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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News
2:23 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Out Of A Tough Day Of Diplomacy, A Surprising Deal On Ukraine

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 6:06 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

A deal now that could possibly ease the tensions in eastern Ukraine. The U.S., Europe, Russia and Ukraine came to an agreement that calls on multinational monitors to oversee steps to restore order. The deal would likely delay any new sanctions against Russia. President Obama has already cast doubt on whether the Russian's will cooperate. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has more.

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Europe
4:13 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Geneva Talks Aim To Ease Tensions In Ukraine Crisis

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 5:41 am

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva to meet with his diplomatic counterparts from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. They are trying to find a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.

Europe
2:17 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

As Pressures Mount On Putin, Analysts Wonder What He Hopes To Gain

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 4:18 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated since Russia's annexation of Crimea and there are still questions over Russian President Vladimir Putin's agenda in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Targeted sanctions, political isolation and NATO's plans to beef up its presence in Eastern Europe haven't persuaded Putin to change course.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has more from Moscow.

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Parallels
1:29 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Not An April Fools' Joke: Russians Petition To Get Alaska Back

Russians in Moscow's Red Square hold banners reading, "Love You Crimea!" "Together For All Time" and "Obama, Think About Alaska!" during a March 18 rally celebrating the annexation of Crimea.
Sergei Ilnitsky EPA/Landov

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 2:35 pm

President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea is reigniting talk in Russia of taking back Alaska from the United States, which purchased the territory from a czar for $7.2 million nearly a century and a half ago.

Most of the talk is tongue-in-cheek, but it comes at a time of heightened sensitivity in the West over whether Russia is planning further incursions or land grabs.

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Europe
10:17 am
Sun March 30, 2014

Caught Between Russia And Ukraine, Border Cities Share Only Worry

Demonstrators carry a giant Russian flag through Kharkiv, Ukraine, earlier this month. The city's population is a blend of Ukranians and Russians, many of whom share families across the Russian border.
Sergey Kozlov AP

Originally published on Sun March 30, 2014 3:59 pm

The deployment of tens of thousands of Russian troops along their country's western border with Ukraine worries the new government in Kiev and its Western allies, including President Obama.

In a phone call Friday, he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull those forces back, a demand likely to be repeated by Secretary of State John Kerry when he meets with his Russian counterpart in Paris Sunday.

But people in the Russian border city of Belgorod, one of the places where troops have been gathering, say they can't understand why the U.S. is making such a fuss.

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Parallels
1:32 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

With Ribbons, Russians Show Support For Takeover In Crimea

Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky wears a ribbon to show support for Russia's takeover of Crimea. The same symbol is used to mark the Soviet victory in WWII and dates back centuries.
Alexander Zemlianichenko AP

It's hard to keep up with the vast array of colored ribbons that convey causes around the world, especially when the same color has multiple meanings. Red ones, for example, represent AIDS awareness but also drunk driving prevention, among other things.

Last week, deputies in the Russian parliament, or Duma, adopted their own ribbon to signal approval for Russia's takeover of Crimea – ones with black and orange stripes.

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Europe
2:33 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

In Response to Putin, Western Leaders Hope To Make The Man An Island

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 4:46 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Russian markets and businesses are reeling from Western threats and sanctions - they're a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's stance toward Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. But ordinary Russians are closing ranks behind their president. And many Russians tell NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, the U.S. should expect even more pushback against the West.

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World
3:02 am
Mon March 17, 2014

EU Rejects Crimean Vote, Weighs Sanctions Against Russia

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 4:19 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And as Eleanor just told Renee, the government in Kiev says the world is with them, and not with Russia.

Let's bring in NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson into this conversation. She's in Berlin. She's been monitoring the European reaction to the vote in Crimea.

And, Soraya, as we mentioned, the EU, like the United States, threatening sanctions against Russia. EU foreign ministers are actually meeting today to draw some up and take a vote. What exactly are these sanctions?

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Parallels
12:24 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Angst In Germany Over Invasion Of American English

iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 4:33 pm

It seems hardly a sentence is spoken in Berlin that doesn't have an American English word in it.

One word that especially grates — and I confess to a certain bias, having learned German as a toddler when it wasn't so Americanized — is a word pronounced "sogh-ee." Or, as Americans say it, "sorry."

"Sogh-ee" your package is late.

"Sogh-ee" your hot water is off.

"Sogh-ee" we can't help you.

