Deborah Amos

Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition.

Amos travels extensively across the Middle East covering a range of stories including the rise of well-educated Syria youth who are unqualified for jobs in a market-drive economy, a series focusing on the emerging power of Turkey and the plight of Iraqi refugees.

In 2009, Amos won the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting from Georgetown University and in 2010 was awarded the Edward R. Murrow Life Time Achievement Award by Washington State University. Amos was part of a team of reporters who won a 2004 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for coverage of Iraq. A Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1991-1992, Amos was returned to Harvard in 2010 as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School.

In 2003, Amos returned to NPR after a decade in television news, including ABC's Nightline and World News Tonight and the PBS programs NOW with Bill Moyers and Frontline.

When Amos first came to NPR in 1977, she worked first as a director and then a producer for Weekend All Things Considered until 1979. For the next six years, she worked on radio documentaries, which won her several significant honors. In 1982, Amos received the Prix Italia, the Ohio State Award, and a DuPont-Columbia Award for "Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown" and in 1984 she received a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for "Refugees."

From 1985 until 1993, Amos spend most of her time at NPR reporting overseas, including as the London Bureau Chief and as an NPR foreign correspondent based in Amman, Jordan. During that time, Amos won several awards, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a Break thru Award, and widespread recognition for her coverage of the Gulf War in 1991.

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Amos is also the author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East (Public Affairs, 2010) and Lines in the Sand: Desert Storm and the Remaking of the Arab World (Simon and Schuster, 1992).

Amos began her career after receiving a degree in broadcasting from the University of Florida at Gainesville.

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Parallels
3:31 am
Thu December 18, 2014

At An Isolated Camp, Iraqi Police Prep For A Showdown With ISIS

More than 4,000 officers of the Nineveh province security force are based in an isolated training camp in northern Iraq. Their aim is retaking ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.
Deborah Amos NPR

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 12:31 pm

When Mohammed Taha Yaseen recalls the day that Islamic militants swept through Iraq's northern city of Mosul this past summer, he chokes up.

"The army ran away," he says, and pauses to gain control of his voice. "We didn't run — the police stayed and fought ISIS."

Yaseen, an officer in the Mosul police force, tells his story at an isolated training camp in northern Iraq, less than 20 miles from the front lines with ISIS, also known as the Islamic State.

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Parallels
11:19 am
Wed December 17, 2014

A Tweet On Women's Veils, Followed By Raging Debate In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian women wear their traditional face covering, the niqab, at a coffee and chocolate exhibition in the capital Riyadh on Monday. A prominent religious figure said on Twitter that the face veil is not mandatory, sparking a heated national debate.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:48 pm

The man at the eye of the storm in Saudi Arabia is Ahmad Aziz Al Ghamdi. He's a religious scholar, the former head of the religious police in Mecca, a group officially known as the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

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Parallels
4:58 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Facing Threats From ISIS And Iran, Gulf States Set To Join Forces

A member of the Saudi border guards mans a machine gun at the border with Iraq in July. Since the so-called Islamic State launched its offensive this summer in Iraq, Saudi Arabia has sent thousands of troops to the region.
Faisal Nasser Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 11:17 am

Alarmed over rising threats in the Middle East and North Africa, the Gulf Cooperation Council is set to launch an unprecedented joint military command, according to regional officials and military analysts.

"At the moment, we are witnessing a new spirit," says Abdulaziz Sager, head of the Gulf Research Center, a think tank that focuses on the GCC, a six-member group of Arab monarchies.

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The Two-Way
1:04 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Mall Murder Of American Teacher Stuns UAE, Where Violence Is Rare

Video footage shows a black-clad suspect at the mall in Abu Dhabi where Monday's stabbing took place.
YouTube

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 1:59 pm

The stabbing death of an American schoolteacher in a bathroom at an upscale mall in Abu Dhabi this week has shocked the United Arab Emirates, citizens and international residents alike. Violent crime is rare in the Emirates, a place where glitzy shopping centers are the hub of social life.

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Parallels
3:37 am
Thu December 4, 2014

A Syrian Entrepreneur Looks To Build The Amazon Of The Arab World

Ronaldo Mouchawar, a native of Syria, is the founder of Souq.com, which is now considered the leading e-commerce site in the region. He says his company, which is based in Dubai, reflects a quiet transformation that is taking places in parts of the Arab world.
Courtesy of Souq.com

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 9:11 pm

When Ronaldo Mouchawar was working in a Boston engineering firm he dreamed of moving back to the Arab world. Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, he had come to the U.S. to study, then got a high-paying job, but he believed he "owed something" to his home region.

It turned out his ticket back was a smart idea at the right time.

