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.

Thousands of Sunni Arabs from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, escaped to Erbil at the end of the summer when the militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State first overran the city and imposed a draconian social code.

Among them is a man we'll call the professor — he, his wife and their children fled Mosul in August. He doesn't want his name published because his extended family still lives there under ISIS control.

The graying city mayor agrees to meet a few hours before he heads to the battlefront. He is haggard after living in exile since June, when the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, swept into his city — al-Sharqat, Iraq, a hour's drive north of Tikrit.

Ali Dodah al-Jabouri has a reason to fight: Islamic State militants killed his brother and 18 other relatives. But as part of a prominent Sunni Arab tribe, he is joining an unusual alliance with Iraqi Shiite militias backed and armed by Iran.

Southern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is the crossroads for an extensive smuggling operation of ancient artifacts. Those transactions are held in secret, often in towns along the border.

But high overheard, eyes are watching: satellites scanning heritage sites, sending alarming imagery to Washington, D.C.

From her office in the nation's capital, analyst Susan Wolfinbarger monitors the ransacking of these sites in Syria and Iraq on a large-screen computer.

When it comes to females and sports, Saudi Arabia is starting to change.

Saudi Arabia sent its first female competitors to the Olympics in 2012, after years of sending only men. The public schools, like many institutions, are segregated by gender, and only boys have been allowed to play sports. But girls will now be allowed to take part in their own sports and exercise programs, a move that is opposed by some hard-liners.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a new thing — and I really like it. I wish I was in school so I can have that," says Jowhara al-Theyeb.

Many Americans believe that Saudi Arabia has links to Islamist militants, but the Saudis say they are victims of terrorism, too.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has recruited more than 2,000 young Saudi men, despite government programs to stop them.

Now, the Saudi government shares the fears of the U.S. and Europe: that these violent young men will come home and carry out attacks. There are signs that's already happening. As a result, the Saudis are ramping up training for counterterrorism missions.

The race to protect Syria's heritage from the ravages of war and plunder has brought a new kind of warrior to the front lines.

These cultural rebels are armed with cameras and sandbags. They work in secret, sometimes in disguise, to outwit smugglers. They risk their lives to take on enemies that include the Syrian regime, Islamist militants and professional smugglers who loot for pay, sometimes using bulldozers.

The strategy against the self-declared Islamic State was on display this week: In Saudi Arabia, there were two days of closed-door military meetings, and in Washington, a White House summit on combating extremism.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that training programs for Syrian rebels begins next month. So far, so good, in public.

But privately, the Saudi view is that the air campaign against ISIS, now more than six months old, is not working.

For the sixth time since Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, died in 1953, one of his sons has ascended to the throne, and it took place Friday without a hitch.

When King Abdullah died early Friday at age 90, his half-brother, Salman, was named the new monarch within an hour. There's also a new crown prince, Muqrin, who is the youngest surviving son of Abdulaziz and a relative youngster at 69.

The new King Salman quickly sent a message of stability and continuity. But the death of a Saudi monarch has brought the problems facing the country into sharper focus.

After last week's Paris shootings that targeted an irreverent political magazine and Jews in a kosher grocery store, there's been a flood of stories about the dangers of Muslim radicalization and how it happens.

What about people who go the other way, from extremist to moderate? These people exist; the U-turn happens.

Northern Iraq is a lot more diverse than just Arabs and Kurds or Sunni and Shiite. For centuries, it has been home to multiple religious groups with ancient roots in the region.

But more than a decade of turmoil has driven many religious minorities out, with the most recent example being the onslaught of the self-proclaimed Islamic State militants, or ISIS.

Soon after Kurdish peshmerga fighters broke a siege by Islamic State extremists around Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, Kurdish television reporters arrived to broadcast the riotous celebrations.

This was the largest gain by the Kurds against Islamist militants since August, when Islamic State fighters, also known as ISIS, threatened Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

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

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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.

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.

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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