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.

Pages

Middle East
12:38 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Syrian Opposition Leader Holds Talks With Russia, Iran

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 3:47 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

Read more
The Salt
1:09 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Jihadi Fighters Win Hearts And Minds By Easing Syria's Bread Crisis

A man makes bread as residents, background, stand in line in front of a bakery during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Dec. 4, 2012.
Narciso Contreras Associated Press

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 2:16 am

In Syria, the staple of most meals is a thin, round, flat bread that we would probably call pita.

Back in November, as fierce fighting raged across Syria, people started to run out of this bread. Government forces were attacking bakeries in rebel-held areas and cutting off electricity so mills couldn't grind flour. By late last year, Syrians were desperate.

Read more
Middle East
9:04 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

For Those Still In Syria, A Daily Struggle

A family crosses a street piled with rubbish in Aleppo, Syria, on Jan. 5.
Andoni Lubaki AP

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 3:16 pm

The situation for Syrian refugees is getting dire. Much has been reported about the worsening conditions for hundreds of thousands of Syrians taking up shelter just outside the country's borders, but inside Syria, the numbers are even higher. The United Nations says some 2 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria, and most of them end up squatting in mosques and schools. NPR's Kelly McEvers spent a night in one of those schools, in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and sent this report.

Read more
The Two-Way
6:38 am
Tue January 15, 2013

In War-Torn Aleppo, Old Doors That Reflect A Grand Tradition

Syria door
Kelly McEvers NPR

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 7:37 am

Aleppo's storied old city, which dates to the 12th century, has suffered much in the fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels over the past few months. But parts of the city remain intact, as I saw on a recent walk through the winding, stone alleys on the way to the front line.

Centuries ago, it took Muslims from this area months in a caravan to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, which is now part of Saudi Arabia.

Read more
Middle East
12:29 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

A Welcoming Way Station For Syrians Fleeing Home

Beit Qamishlo is a modest house in southern Turkey that caters to Syrian exiles seeking temporary refuge. It also hosts frequent discussions on Syria's future. Here, Malik Dagestani (center), a former political prisoner in Syria, talks about his detention in the 1980s and 1990s.
Kelly McEvers NPR

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 1:37 pm

It's called Beit Qamishlo, or the House of Qamishlo. It's named after a city in northeastern Syria, though the house isn't even in Syria — it's just across the border in southern Turkey.

The house is humble, made of concrete blocks, with tile floors. Arabic slogans are taped on the walls: "Beit Qamishlo is a house for everyone," "It's a window to Syria's future," "Under one roof we plant life together and freedom."

Read more
Middle East
12:18 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

As Syrian War Grinds On, A Rebel Keeps Reinventing Himself

In March 2011, at the beginning of the Syrian uprising, protester Ibrahim Abazid made a massive white flag out of a sugar sack. This picture of him waving the flag in his hometown of Dera'a became a hugely popular image. Now Abazid hopes to serve on a city council in Dera'a.
Courtesy of Ibrahim Abazid

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 1:51 pm

Ibrahim Abazid had no idea he would be part of a nationwide revolt in Syria — or that his role would keep evolving.

It was March 2011. Some teenagers in his hometown, Dera'a, got arrested for spray painting anti-government slogans outside a school. Rumors began circulating that the teenagers were being tortured while in detention in the southern town.

In the broader region, Arab protesters had been filling the streets for months. Dictators in Tunisia and Egypt had already fallen. Abazid and his friends went to pray.

Read more
The Two-Way
8:14 am
Wed December 12, 2012

Sources: Syrian Rebels Training On Anti-Aircraft Weapons In Jordan

To date, Syrian rebels have had to rely on small-scale weapons in their fight against the Syrian army. Here, a rebel fighter throws an explosive device toward a Syrian government position in the northern city of Aleppo last month.
John Cantlie AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 8:50 am

The U.S. has now formally recognized a new Syrian opposition group as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. But the U.S. has repeatedly declined to provide weapons for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's army.

However, NPR has learned that there are movements behind the scenes. In Jordan, several Syrian sources said that Jordanian authorities, along with their U.S. and British counterparts, have organized training for Syrian rebels on sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons.

Read more
Middle East
10:33 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

A Rebel Fighter Sees Islamic Law In Syria's Future

A Syrian rebel walks past the stairs of a bombed building in the Saif Al Duli district in Aleppo, Syria, on Sept. 10. The vast majority of those fighting against President Bashar Assad's regime are ordinary Syrians and soldiers who have defected, but Islamist rebels are also present among the fighters.
AP

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 3:18 pm

It's about 9 o'clock in the morning, and already it's been a long day for Abu Anas. He has lost two men to a sniper serving the Syrian regime. Four more have been injured.