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Parallels
11:00 am
Sat November 22, 2014

It's Crunch Time For The Iranian Nuclear Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (left) shake hands as Oman's Minister for Foreign Affairs Yussef bin Alawi (second from right) and the former EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton watch in Muscat, Oman on Nov. 9. Iran is holding talks with six world powers in Vienna this weekend in advance Monday's deadline for a deal on Iran's nuclear program.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat November 22, 2014 11:45 am

Can Iran and six world powers reach a historic deal over Iran's nuclear program by Monday? The negotiations are at a crucial phase. As the deadline nears, regional hopes and fears are rising in equal measure.

A successful nuclear deal to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions could finally defuse one of the most dangerous crises in the Middle East. But a deal could also lead to more instability as regional powers react to what would be a historic re-set in relations in the Middle East.

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Parallels
1:58 pm
Sat October 25, 2014

Iranian Entrepreneurs Make Pitches That Are Just Practice, For Now

Companies from Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran were among the more than 100 Internet startups at this year's Startup Istanbul event on Sept. 30. It was Iranian entrepreneurs' first time competing on an international stage.
Courtesy of Startup Istanbul

Originally published on Mon October 27, 2014 6:25 pm

Imagine this: You have a great idea for an Internet startup. You're sure it will work. You are ready to be part of the global market. There's one big problem: You live in Iran, a country facing some of the most extensive financial sanctions imposed on any country in the world.

That was the challenge for a team of young Iranian entrepreneurs competing in the recent Startup Istanbul, where aspiring entrepreneurs got to pitch ideas to the founders of successful tech companies and venture capitalists at a conference in Turkey.

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Middle East
5:15 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Understanding The Kurds' Different Roles In Different Conflicts

Syrian Kurdish fighter Delkhwaz Sheikh Ahmad, 22, sits with his wife Siham, 23, and their two sons, Dilyar and Ibrahim, at his brother's house on the Turkey-Syria border on Friday. He was preparing to leave for Kobani, Syria, to rejoin the fighting against the Islamic State.
Lefteris Pitarakis ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 7:16 pm

The Kurds are involved in several Middle East dramas at the moment. Yet they live in multiple countries across the region and are playing different roles in different places.

In Iraq, Kurdish fighters are working closely with the U.S. to battle the Islamic State.

In Syria, the Kurds are also fighting the Islamic State, but until U.S. air drops this week, the U.S. had been reluctant to work directly with the Syrian Kurds.

Then there are the Turkish Kurds, who have been seeking to join the battle, but have been blocked from doing so by Turkey.

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Parallels
4:59 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

A Smuggler Explains How He Helped Fighters Along 'Jihadi Highway'

Alleged Islamic State militants stand next to an ISIS flag atop a hill in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, called Kobane by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in Suruc, Turkey, on Monday.
Aris Messinis AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 2:08 pm

The Syrian smuggler agrees to meet at an outdoor cafe in Kilis, a town on the edge of Syria-Turkey frontier. As waiters deliver glasses of hot, sweet tea and Turks play dominoes at nearby tables, he talks about his role in the "Jihadi Highway" and why he finally decided to quit.

The smuggler, in his mid-20s, is open about every aspect of the lucrative enterprise, except for revealing his name. He is well-known to the militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, who paid him well for his skills, and who certainly would kill him for speaking to a journalist.

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Middle East
5:04 am
Tue September 23, 2014

U.S., Allies Hit islamic State Targets In Syria

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 1:20 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Parallels
3:44 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

After A Long Wait, Syrian Rebels Hope The Weapons Will Now Flow

Syrian rebel fighters in the northern city of Aleppo in August. The Obama administration has been vetting rebel groups and decided that more than a dozen are moderate enough to arm.
Zein al-Rifai AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 6:45 pm

President Obama has long been reluctant to provide substantial aid to Syria's so-called moderate rebels, often dismissed as weak and disorganized. But the rapid rise of the group that calls itself the Islamic State has changed many calculations.

The CIA has been running a small-scale covert weapons program since early this year, according to rebels who have been trained and are now receiving arms shipments. The modest program has strengthened moderate battalions, according to Western and regional analysts, even as rebel commanders complain about the meager arms flow.

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Parallels
3:43 am
Tue September 9, 2014

How The Islamic State Smuggles Oil To Fund Its Campaign

Smoke rises from the Beiji oil refinery during clashes between the Islamic State and Iraqi government forces in Beiji, northern Iraq, on July 30. The militants tried to take the refinery this summer, but government forces have held on.
STR EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 1:43 pm

Editor's Note: This story was published on Sept. 9. In light of the U.S.-led airstrikes on the Islamic State's oil production facilities, we wanted to showcase it once again.