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News
2:21 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Germany Changes Its Tone On Russia, And EU Sanctions May Follow

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 4:35 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The chancellor of Germany is warning Russia to step back from its confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Foreign language spoken)

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Europe
3:05 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Ukraine President's Estate Included Exotic Zoo

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 5:34 am

When he fled Kiev, Viktor Yanukovych left behind an opulent mansion that underscores the problems many Ukrainians say plague their country: widespread government corruption and a huge income gap.

Europe
2:00 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

In Kiev, Leaders Ink A Deal — But Will The People Follow?

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 5:53 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

An uneasy calm settled over Kiev today since opposition leaders signed a peace deal with Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych. But after three days of fighting left scores of people dead, protesters are still trying to decide if the deal is worth the sacrifice. Despite their demands, Yanukovych remains in place, although there will be early elections.

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Europe
3:27 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Ukraine: Deal Reached At Crisis Talks

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 7:29 am

The office of president Viktor Yanukovich says a deal has been reached with opposition leaders to stop the violence in the capital Kiev. Scores of people have died in two days of clashes.

Europe
4:46 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

At Least 70 Killed In Kiev, With Casualties Still Mounting

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 6:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

In Ukraine, protesters and police clash today in the worst violence yet during the three-month old uprising against President Viktor Yanukovych. A flurry of diplomatic visits to Kiev and the EU's threat of sanctions have failed to slow the carnage. At least 100 people are reported dead after two days of fighting. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kiev covering the crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELLS RINGING)

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Europe
4:04 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Truce Brokered In Ukraine Appears To Be Breaking Down

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 5:38 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

A truce announced late last night between protestors and the government in Kiev, Ukraine broke down this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

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Europe
2:19 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

From The Streets Of Kiev, A Firsthand Look At the Protests

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 6:02 pm

Police in Kiev continue to try to clear protesters from the streets of the Ukrainian capital, where violence has left both police and demonstrators dead.

Europe
3:18 am
Mon February 10, 2014

EU Mute On U.S. Diplomat's Criticism Involving Ukraine

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 5:45 am

There was a U.S. diplomatic gaff last week. It involved an expletive used by an assistant secretary of State to express a rather rude form of anger at the European Union during a private phone conversation. The phone call was intercepted by someone — presumably another government — and leaked.

Parallels
2:18 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Iran's Nuclear Talks: What To Expect Next

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) speaks during a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt in Tehran on Tuesday. Bildt is visiting to try to bolster the temporary nuclear deal on Iran's nuclear program.
Behrouz Mehri AFP/Getty Images

The next round of Iranian nuclear talks with world powers is fast approaching, and there's still a lot of skepticism in the air over the prospects for a comprehensive deal.

Iran will sit down with the U.S. and five other major powers in Vienna on Feb. 18 as they try to hammer out a long-term agreement on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. By most every estimate, it won't be easy to build on the success of a temporary deal drawn up last November given the lingering, visceral mistrust between the United States and Iran.

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Europe
3:01 am
Mon February 3, 2014

World's Top Diplomats Examine Security Concerns

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 5:43 am

Many of the world's top diplomats met over the weekend along with defense officials for an annual security conference in Munich, Germany. Top of the agenda were two countries in particular: Ukraine and Iran.

Parallels
2:55 am
Sat February 1, 2014

Germany's New Defense Minister: More Peacekeeping Missions Welcome

Germany's new defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, right, chats with German soldiers who have served in Afghanistan, at a training center in Letzlingen on Jan. 28. Von der Leyen has said she would like to see German forces participate more with other European troops in foreign peacekeeping missions.
Thomas Trutschel Photothek via Getty Images

Originally published on Sat February 1, 2014 10:00 pm

Many Germans were surprised in December when Ursula von der Leyen was named the country's first female defense minister.

Some people questioned whether a medical doctor with seven children, who championed Germany's generous parental leave policy, was the right choice to shepherd the country's military through the challenges of being a newly minted volunteer force.

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Europe
2:52 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

German Economic Fears May Have Roots In Age-Old Prejudice

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 4:55 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now to a debate in Europe over something called poverty migration. Recently, some countries in the European Union lifted work restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians. As a result, factions in Britain and Germany worry that poor and unskilled immigrants will flood in and collect welfare payments.

But Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, this debate isn't being driven by new arrivals from Romania and Bulgaria. Instead, she says, it may involve prejudice against one particular group, the long-oppressed Roma.

