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.

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Parallels
4:14 am
Sat June 22, 2013

Amid Ire At U.S., Germany Does Its Own Domestic Spying

Protesters display a cutout figure of President Obama in Berlin on Wednesday. Germans were protesting the National Security Agency's eavesdropping on foreign communication.
Gero Breloer AP

Originally published on Sat June 22, 2013 3:26 pm

Revelations of widespread U.S. spying on foreign Internet communications put a damper on President Obama's first state visit to Berlin. The German chancellor and other officials there say they want to know more about what the National Security Agency is looking at.

Yet the backlash has been more muted than expected. One reason is that the German government is doing similar surveillance.

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NPR Story
3:51 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Obama Visits Germany 50 Years After Kennedy's Famous Speech

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 5:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

President Obama has arrived in Berlin after wrapping up the G-8 summit. The visit comes a half century after President Kennedy delivered his famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech after the Berlin Wall went up. For Obama, this is his first visit to Berlin since he was a presidential candidate in 2008, but this time, there's a lot less fanfare. As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, the president can expect tough questions from his hosts, especially about cyberspying.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

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Parallels
9:31 am
Wed June 12, 2013

Tallinn: The Former Soviet City That Gave Birth To Skype

Residents of the Estonian capital of Tallinn can use public transportation for free after purchasing a special card for 2 euros.
Raigo Pajula AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 5:20 pm

The Baltic city of Tallinn hardly looks modern with its blend of medieval towers and Soviet-era architecture. Smoke-spewing buses and noisy streetcars look as if they have been plucked from the past.

Even so, the Estonian capital is one of the world's most technologically advanced cities. The birthplace of Skype has repeatedly been cited for its digital accomplishments. Last week, Tallinn once again made the short list of the world's most intelligent cities as selected by the Intelligent Community Forum.

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Europe
2:42 am
Mon May 6, 2013

German Terrorism Trial Puts Racism Fears In The Spotlight

Ismail Yozgat (right) and Ayse Yozgat pray at a memorial event on the seventh anniversary of the murder of their son Halit in Kassel, Germany.
Uwe Zucchi AP

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 7:24 pm

Emotions ran high as Germany's biggest terrorism trial in decades got underway Monday in Munich. The hearing is on the murders of 10 people who were the victims of a nearly decadelong neo-Nazi terror campaign against the Turkish community there.

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The Two-Way
2:11 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

Germany Braces For Trial Blamed On Right-Wing Extremists

Police in Munich, Germany, stand watch last week as activists protest against right-wing violence. A trial is set to begin next month for men charged in the killings of nine immigrants and a German policewoman.
Johannes Simon Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 7:20 am

Germany is preparing for its most important terrorism trial in decades.

Ten people — eight of them of Turkish descent, one of Greek extraction and one a German policewoman, were gunned down between 2000 and 2007. For years, German authorities failed to see a link between the crimes, even though the same gun was used in all of the shootings. They also rejected any link to right-wing extremism.

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The Two-Way
12:09 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

'I Liked It,' Putin Says Of Protest By Topless Women

Russian President Vladimir Putin (far left) looks on Monday in Hanover, Germany, as one of three women who stripped off their tops protests his appearance at a trade fair. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in the green jacket.
Jochen Luebke EPA /LANDOV
  • From the NPR Newscast: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson on the protest in Hanover

At a trade fair in Hanover, Germany, on Monday, three women protesters got quite close to Russian President Vladimir Putin before stripping off their blouses and shouting expletives at the Russian leader.

Putin, who was joined at the fair by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, later sarcastically thanked the women for calling the news media's attention to the gathering.

"As to this action, I liked it," Putin said, according to a German translator. The Russian leader added that the protesters were "pretty girls" and said he couldn't hear what they were screaming.

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Arts & Life
2:19 am
Fri April 5, 2013

Jewishness On Display: 'Truth' By Way Of Discomfort

Bill Glucroft, an American Jew living in Berlin, chats with visitors from his box in the most controversial portion of the Berlin Jewish Museum's exhibition "The Whole Truth."
Sean Gallup Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 8:16 pm

In Berlin's Jewish Museum, a new exhibit called "The Whole Truth" asks visitors uncomfortable and even absurd questions about Jews. One of the curators, Michal Friedlander, says it is intentionally provocative.

"The point is to get people talking about how they perceive Jews, particularly in Germany today," she says.

But some German Jews accuse the museum of going too far.