But Abu Anas walks with a striking calm through the bombed-out, ruined streets of Aleppo, a city that has been at war for months. He wears a black headband bearing Islam's holy creed: "There is no God but God. And Muhammad is his messenger."

Read more
The Two-Way
11:04 am
Wed November 28, 2012

Syrian Rebels Claim They Shot Down Fighter Jet With A Missile

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 12:47 pm

Syrian rebels claim they shot down a MiG fighter jet not far from the Syrian-Turkish border on Wednesday. Along with the downing of a military helicopter on Tuesday, it would appear to be one of the first times rebels have successfully used a kind of weapon called a MANPAD, or portable, shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile that can hit a plane in fight.

Read more
Iraq
1:25 am
Tue November 27, 2012

Iraqi Businesses Feel Pinch Of Iran's Economic Woes

Originally published on Tue November 27, 2012 2:31 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

We've heard about how U.S. and European sanctions on Iran have caused that country's currency to plummet and how Iran is now buying up gold and trying to dump its own currency outside its borders. Well, Iran is part of a regional economy and the falling currency is starting to hurt at least one of Iran's neighbors. NPR's Kelly McEvers sent this report from southern Iraq.

Read more
Middle East
11:39 am
Mon November 26, 2012

Conflicts Brew Between Kurds, Arabs In Iraq

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 1:18 pm

Arab-Kurd skirmishes in southern Iraq late last week injured dozens of people and killed at least one. Now troops from both sides are escalating and tensions are high again. This all comes as Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani battles Iraqi Central government Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Analysts say Barzani has been emboldened by independent oil contracts, the increasing support of Turkey, and ongoing events in Syria.

Middle East
11:40 am
Mon November 5, 2012

In Syria's Biggest City, A Deadly Stalemate

A rebel fighter raises his weapon after firing a missile Sunday toward Syrian government troops in the northern city of Aleppo. Syria's largest city has been the scene of heavy fighting for the past three months. Both sides control part of the city, and the fight has been a stalemate recently.
Narciso Contreras AP

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 3:16 pm

Before the Syrian uprising, Aleppo was many things: Syria's largest city, its economic hub and cultural capital, one of the oldest, continuously occupied cities in the world.

Now, Aleppo has a more ominous distinction: a city that's seen some of the worst destruction, not only in Syria, but of any battleground in many years.

It's been more than three months since rebels in Syria launched an offensive to take Aleppo. In the early days of the offensive, the rebels were able to take about half the city.

Read more
Middle East
5:09 am
Sat October 27, 2012

Little Festivity As Syria's Holiday Cease-Fire Fails

Children run after a truck loaded with presents for Eid Al-Adha in a refugee camp near Atma, Idlib province, Syria. A powerful car bomb exploded in Damascus on Friday and scattered fighting broke out in several areas across Syria, quickly dashing any hopes that a holiday cease-fire would hold.
Manu Brabo AP

Originally published on Sat October 27, 2012 4:27 pm

Eid al-Adha is one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar. The day marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. It's the feast of the sacrifice, when any Muslim who is able should sacrifice an animal and donate the meat to the poor.

There is little to celebrate in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, however. A cease-fire called for the holiday is already crumbling, and in some areas it never took hold.

Read more
Middle East
12:02 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Syrian Activists Attack Assad Regime, With Puppets

This episode of Top Goon featured the Syrian president on the left, a member of the security forces on the right, and a photo of the former president, Hafez Assad, who is the father of the current leader.
YouTube

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 5:07 am

"I'm not crazy," the figure says, standing alone in a dark room, as if trying to convince himself.

"I'm not crazy?" almost a question this time.

"I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy!" he yells, finally making up his mind.

And, of course, he sounds crazy.

Meet Beeshu, an avatar of the embattled president of Syria, Bashar Assad, rendered in papier-mache and mounted on someone's finger. He's the star of the show Top Goon and the inspiration for its title.

Read more
Middle East
3:11 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Tensions Run High In Beirut Over Slain Official

Originally published on Sun October 28, 2012 4:45 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Monday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

Read more
Middle East
9:53 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

In Syrian Conflict, Hezbollah Rears Its Head

Syrian children flash victory signs Oct. 2 as they stand in front of their tents at a refugee camp in Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town in eastern Lebanon near the Syrian border. The town has become a safe haven for war-weary Syrian rebels.
Bilal Hussein AP

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 8:03 am

We are standing on a roof, leaning back against the wall because of the snipers. We're right at the Syrian-Lebanese border, looking into the Syrian town of Jusiyah, standing with a rebel fighter who has his walkie-talkie going.