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Parallels
7:08 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Syrian Babies Born To Refugees Face A Future In Limbo

Ayaman with his wife, Selma, and their 1-month-old daughter, Shana, who was born in Turkey. Syrian refugee parents who give birth in Turkey are finding it difficult to register their newborns, and many are stateless.
Jodi Hilton for NPR

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 2:05 pm

Thousands of Syrian infants born to refugee parents are now stateless. Their births are unregistered and will pose many difficult challenges in this long-term conflict.

The exact numbers are far from certain. A recent report by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, suggests that 75 percent of Syrians born in Lebanon since 2011 have not been properly registered. Many families don't have any identification documents, which were destroyed in the fighting or left behind in a panicked escape.

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Parallels
3:06 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Syria's Army On The Verge Of Retaking The Country's Largest City

A Syrian man carries a girl on a street covered with dust following a government airstrike in Aleppo on Tuesday. Rebels took the eastern half of the city in 2012 but are now in danger of being forced out by President Bashar Assad's troops.
Baraa Al-Halabi AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 1:00 pm

When Syria's rebels were on the offensive in 2012, they captured the eastern half of Aleppo and the surrounding countryside. But now President Bashar Assad's troops are poised to retake all of the city that is the largest in Syria and served as the prewar financial capital.

A new military campaign is heating up as Assad, who assumed power when his father, Hafez Assad, died in 2000, was sworn in Wednesday for his third term as president. A rebel defeat could be a crushing blow to what is left of the country's three-year rebellion against the Syrian regime.

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Parallels
2:31 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

In Defiance of Damascus, Aid Goes Cross-Border To Rebel-Held Areas

A Mercy Corps warehouse is filled with hygiene kits for distribution in Syria.
Deborah Amos NPR

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 7:53 am

The warehouse off a dusty back road near the Turkish frontier is vast. Large wooden crates are stacked and ready for delivery to the desperate and displaced inside Syria.

This is the operations hub for Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based charity, and one of the largest aid providers to civilians in rebel-held areas in northern Syria. There are many other aid organizations working on a multimillion-dollar cross-border aid operation funded by Western governments, including the U.S.

For the first time, aid officials are talking about the program openly.

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Parallels
5:14 am
Sat July 5, 2014

Have The Islamist Militants Overreached In Iraq And Syria?

People walk through the market area in Erbil, Iraq. Tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis and Syrians have converged on the ancient city after fleeing fighting in their hometowns.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Sun July 6, 2014 10:48 am

The Islamist radicals who have declared an Islamic caliphate on land they control straddling Iraq and Syria are waging an audacious publicity stunt, according to some analysts.

While it may bring them even greater attention, it's also likely to be an overreach that will open rifts with its current partners, the Sunni Muslims in Iraq who welcomed the militant group in early June. They all share the goal of overthrowing Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his sectarian rule, but the more secular parts of the Sunni coalition didn't sign up for an Islamic state.

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Iraq
8:12 am
Sun June 29, 2014

Emerging Alliances In Mosul Raise Tensions And Complications

Originally published on Sun June 29, 2014 12:23 pm

Sunni militants were originally welcomed when they rolled into the Iraqi city of Mosul, but now there's a power struggle between the local tribes, Sunnis and Saddam Hussein's former Baathist party.

Iraq
4:07 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

For Iraqi Christians, Return To Captured City Is A Fraught Mandate

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 4:26 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Parallels
3:36 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Iraq's Ethnic Kurds See Opportunity In Nation's Chaos

A member of the Kurdish security forces stand guard atop a armored vehicle at Taza district, south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq, Friday, June 20, 2014.
Emad Matti AP

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 7:59 am

Iraq is in chaos, but the country's ethnic Kurds might come out ahead.

They rule a semi-autonomous area in the north that is fairly prosperous and safe, and as the Iraqi army crumbled before militants this month, Kurdish forces moved in to take long-sought areas that had been under the central government in Baghdad.

The Kurds are now talking about their generations-old dream of independence, but they still face many dangers.

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Iraq
4:15 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

At Iraq's Largest Oil Refinery, Siege Nears A Complicated Conclusion

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 7:14 pm

Transcript

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Iraq
5:45 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

After Mosul's Fall, Iraqis Adjust To New Normal Under ISIS

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:08 pm

Not all Sunnis are on board with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, even if they oppose the Iraqi government. One ranking Sunni cleric in northern Iraq calls ISIS "scum" and hints at limits to the group's influence.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Iraq
4:32 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

ISIS Presses Its Advance, Attacking Iraq's Largest Oil Refinery

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 7:08 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Parallels
7:54 am
Sat June 7, 2014

Like 'Doctor Who,' Syrian Activists Hang In Limbo Post-Election

Syrian activist Dandachi found solace, and lessons, in Doctor Who (the title role portrayed here, in his 11th incarnation, by English actor Matt Smith).
Adrian Rogers BBC

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:19 am

A popular, British science-fiction TV show about a time-traveler would seem to have few parallels with the Syrian civil war. But one Syrian activist sees some apt comparisons.

