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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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Are refugees still welcome in Denmark? Many Danes say yes, despite a new, controversial law requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from asylum seekers arriving in the Nordic country. There's widespread criticism in Denmark of the new law, even as many Danes are nervous about the rising number of asylum seekers. The pretty Baltic port town of Sonderborg is one of many Danish communities sending mixed signals to asylum seekers these days. It hosts scores of migrants at an asylum...

Denmark is expected to adopt a law on Tuesday requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from some asylum seekers as they enter the country.
The seizures, which would go toward defraying the cost of refugee care, are being widely criticized as a violation of human rights. In Elsinore, the eastern Danish city where Shakespeare's Hamlet is set, asylum seekers at a Red Cross center learn rudimentary Danish as they wait to hear whether they will be allowed to stay in Denmark. But...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: We're heading to Europe now where the welcome for asylum seekers is wearing thin. More than a million people sought refuge in the European Union last year, and people continue to try to make their way from the Middle East and Africa. Many in the 28-nation bloc are taking steps to try to keep more people from coming. In Denmark, a controversial bill calling on police to confiscate cash and valuables...

At Johanna-Eck School in Berlin, the mission to educate and integrate migrants is taken seriously. The student body is a jumble of nationalities and ethnicities highlighting Germany's evolving identity. Schoolyard conversations are held in more than a half-dozen languages, and greetings from all of them are painted on the school building's steps. "They should feel welcome in our schools, so we take time to talk to the students and their parents or guardians," says Silke Donath, a teacher and...

The moment on top of an Afghan mountain peak was one of bittersweet triumph for 20-year-old Shopirai Otmonkhel and her friend Zahra Karimi Nooristani, 18. The budding mountaineers from Kabul beamed with pride as they held up the Afghan flag after climbing to heights no Afghan woman had ever reached. Nooristani — a shy athlete who earlier this year would blush and mumble when asked a question — spoke eloquently about how she'd discovered women can learn to do or be anything, whether it's...

The Paris attacks are sparking fears in Europe that the Islamic State is hiding its operatives among the tens of thousands of refugees pouring into the European Union each month. In Berlin, those fears are also troubling Syrian refugees, who worry they may be kicked out of Europe. Samar Alalaly, for one, rejects those concerns. The 30-year-old Syrian mother of three, who arrived in Germany six weeks ago, says they don't make sense. "We ran away from war," she says. "We didn't come to make war...

Chancellor Angela Merkel says Islam is an integral part of modern-day Germany. But that hasn't kept thousands of Muslim asylum seekers from giving up their faith to become Christians in recent years. The reasons they convert are complicated. Take Daoud Rahimi, for instance. The 20-year-old Afghan, who arrived in Germany a few months ago, was one of dozens of asylum seekers attending a recent baptism class at the evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church in a Berlin suburb. Like other Afghans...

Germany and Poland may not share a common language or currency, but they do share an open border. Both are among the 26 European nations in what's known as the Schengen Area, and getting from one to the other is as simple as crossing a bridge over the Oder River by car or on foot. No one has asked to see passports at this border crossing, 60 miles east of Berlin, since Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Nor does anyone check to see whether travelers are obeying custom rules. But the...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: European leaders who've been deeply divided over what to do about migrants pouring over their borders are a little less so tonight. For the second night in a row, they've approved plans aimed at gaining control over the massive influx. After the meeting, EU president Donald Tusk welcomed the breakthrough. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) DONALD TUSK: It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: The European Union has agreed to relocate 120,000 more refugees, spreading them across its member countries. Four Eastern European states vehemently oppose the move. Refugee advocates give the agreement a qualified welcome. They say an even more ambitious plan is needed to deal with more than 400,000 people who've arrived on European shores so far this year. From Brussels, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ARUN RATH, HOST: Secretary of State John Kerry announced today that in the next two years, the U.S. will increase the number of refugees it will accept annually to 100,000. That will be 30,000 more than what the U.S. takes in now, but it represents only a fraction of the number of asylum seekers European nations are dealing with, especially Germany, where Kerry unveiled his plan. (SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE) SECRETARY...

Among the steady stream of asylum-seekers pouring into Germany every week, there are scores of children traveling on their own. Over Labor Day weekend, 195 of them arrived in Munich, including 17-year-old Syrians Malaz and Wissam. NPR is identifying them only by their first names because they are minors dealing with difficult personal and legal situations. Of the two boys, Malaz is the more outgoing. The hazel-eyed teen grabs Wissam's arm and with a big smile, says: "We are friends!" Theirs...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Teachers and administrators in Munich, Germany, are scrambling to make space for new students - the thousands of children who are among the migrants arriving there daily. Their parents are eager to get them enrolled for the start of school next Tuesday. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has this report from the Bavarian capital. UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Crying). SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Migrant children...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Here's an old way of thinking. Young people from prosperous families study abroad at some point. Young people from less prosperous families have no chance. It's pricey to travel overseas. DAVID GREENE, HOST: That reality is shifting in some ways. A university education in the United States is now so expensive that some students can save money by enrolling overseas. One popular destination is Germany,...