The rebel is part of a group fighting against the Syrian regime's army. The rebels have controlled a route into and out of Jusiyah for nearly a year.

Read more
The Two-Way
9:05 am
Wed October 17, 2012

U.N. Envoy To Syria Heads To Damascus To Discuss Cease-Fire

Syrian rebels head towards the frontline in Albab, 30 kilometres from the northeastern Syrian city of Aleppo, on Wednesday.
Tauseef Mustafa AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations' special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is on his way to Syria's capital, Damascus, where he will hold talks with Syrian leaders about a proposal to call a cease-fire between government troops and rebel fighters. Brahimi has said he hopes the cease-fire will start next week, for the Eid al Adha holiday.

Read more
Middle East
12:53 am
Mon October 15, 2012

Video From Syria Alerts Activist To His Father's Death

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 4:48 am

The numbers coming out of Syria these days are staggering: hundreds of thousands of refugees, tens of thousands dead. The struggle, and the death, is being captured regularly on social media. The documentation not only serves as a bulletin for foreigners, but also as an alert for those with family members who become victims.

When Syrians first started protesting in March of last year, Fadi Zeidan was there. He and his friends thought the Syrian uprising would be fast, like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt.

Read more
Middle East
12:52 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

Turkey Pushes Syrians Into Limbo Across Border

Syrian refugees gather amid olive trees in an area controlled by the rebel Free Syrian Army, in northern Syria near the Turkish border, on Sept. 25. The area has become a way station for Syrian refugees pushed out of neighboring Turkey.
Michel Moutot AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 12:34 am

Long before the Syrian uprising, Antakya, Turkey, was a storied place. Once known as Antioch, the city was home to Greeks, some of the earliest Christians, Jews and Armenians. It once was a major stop on the Silk Road.

Most recently, the Turkish city became a hub for the Syrian rebellion. For many months, Turkish authorities tolerated Antakya's status, and even encouraged it. Turkey built refugee camps for tens of thousands of Syrians, and even one for officers who defected from the Syrian army to join the rebel cause.

That support, however, is starting to fade.

Read more
Middle East
12:20 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Syria Experiences More Bloody Weekend Fighting

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Day after day in Syria, people are being killed, but sometimes it takes a weekend like this past one to remind us just how horrifying the conflict is. Government troops were battling rebels were for control of Aleppo, Syria's largest such city. And as they fought, flames spred through a centuries-old market, burning huge sections to the ground.

Read more
NPR Story
11:49 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Syrian Rebels Secure Another Crossing With Turkey

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 3:29 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

Rebels in Syria are making slow but steady advances in the north of their country. Last week, they captured a third major border crossing between Syria and Turkey, and they claim to now control a similar border crossing with Iraq. The rebels say it's all part of a strategy to secure a kind of safe zone in the north, as they try to topple the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Read more
Middle East
9:52 am
Tue September 25, 2012

As Numbers Swell, Syrian Refugees Face New Woes

A Syrian refugee walks with her children at Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, near the Syrian border, Sept. 8. Around 30,000 Syrians live at the camp, with the numbers growing each day.
Mohammad Hannon AP

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 2:39 pm

Syria's refugees keep growing dramatically in number, and no country in the region has taken in more of them than Jordan — a poor, desert nation that is now hosting some 200,000 Syrians.

The conditions for the refugees are perhaps harsher in Jordan than in any other country, with many people sheltered in tents on a hot, dusty plain just inside Jordan's northern border with Syria.

At the Zaatari camp, everything is covered with a layer of sand and dirt; rows and rows of tents, once white, are now a golden color.

Read more
Middle East
2:35 am
Sun September 16, 2012

In Wake Of Violence, Pope Addresses Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI waves to Lebanese faithful upon his arrival to hold a mass on the waterfront in downtown Beirut on Sunday.
Hussein Malla AP

Originally published on Sun September 16, 2012 3:52 am

Pope Benedict XVI said Mass in Lebanon Sunday during his first visit to the Middle East, which is seeing dwindling Christian numbers and where Christians fear Islamists will gain power now that secular dictators have fallen.

Lebanon has the region's second-largest Christian population, after Egypt. The pope spent his three-day visit promoting peace and religious tolerance.

Read more
Middle East
12:33 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Syrian Refugees Move Into Lebanon's Crowded Camps

The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are overcrowded and run down. But Syrian refugees are moving in as they flee the fighting in their homeland.
Mohammed Asad APA/Landov

Originally published on Sun September 9, 2012 3:34 am

The conflict in Syria is sending a staggering number of refugees into neighboring countries. Turkey, Jordan and even Iraq are building tent cities.