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NPR Story
5:11 am
Sat March 30, 2013

German Anti-Euro Group Has Big-Name Backers

Originally published on Sat March 30, 2013 9:34 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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Europe
3:21 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Long After Its Fall, Berlin Wall Is Focus Of New Protests

American actor David Hasselhoff speaks to protesters next to a remnant of the Berlin Wall last week. Thousands of people turned out to oppose a plan to knock down one of the few remaining sections of the wall. A small part was removed Wednesday.
Odd Andersen AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 8:55 pm

Protected by scores of German police officers, workers removed sections of a key remnant of the Berlin Wall before dawn Wednesday despite earlier protests demanding the concrete artifact of the Cold War be preserved.

The removal came as a shock to residents, just as it did on Aug. 13, 1961, when communists first built the barrier that divided Berlin during the Cold War.

Tour guide Rolf Strobel, 52, was among the scores of people who came to gape at the holes in what had been the longest remaining stretch of the wall — about eight-tenths of a mile.

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Europe
3:32 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

What's Worked, And What Hasn't, In Gun-Loving Switzerland

Gun enthusiasts take part in a shooting competition at a club outside Zurich. The gun culture is deeply entrenched in Switzerland, where citizens as young as 10 learn to shoot.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 7:34 pm

Switzerland has an entrenched gun culture that is embraced by most of its 8 million citizens, some of them as young as 10 years old.

Every Swiss community has a shooting range, and depending on who is counting, the alpine country ranks third or fourth in the number of guns per capita.

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Europe
12:59 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

German Prince Plans To Put Bison Back In The Wild

European bison, or wisents, keep a safe distance from human visitors to their enclosure on the property of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in Germany's densely populated state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 4:17 pm

A small herd of European bison will soon be released in Germany's most densely populated state, the first time in nearly three centuries that these bison — known as wisents — will roam freely in Western Europe.

The project is the brainchild of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. He owns more than 30,000 acres, much of it covered in Norwegian spruce and beech trees in North Rhine-Westphalia.

For the 78-year-old logging magnate, the planned April release of the bull, five cows and two calves will fulfill a decade-old dream.

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The Salt
11:19 am
Wed February 27, 2013

Germans Are Drinking Less Beer These Days, But Why?

A waiter carries beer mugs during the 2012 Oktoberfest in Munich.
Johannes Simon Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 4:57 pm

For centuries, Germany has been synonymous with beer. Tourists flock from around the world to take part in the country's many beer festivals, including the famous Oktoberfest.

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World
4:28 am
Sat January 5, 2013

Germany's Housing Market Is Hot. Is It Overheating?

Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, like many others across the city, is experiencing a real estate boom. Housing prices have risen by as much as 20 percent in the past year in some German cities.
Adam Berry Getty Images

Originally published on Sat January 5, 2013 8:59 am

Few Western countries are as conservative about home ownership as Germany, where less than half the country's citizens own property.

German banks have tough lending rules. Would-be buyers are usually asked to provide hefty down payments to secure mortgages, meaning few Germans even think about buying a home until they are settled and financially secure.

But the European debt crisis appears to be changing the traditions around home ownership. The resulting surge in homebuying, some officials warn, is driving prices too high and threatens the nation's economy.

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The Two-Way
7:26 am
Sun December 16, 2012

Egyptian Constitutional Referendum Appears To Have Passed

Polling station officials count ballots in Cairo on Dec. 15, at the end of the first day of vote in a referendum on a new constitution.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 8:24 am

In Egypt, voters appear to have approved the controversial draft referendum on a proposed constitution in the first stage of the referendum held across half of the country yesterday.

The outcome is unofficial at this point as the government has said it will not announce official results until the referendum concludes in the rest of Egypt next Saturday. The vote is being held in two stages because a boycott by many judges who were supposed to supervise the elections. Those boycotting say they reject the constitution because it doesn't have a national consensus.

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The Two-Way
4:17 am
Sat December 15, 2012

Egyptians Hurry To Vote On Draft Constitution

Women wait in line outside a polling station to vote on a disputed constitution drafted by Islamist supporters of President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Saturday.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Sun December 16, 2012 12:43 pm

Update at 2:54 p.m. ET: Voting Hours Extended:

Voter turnout on the first day of a referendum on Egypt's controversial draft constitution was so high in Cairo and nine other governorates that election officials decided to extend poll hours from 7 until 11 p.m. local time.