Germany may be Europe's economic giant, but Berlin remains the lone major European capital without a proper airport. The mismanaged, roughly $6 billion project to build one became a national laughing stock that has dragged on for years. Ground was broken on the airport in 2006 and the opening was delayed just shortly before the planned date in 2012. The airport's managers are now pledging that Germany's third-largest airport will open on the outskirts of Berlin before the end of 2017. Until...

For pharmacists in ever-diverse Berlin, communicating with customers requires a variety of languages. Just ask German pharmacist Julia al-Erian, who tries in English to engage a young Arab man who is trying to buy acne cream. He gives her a blank stare, so she tries explaining in German how the medicated lotion works. He looks perplexed, says "hold on" in German, then turns to a friend and speaks Arabic. Recognizing the man's language, Erian calls for Mayssoun Alkhlaif, a Syrian refugee....

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: It was one of the toughest weekends in the history of the 19-member European currency union. This morning, after bitter wrangling and a sleepless night, leaders of the eurozone finally agreed to the outlines of a three-year bailout for Greece worth nearly a hundred billion dollars. The new deal depends on Greece agreeing to strict conditions and major changes in how the Greek economy is run in the...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: All-night negotiations between European leaders and Greece ended this Monday morning with this announcement by European Council President Donald Tusk. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) DONALD TUSK: Today, we had only one objective - to reach an agreement. We have finally reached it. Someone can say that we have an aGreekment (ph). MONTAGNE: A moment of humor after so much pain and effort. This new...

Looking to escape the staggering costs of a university education in the United States? You are not alone. And German education officials say a growing number of Americans are heading to the land of beer and bratwurst to get one. At last count, there were 4,300 Americans studying at German universities, with more than half pursuing degrees, says Ulrich Grothus, deputy secretary general of the German Academic Exchange Service . "We've seen an overall increase in international students in this...

Around the world, gay marriage is allowed in more than 20 countries. Many European Union nations are enhancing rights for their gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. But Catholic Poland isn't one of them. This former Soviet satellite constitutionally restricts marriage to a man and a woman. Recent efforts to pass laws to protect the LGBT community in Poland from discrimination and violence have gone nowhere. But there is one notable change these days — in Polish attitudes. The Polish city...

Like most former Soviet satellites, Poland has grown very suspicious of Russian intentions since the Kremlin annexed Crimea last year. Poles living near the 180-mile border their country shares with Russia became especially wary after their government, among others, accused Moscow of deploying nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. That area — which borders Poland — is the westernmost part of Russia. It used to be part of Germany, but was annexed by the Soviet Union after World War...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: In Afghanistan, 13 women and girls are preparing for an unprecedented climb up their country's highest mountain. Over the past two months, they've become leaner, stronger and more committed to making the ascent. As we're about to hear, their determination has surprised an American mountain guide, who will lead the daunting expedition. And yet, there are serious cultural and emotional obstacles that...

A team of 13 Afghan women is training to climb the country's highest mountain. Only two Afghans — both men — have ever made it to the 24,580-foot-high summit. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has been following the female mountaineers' progress. You can read and listen to the previous report here . The 24,580-foot summit of Mount Noshaq pokes through a thick blanket of clouds like a bright spear. It's the highest mountain in Afghanistan and, at the moment, the only one visible from our six...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: We turn now to Afghanistan and swift justice for a woman who was brutally murdered and then set on fire by a mob in central Kabul. After a weeklong televised trial, a judge today declared a dozen people guilty of the attack and sentenced four of them to death. More convictions are expected on Sunday. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Kabul on reaction to the verdict. (SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORN)...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: American troops liberated Dachau, the concentration camp, 70 years ago today. To mark the anniversary, U.S. veterans, who were first to arrive at the camp, are gathering there again. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson traveled to Dachau and nearby Munich to meet two former infantrymen who vividly recall what they found that morning seven decades ago. SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The steady rain beats down...

Krakow is one of Europe's top tourist destinations and attracts millions of visitors each year to soak up its history, culture and architecture. But its appeal wanes during colder months when another prominent feature of the Polish city is on display: air pollution. Environmental officials say Krakow's air is among the most polluted in Poland, which in turn, has the most polluted air in the European Union. And what's the source of the smog hanging over the city during colder months? It's not...

Zahra Karimi Nooristani, 18, cautiously works her way down a rock face high above Kabul as her coach, Farhad Jamshid, guides her. It is hazardous for his top female student to be rappelling here, not only because of the steep drop, but because she is using a frayed, 9-year-old rope handed down from the men's mountaineering team. Another danger she faces is the prospect of her neighbors finding out she's climbing at all. Afghanistan is a mountainous country, but scaling the peaks for sport is...

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