But Lebanon has yet to build such camps. The country is already home to more than a dozen teeming, squalid camps for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled the war after Israel's creation in 1948, as well as their descendants.

Read more
Middle East
10:59 pm
Sun September 2, 2012

With No End To Conflict In Sight, No Winners In Syria

Omm Ahmed, a refugee from Daraa, Syria, carries her infant near her tent at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on Sunday. Syrian civilians have borne the greatest brunt of the conflict in their country.
Mohammad Hannon AP

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 1:15 am

The conflict in Syria is now nearly a year and a half old, and there appears to be no end in sight.

August was the deadliest month yet, with thousands of people, mostly civilians, killed in fighting around the country. While anti-government rebels are making advances, government troops are digging in their heels.

It started as a protest movement. Now, analysts in the U.S. and the region agree, the conflict in Syria is a civil war.

A Civil War

Even Syrian President Bashar Assad came close to acknowledging as much in a speech last week.

Read more
Inside Rebel-Held Syria
8:13 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

In Syrian Conflict, Both Sides Vie To Control Message

Most civilians have fled the Syrian town of Derat Azza after protracted shelling by Syrian troops. Shops are closed, and rebels are trying to tightly control any information flowing out of the town.
Bunny Coleman for NPR

Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 3:17 pm

Last of five parts

The most striking thing you see when you drive into the Syrian town of Derat Azza is that it's devoid of ordinary people. Shops are closed, shuttered.

The only people you see seem to be rebels.

It seems like the only difference between this town and others in the area is that the regime made up its mind to target it. And once the regime did, there was nothing the people could do.

Read more
Inside Rebel-Held Syria
11:08 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Unspinning The Narrative Of A Syrian Massacre

In this image provided by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network, a woman holds a child in front of their destroyed home in Tremseh, Syria, on July 14. The authenticity, content, location and date have not been independently verified.
AP

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 5:12 pm

Fourth of five parts

At least 100 people were killed earlier this month in a Syrian village called Tremseh. Activists called the deaths a massacre of innocent civilians by government forces, but later reports suggested it was something different. After spending a week with rebel fighters in the country, I discovered some previously untold details about the killings.

Read more
Inside Rebel-Held Syria
11:51 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

In Syria's North, A Shadow State Emerges

A Free Syrian Army solider mans a checkpoint in the northern town of Ariha, on the outskirts of Idlib, Syria, last month. In rural areas held by rebels, new institutions are cropping up to fill the void left by the receding Syrian state.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 4:10 pm

Third of five parts

Tucked in the olive groves and rocky hills of northern Syria, the small village of Qurqanya doesn't seem like much.

Scratch the surface, though, and you realize that this is a hub for the revolution in northern Syria, where a kind of shadow state is forming.

As the Syrian state recedes, the people in this village and villages around it are filling in the blanks with their own institutions and, for better or for worse, their own ideas about how a country should be run.

Read more
Middle East
11:07 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

Border Battles A Cat-And-Mouse Game In Syria

Battles on the Syria-Turkey border, like the one at the Bab al-Hawa border post, are a cat-and-mouse game for Syrian rebels.
Bulent Kilic AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 5:30 am

Second of five parts

I'm standing next to a ridge, looking at the Syrian town of Salaqin. Just up on the ridge you can see the silhouettes of a mosque and couple of water towers. It looks like a very small, inconsequential town, but because it's on the Syrian-Turkish border it's very important to the rebels.

What the Syrian rebels are trying to do right now is carve out a kind of safe zone, a buffer zone where they can gather, assemble and plan attacks against the Syrian regime's army, and also a place where they can move weapons and money into Syria.

Read more
Middle East
1:39 am
Mon July 23, 2012

In 'Free' Syrian Village, A Plea For U.S. Help

In this image taken July 16 and provided by Edlib News Network, a Syrian girl holds a poster that reads, "Greetings from Kfarnebel's children to the Free Syrian Army soldiers in Damascus," during a demonstration in Kfarnebel, Syria. Rebels hold large swaths of territory in rural Syria. Fighters in the village of Atima recently launched their first operation against the regime.
AP

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 9:52 am

First of five parts

It's sunset in the village of Atima. The old police station clearly was part of the government at one point. The police basically left and now the police station itself is a headquarters for the rebels.

The flag on top of the police station is no longer the Syrian flag, but the flag of the revolution. It's a bit in tatters, but it's still there.

Read more

Pages