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Middle East
3:55 am
Fri December 7, 2012

Egyptian Protesters Display Newfound Unity

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 5:58 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Protests in Egypt rage on, despite President Mohammed Morsi's offer in a televised speech last night to meet with his opponents. Demonstrators filled Cairo's streets again today. The opposition in Egypt is confident and they're displaying a newfound unity, something Egypt hasn't seen since the early days of the revolution that ousted Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, many question whether this unity will last beyond the ongoing political crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

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Europe
2:09 am
Sun December 2, 2012

Ach! No End In Sight For Berlin Airport Woes

The opening date of Germany's new Willy Brandt Berlin Brandenburg International Airport has been delayed three times due to construction delays and safety concerns.
Sean Gallup Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 2, 2012 6:54 am

Germans are famous for their efficiency and being on time. But a much-delayed, expensive new airport in the German capital, Berlin, is rapidly destroying that reputation.

Located in the former East Berlin neighborhood of Schoenefeld, the new airport is to replace three others that serviced passengers in the once-divided city. One of those, Tempelhof — made famous by the Allied airlifts of food and supplies during the Soviet blockade of the late 1940s — is already closed.

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Middle East
6:48 am
Wed November 28, 2012

Opposition Protest In Cairo A Rare Show Of Unity

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's go now to Cairo, where demonstrators swarmed Tahrir Square last night to denounce the Egyptian president's recent decision to give himself unchecked power. This was the largest protest since Mohamed Morsi became president last summer. And it was notable because Egypt's secular opposition found a rare moment of unity. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson was on the square and she sent this report.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in foreign language)

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Europe
4:32 am
Sat November 24, 2012

A Wave Of Plagiarism Cases Strikes German Politics

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) has given guarded support to Education Minister Annette Schavan, who is facing calls to resign over allegations of plagiarism.
Thomas Peter Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Sat November 24, 2012 12:43 pm

More than half a dozen politicians in Germany are caught up in an embarrassing cheating scandal that last year cost the German defense minister his job.

The country's education minister is also implicated. She, like the other politicians, is accused of plagiarizing while earning a doctorate degree.

Their accusers are private citizens who use the Internet to coordinate their hunt for cheaters.

One of Germany's more famous cybersleuths is an American professor named Debora Weber-Wulff.

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Europe
4:47 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

A German City With Debt Problems Of Its Own

The main street in Oberhausen — Germany's most indebted city — is dotted with vacancies. Despite its economic woes, Oberhausen, like other western German cities, must make "reunification" payments to the former communist East. The payments help explain German voters' reluctance to bail out Greece and other eurozone countries.
Patrik Stollarz AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 12, 2012 7:31 pm

Germany, the economic engine of Europe, has been a key player in bailing out the Continent's most troubled economies.

Yet there are places in the former West Germany — like Oberhausen — that are struggling with their own debt problems, even as they pay hefty sums to revitalize former East German cities with transfers known as "Solidarity Pact" payments.

Borrowing To Stay Afloat — And Pay Out

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Afghanistan
5:31 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Can't Change Your Money In Iran? Try Afghanistan

A money-changer in the Afghan city of Herat counts a stack of Iranian bills. More and more Iranian currency is being brought in by smugglers to exchange for dollars, which then go back to Iran.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 6:24 pm

The western Afghan city of Herat has become a thriving hub for the money exchange business, a consequence of geography and politics. Money-changers throng the currency market carrying thick stacks of Iranian currency, much of it brought in by the hundreds of thousands of Afghan workers who earn their living in Iran.

While the stacks of crisp 100,000 rial notes that money-changers bring to the market might look like a small fortune, the 10 million rials in each of these stacks is worth less than $400, because the Iranian currency recently lost more than half of its value.

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Afghanistan
5:15 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Iran Turns To Afghanistan When Laundering Money

There may be international sanctions against Iran, but not in Afghanistan's border provinces with the Islamic Republic where trade and money-laundering are thriving. Every day, millions in Iranian currency are brought in by taxis ferrying passengers. The Iranian money is exchanged for dollars, which are then shipped back to Iran. American officials recently ordered the Afghan banks to crack down on this phenomenon and it appears to be having some effect.

Afghanistan
3:37 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

Amid Strains, US Begins Wind Down In Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier shares grapes with Afghan boys in the southern province of Kandahar on Wednesday.
Tony Karumba AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 4:50 pm

When the U.S. military handed over the detention center at Bagram Air Field to Afghan authorities this week, it symbolized an American role that is winding down — and the uncomfortable relationship between the two countries.

The prison, where Taliban and terrorism suspects are housed, has been a sore point for Afghans for years.

At the ceremony, an announcer read the names of Bagram prisoners who the Afghans said were wrongly detained and were now being freed.