When Syrian President Bashar Assad was re-elected for a third term in office this week — in a tightly controlled election in which official results showed 87.7 percent of voters supported him — it demonstrated Assad's confidence, even three years after much of the country rose against him.

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Middle East
7:38 am
Wed June 4, 2014

U.S. Policy In Syria Could No Longer Be Defended, Ex-Ambassador Says

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 8:32 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. President Obama's former point man on Syria resigned because he can no longer defend U.S. policy there. Ambassador Robert Ford was once known for dramatic gestures supporting Syria's opposition. But Ford says, as the uprising became a civil war he was frustrated by limited U.S. support for rebels. And even now, Ford told the "PBS NewsHour" he is not sure the Obama administration is doing enough.

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Parallels
3:29 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

What Syria's President Seeks From A Not-So-Democratic Election

Women walk past election posters of Syria's President Bashar Assad on a Damascus street on Monday. Despite the civil war, the election will be held Tuesday in areas controlled by Assad's government. Assad became president after his father's death in 2000 and is assured of winning a third seven-year term.
Khaled al-Hariri Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 8:27 pm

The Turkish border city of Gaziantep becomes more Syrian by the day. New waves of refugees have arrived since January. In the market, Syrian craftsmen hammer out copper pots and plates, as they did back home in Aleppo.

"We left to save our children," says Ali Abu Hassan. "The bombs come every day."

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Parallels
3:44 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Iranian Activist Says Her Release Is A Gesture, Not A New Era

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (shown here at her home in Tehran on Sept. 18, 2013, following her release from prison) was one of the last lawyers taking on human rights cases in Iran before her arrest in 2010.
Behrouz Mehri AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 10:34 pm

When Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, was released in September 2013 — along with 11 other high-profile political prisoners — many Iranians saw the move as opening a new era following the election of centrist President Hassan Rouhani.

He had promised to release political prisoners rounded up after the contested 2009 elections, when thousands of protesters, known as the Green Movement, were tried and jailed.

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Parallels
9:04 am
Sat April 12, 2014

Iran's Culture Wars: Who's Winning These Days?

Members of the Iranian band Accolade perform in an unauthorized stage performance in the capital Tehran in January 2013. Those seeking greater social freedoms are often testing the limits in Iran.
Vahid Salemi AP

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 1:49 pm

In Iran, hardline critics are waging a campaign against President Hassan Rouhani to limit his campaign pledge of opening Iran to more social and cultural freedoms.

The "culture wars" are as old as the Islamic revolution that swept conservative clerics to power more than three decades ago. The latest chapter comes as Rouhani is negotiating a nuclear deal with six world powers. He has the backing of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to continue the nuclear discussions, but cultural hardliners are stepping up the domestic pressure.

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Parallels
4:32 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Iranians Begin To Feel The Heavy Burden Of Syria's War

A man looks at an unexploded barrel bomb that landed in a cemetery after being dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Thursday.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 4:04 pm

The Syrian civil war has been a major headache for President Obama. Critics at home and abroad, like Saudi Arabia, where the president was on Friday, have urged the U.S. to do more.

But the U.S. isn't the only country that's faced difficult choices over Syria. Iran and Syria have been close allies for decades. And in Iran, discussions about Syria are surprisingly frank, complex and demonstrate growing divisions over how to handle a costly war that has no end in sight.

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Parallels
4:20 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

A Syrian Refugee Camp With Girl Scouts And A Safeway Store

An informal Girl Scout group at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan sings: "We want to learn and rise up to fulfill our dreams."
Nabih Bulos NPR

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 8:57 pm

On a sunny afternoon in the dusty, overcrowded Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, a group of Syrian girls recites a familiar pledge and hope to change their future. The youngsters promise to serve God and country, to help people at all times and live by the laws of the Girl Scouts.

The troop was organized by Hanna Vazquez, a volunteer with Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based humanitarian group.

"We are going to do the Girl Scout music badge," she says, as the girls gather around.

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Middle East
5:07 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Syrian Conflict Marches Into Fourth Year

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 11:59 am

The Syrian uprising started three years ago this week with protests and eventually a military crackdown that led to all-out civil war. More than 130,000 people have died.

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