab Spring and where it stands today, NPR's Peter Kenyon examines whether the "Turkish model" can be exported.

The year began on a note of cautious optimism on the Iran nuclear front. But talks in Geneva and Istanbul proved inconclusive, and the Arab Spring uprisings soon pushed Iran off center stage. And as 2012 approaches, observers see little reason for optimism regarding a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear dispute.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under attack from other conservative factions at home, continues to find a safe rhetorical haven in defending Iran's nuclear program — and in attacking the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As he prepares for the midday rush, Mustafa Baljan puts the finishing touches on the kebabs, salads and stews that make up many a working Turk's lunch. As the steam carries the scent of lamb and garlic into the street, the 37-year-old restaurant owner considers a popular question: With European economies on the ropes, should Turkey still be seeking to join the European Union?

"Are you kidding? Of course I don't want to join," Baljan says. "Countries are going bankrupt. Why would we want to join a union like that?"

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Arab League meets today in Cairo to consider imposing sanctions against Syria after Damascus rejected the League's demand that Syria allow an observer mission into the country. As protests there continue and the death toll mounts, neighboring Turkey says it's ready to join the Arab League in levying punitive measures against the government in Damascus. But as NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul, Turkey's deep reluctance to endorse a military option underscores the complex risks surrounding any foreign intervention in Syria.

Some Americans are old enough to remember pulling up to the pump at gas stations advertising fuel in cents per gallon, not dollars. For many Libyans, that's the way it has always been and should continue to be in this sparsely populated oil-producing country.

At a Tripoli gas station on a recent afternoon, popular opinion among local Libyans appears to be that the government would keep the prices low, around 60 cents a gallon, or bring them down even further.

In the new Libya, uncertainty is the one certainty.

Contradictions and conspiracies proliferate faster than street demonstrations now that the iron fist of dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime has been lifted.

Among those searching for answers are relatives of prisoners locked away by various revolutionary military councils. Some of the prisoners are former Gadhafi loyalists with blood on their hands. But family members say others were seized for motives of revenge.

Libya may be months from a new government, but the still-infrequent international flights to Tripoli are packed with businesspeople looking to land contracts with this oil-rich North African state. The Turks and Europeans appear to be moving quickly, while the Americans seem to be several steps behind.

On one recent afternoon, the plush Rixos hotel in Tripoli hosted hastily organized meetings between Libyans and a swarm of Turks representing 150 different companies.

In Libya's Nafusa mountains southwest of Tripoli, the sight of abandoned villages and idle fighters hanging onto their weapons gives bleak testament to the fact that not everyone in the country is ready for the violence that overthrew former dictator Moammar Gadhafi to end.

In one windswept mountain village outside the city of Zintan, the only sound is the lonely clatter of a door against the gate of an abandoned house. Burned-out cars and a foam mattress soaked from the rain litter the street; most of the houses look as if they've been looted.

Turkish soldiers, artillery and military aircraft are engaged in their biggest military operation in a decade after a raid last week by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, killed 24 soldiers and wounded more than 100. The operation comes as Turkish politicians begin to debate a new constitution that many hope will grant Turkey's Kurdish population long-sought civil rights.

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Sunday, collapsing dozens of buildings into piles of twisted steel and chunks of concrete. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

By a strong majority, Israelis support the decision to swap more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli soldier. Still, it has provoked a painful debate, one that played out Monday, as it has several times before when Israel made similar lopsided trades in the past.

The release of more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is being trumpeted as a major victory by the Islamist Hamas faction that has held Shalit for five years. The boost for Hamas has sidelined the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas, who was just recently feted for his efforts to win Palestinian statehood recognition from the UN. The political shift leaves Palestinian supporters of a two-state solution feeling isolated. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

As political unrest and a government crackdown in Syria continue to simmer, more than 7,500 Syrian refugees have fled to camps in southeastern Turkey, and Syrians say many more would come if they could get past the Syrian army.

One of these camps, Altinozu, lies deep in the farm fields of Turkey's Hatay province. It appears to be well-planned and well-run, right down to the asphalt laid between the rows of white tents.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

An eruption of anger inside Syria at the assassination of a leading Kurdish politician is reverberating along the Turkish-Syria border. More than 7,500 Syrians are already sheltering in camps in Turkey. Now that Turkey is about to announce new sanctions against Syria, it's worried about a fresh wave of migration if violence continues to escalate.

NPR's Peter Kenyon has this report from Turkey's Hatay Province near the Syrian border.

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Turkey's leaders have called Israel the "West's spoiled child," and the "bully" of the eastern Mediterranean. When a Tel Aviv soccer team showed up in Istanbul recently for a match, the welcome was less than warm.

In September, Turkey kicked out the Israeli ambassador, suspended military and trade deals and threatened legal and naval action to challenge Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The families of two American hikers imprisoned in Iran received hopeful, and then wrenching news this week. Iran's president announced the two would be released, only to have the judiciary deny it the next day.

As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to visit New York for the United Nations General Assembly, the political infighting among Iranian conservatives seems to be intensifying.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan is visiting the three Arab countries that this year ousted long-time authoritarian leaders — Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. Turkey is playing an increasingly prominent role in the region and is looking to start on good terms with the new leaders in these countries.

Faced with criticism at home and abroad, Turkey has decided to delay new Internet restrictions that were due to take effect this month. The government also has reduced the number of filters, which it says will target adult content.

Critics call the filters another blow to freedom of expression. Scores of Turkish journalists are already in jail, and thousands more are under investigation. The issue is clouding Turkey's reputation as a model for the region.

Residents of the Syrian city of Hama are bracing for another day of shelling and shooting as the regime continues its military crackdown on the first Friday of Ramadan. Hama residents say they're trapped in their houses, often without electricity or water.

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