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Afghanistan
4:17 am
Mon September 10, 2012

U.S. Hands Over Control Of Bagram Prison To Kabul

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 6:49 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The largest U.S. prison in Afghanistan - containing over 3,000 inmates - was handed over to Afghan control this morning. But the transfer was not without controversy. Several dozen prisoners, including some foreign terrorist suspects, were kept in American custody.

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Afghanistan
2:21 am
Tue September 4, 2012

Afghans Seek A Homegrown Plan For Security

An Afghan man inspects a motorcycle used in a suicide attack in a parking lot holding dozens of trucks supplying the NATO-run Kandahar Air Base in June. Bombings and assassinations are on the rise in Kandahar. Last month, a suicide bomber struck the convoy of the provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, who was severely injured.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 11:38 am

For years, Kandahar province has been a key focus of NATO's efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. The volatile region is the birthplace of the Taliban, and its capital is the country's second-largest city.

American troops have begun leaving this area by the thousands and are handing security responsibilities over to Afghan forces. Afghan officials claim things are getting better.

But many residents don't trust Western forces or their own government's claims, and they are now turning to a third party for help.

A Dangerous City

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Afghanistan
3:53 pm
Mon September 3, 2012

For Afghan Girl, Going To School Is Act Of Bravery

Afghan girls walk home from school in Kunduz province earlier this year. Despite progress in recent years, girls who want an education face threats from the Taliban and other extremists, and sometimes even their own families.
Johannes Eisele AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 6:05 pm

In Afghanistan, girls are required by law to go to school. However, many of them never do.

Death threats, acid attacks and bombings by Taliban militants and other extremists lead many parents who support female education to keep their daughters at home.

Sometimes, it's the families themselves who stand in the way. School officials in conservative communities say relatives are often more interested in marrying off their daughters or sisters than in helping them get an education.

But some girls, like 18-year-old Rahmaniya, are fighting back.

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Afghanistan
5:24 am
Sun September 2, 2012

U.S. Drawdown Leaves Afghans With Mixed Feelings

U.S. soldiers still patrol in Afghanistan, like this one speaking with a young man in the eastern province of Khost in August. However, Afghan forces are taking on increased responsibility as the U.S. draws down and prepares for its troops to leave by the end of 2014.
Jose Cabezas AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 2, 2012 5:01 pm

Tens of thousands of American troops will be leaving Afghanistan as the NATO-led coalition enters its final two years in the country. Already, more security responsibility is being placed in the hands of the Afghan security forces, says U.S. Gen. John Allen, who heads the NATO-led coalition here.

"The insurgency is today confronted by a rapidly transforming and increasingly capable [Afghan army], which is bearing a larger share of the burden and a larger share of the sacrifice," Allen says.

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Afghanistan
11:32 am
Thu August 30, 2012

For Afghan Leaders, Facing Death Is A Fact Of Life

The aftermath of a truck bomb in Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan, which wounded the provincial police chief and killed two civilians Monday. Taliban attacks against Afghan officials are up sharply this year.
Mamoon Durani AP

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 7:17 pm

Almost daily, Taliban assassins target Afghan government officials and community elders with ambushes or bombings. The United Nations says such killings are up more than 50 percent compared to the same period last year.

On Monday, the target was the powerful police chief in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. A suicide bomber struck the convoy of Gen. Abdul Raziq, who survived the attack and is at a U.S. military hospital recuperating from burns and other injuries.

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Afghanistan
3:12 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Afghan Attacks On Western Partners Rising Sharply

Afghan soldiers (right) patrol with U.S. troops in the Panjwai district of southern Afghanistan in May. The two armies have been working together for years, but Afghan attacks against U.S. and NATO forces have been rising recently.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 5:03 pm

In the past two weeks, seven Afghans in uniform have opened fire on Western forces. The most recent incidents occurred Friday. First, a newly recruited policeman in western Afghanistan turned his gun on U.S. military trainers, killing two and wounding a third. A short time later in southern Kandahar province, an Afghan soldier shot and wounded two foreign troops.

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Africa
2:25 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Mubarak's Dream Remains Just That In Egypt's Desert

A sign on undeveloped land welcomes visitors to "New Toshka City." Toshka was to be a new settlement along the Upper Nile Valley, complete with enough jobs and infrastructure to support the relocation of 20 million Egyptians from polluted and over-crowded cities.
Holly Pickett Redux

Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 7:57 am

In the middle of southern Egypt's windy desert, wheat fields stretch as far as the eye can see on a 24,000-acre farm. It's part of a grandiose project called Toshka that was dreamed up 15 years ago by the government of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's authoritarian leader who ruled the country for three decades before being ousted last year.

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