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.

This week, Egyptians marked the first anniversary of the uprising that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Deepening political divisions between pro-Islamist and secular protesters marred the event, erupting into violent scuffles. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

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.

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Cairo's Tahrir Square overflowed with Egyptians today. Traffic was snarled for miles as people jammed bridges and streets. The crowd marked the first anniversary of the popular uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power.

And as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, many people did not come to celebrate.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Islamists are widely expected to hold a majority of seats in Egypt's new parliament when it convenes next month, and a leading priority is the sagging economy.

Yet their conservative religious approach could threaten a key pillar of Egypt's economy: Western tourists.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party received many votes from vendors at the Khan el-Khalili market, a hub for tourists in Cairo with narrow twisting lanes and soaring minarets.

A steady stream of voters showed up Wednesday at polling centers in the port city of Suez and eight other governorates in Egypt. Islamists are expecting to boost their lead in the second phase of the country's landmark parliamentary elections.

The first phase was held last month, and the third and final phase will come next month as the country votes by region.

At a school called "Freedom" in Suez, many women were heavily veiled with only their eyes showing.

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In Egypt, Islamists are once again expected to dominate at the ballot box, in the second round of parliamentary elections. Their anticipated win in a vote that begins tomorrow has many secular Egyptians fearing the new parliament will turn their country into a theocracy. Secular candidates say they will not go down without a fight. Some are even trying to use religion to lure voters away from the Islamists.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has this report from Cairo.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

As the Egyptian elections roll on over the course of several more weeks, the incoming parliament looks likely to be dominated by Islamists. But the two leading Islamist blocs have little in common and are doing their best to undermine each other.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists do not get along in Alexandria's working-class slum of Abu Suleiman. Outside one polling station, the tension is thick as campaign workers for each group's political party hand out fliers.

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Dozens of veiled women tried to squeeze past each other Monday and into a polling station in the working-class neighborhood of Raml in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria.

They were eager to cast ballots for a clean-shaven man in a crisp blue suit and matching tie.

His name is Sobhi Saleh and he heads the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party ticket in three of Alexandria's districts. The party is considered the best organized in Egypt and is expected to do well in the country's first election since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.

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And I'm Linda Wertheimer. In Egypt, a much anticipated speech by the top military ruler failed to address the demands of a growing number of protestors around the country.

HUSSEIN TANTAWI: (Foreign language spoken)

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Clashes between protestors and security forces continue across Egypt. That's despite an offer last night by the interim civilian cabinet to resign.

Political parties, activists and Islamist groups in Egypt are threatening more mass protests in Cairo and other cities Friday against a document drafted by the interim government that would enshrine the powers of the Egyptian military.

It's the latest clash between Egypt's pro-democracy factions and the ruling military council, which is accused of clinging to power despite its pledge to cede control to an elected government.

Egypt holds parliamentary elections this month and many people expect the outcome to be similar to recent polls in Tunisia, where an Islamist party won the largest bloc of seats.

Nearly a dozen official parties with ties to Islamist groups have sprung up in Egypt since the summer, and most analysts predict they will do well.

Gamal Ashry is one parliamentary candidate. He's with the Freedom and Justice Party, the political offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world's largest and oldest Islamist movement.

Saudi women are getting conflicting messages from their government about whether it intends to expand their rights.

They received a boost from King Abdullah who pledged to give them more political power in the coming years. But new Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz Al Saud is known for his opposition to women's rights.

Saudi Arabia, which places a premium on stability, appears to be sending mixed messages these days on what it wants from its volatile southern neighbor, Yemen.

On one hand, the kingdom is demanding that Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh step aside after months of protests against his more than 30 years of rule.

The Sinai Peninsula has proven a major security headache for Egypt's military rulers since a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak eight months ago.

Gunmen who crossed over the border into Israel from southern Sinai killed eight civilians in August. In northern Sinai, unknown assailants have repeatedly attacked a natural gas pipeline feeding Israel and Jordan.

But what ultimately may prove more problematic for Egyptian authorities is the growing number of northern Sinai residents who are arming themselves with heavy weapons coming in from Libya.

Ormany Makary's coffin teetered precariously as throngs of mourners carried the 25-year-old truck driver's body to the front of Abbasiya Cathedral, chanting "Raise up your head, you are Copts!"

But his fiancee, Saafa Gaber, couldn't.

Makary was among the 25 people killed in a night of clashes between mostly Coptic Christian protesters and Egyptian soldiers.

In Saudi Arabia, where King Abdullah has the only vote that really counts, elections are still a novelty.

Municipal elections on Thursday marked just the third ballot in the kingdom's history. Only men could vote in polls to fill half the seats on some 300 municipal councils. The other half are appointed by the government.

Even before the polls closed, Saudi officials declared the election a success. But turnout appeared low at many voting stations, including in the capital, Riyadh.

Egypt's military rulers announced that a decades-old emergency law curtailing civil rights will continue until at least next June.

Ending the controversial law was a key demand of Egyptian protesters who forced former President Hosni Mubarak from power in February. But the military, which planned to lift the emergency law before parliamentary elections scheduled in November, said last week it had no choice but to employ the draconian measure after a mob attack on the Israeli Embassy earlier this month.

The big losers of the Arab Spring in Egypt aren't just Hosni Mubarak and his allies.

Before the February revolution, one of every seven Egyptians made a living in the tourism industry. But nearly seven months after the popular uprising, foreign tourists are still largely staying away.

Their absence has delivered a multibillion-dollar financial blow that is reverberating from luxury tour operators down to vendors in Cairo's bazaars.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host: Meaningful qualification there, saying that most of those shots in other parts of Kabul seem to be wild shots that miss the embassy. We're also following the upheavals in Egypt, where last winter's revolution was only the beginning of change. The military - after Hosni Mubarak's fall - replaced civilian courts with courts of its own, and military justice has proved to be harsher. The military says it will end civilian trials in military courts, but many activists doubt that. Here's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

In Cairo, the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is scheduled to resume Monday. On the first day that testimony is expected, the judge has banned cameras from the courtroom. Mubarak is accused of ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising earlier this year. The 83-year-old denies the charges.

Libya's rebels say they have more than 10,000 fighters surrounding Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte and are waiting for the order to attack.

The rebel officials say that order will be given this Saturday. But over the next few days, they will try to negotiate the peaceful surrender of Sirte, the last major bastion of Gadhafi's forces.

In Libya, thousands of rebel fighters and political prisoners freed from Moammar Gadhafi's notorious prisons are making their way home. But tens of thousands more are still missing.

Anxious relatives and friends in the eastern city of Benghazi have flooded the airport and docks night after night in hopes of finding their loved ones arriving by plane or by boat.

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SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. Libyan rebels say they've secured most of Tripoli and taken a key border crossing to Tunisia. That crossing is vital to getting food and supplies into the Libyan capital where the human situation is growing dire. Members of the rebel council in Benghazi say they're relocating to Tripoli where they will set up an interim government that will rule Libya into 2012. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Soraya, thanks for being with us.

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