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The Two-Way
2:39 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Heinrich Himmler's Private Letters Published In German Newspaper

Heinrich Himmler (left) and Adolf Hitler (third from left) observe Stormtroop maneuvers in January 1941.
Keystone Getty Images

Originally published on Sun January 26, 2014 4:00 pm

"The Handwriting of a Mass Murderer" is how Germany's Die Welt newspaper bills its eight-part series featuring excerpts of Heinrich Himmler's personal letters accompanied by family photos, which are reportedly being published for the first time.

(An English-language version is here.)

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Middle East
5:11 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Egyptian Military Clamps Down On Freedom Of Speech

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 11:57 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Egypt, the military-led government took charge last year with a violent clampdown on Islamists. Since then, it's been targeting many others who criticize its leadership. A high-profile liberal is being charged with a crime over a tweet. And there are at least five journalists behind bars in Egypt, including a team of Al Jazeera English journalists who are being accused of terrorism and other crimes. Egypt is now one of the most dangerous places for reporters to report.

NPR's Leila Fadel has the story of one of them.

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World
9:59 am
Sun January 19, 2014

Germans Cautious About Obama's NSA Proposals

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Last year, revelations that the U.S. had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone soured relations between the two allies. In Europe, President Obama's recommendations to reign in the NSA when it comes to listening to foreign leaders was met with a lukewarm reaction. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that Germans are especially skeptical that the changes will mean an end to American eavesdropping.

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Afghanistan
2:42 am
Sat January 18, 2014

Restaurant Owner Loved The Patrons He Died Trying To Protect

Kamal Hamade, the owner of the Taverna du Liban, had taken many steps to make his restaurant secure, and it was one of the few that Western agencies allowed their personnel to frequent.
Rahmat Gul AP

Originally published on Mon January 20, 2014 6:04 am

Taverna du Liban was a welcome respite from the pressures of living in a third-world war zone.

The cozy, Kabul restaurant with its Middle Eastern décor served up a tasty variety of Lebanese dishes and the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten, courtesy of the Lebanese owner, Kamal Hamade, who baked the cakes himself.

But the appeal of Taverna — where I ate nearly every week when I lived in Afghanistan — was about much more than the food. It was about friendship.

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The Salt
3:11 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

German Farmers Fear For Europe's Bacon With U.S. Trade Deal

German farmer Rudolf Buehler and other opponents of the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement protest with 17 pigs in front of the chancellor's office building in Berlin on Wednesday.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:12 pm

When German farmers and activists descended upon Chancellor Angela Merkel's office building Wednesday morning, they brought along some special guests — 17 pigs. The stunt was the latest European backlash against a proposed free trade deal with the U.S. that could lift restrictions on American meat sold in Europe.

Under the watchful eye of German police officers, the pigs munched happily on straw strewn across the pavement to keep the herd from running amok.

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Parallels
1:00 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Despite Dim Prospects, Syrian Exodus To Germany Continues

Syrian refugees arriving at the transit camp in Friedland, Germany, stand in line at the registration desk on Sept. 11. Germany has deported asylum seekers on the basis of an EU treaty that requires migrants seeking entry to Europe to be processed by the first EU country they arrive in. Many Syrians in Germany have come from other countries such as Bulgaria or Greece.
Swen Pfortner DPA/Landov

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 10:45 am

Human rights officials say the Syrian civil war is creating Europe's biggest refugee crisis in decades, but that countries across the continent are doing little about it.

Most European nations are refusing to take in Syrian refugees, choosing instead to send money to the United Nations and other international agencies. The few EU countries like Germany that are welcoming Syrians only offer refuge to a few thousand out of the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled their homeland.

But the cool reception isn't stopping Syrians from risking their lives to get to Europe.

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World
2:27 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Berlin Clinic Aims To Make Genital Cutting Survivors Feel Whole

The Desert Flower Center, created by Somali model Waris Dirie, opened in Berlin in September. The medical center provides victims of female genital cutting with reconstructive surgery, counseling and other treatment.
Stephanie Pilick DPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 6:46 pm

At a recent sewing class held in Berlin at Mama Afrika, which helps immigrants adjust to life in Germany, most of the African and Middle Eastern students feign ignorance when founder Hadja Kaba asks them about female genital mutilation.

Turning to one young woman wearing a veil she asks, "Have you been cut?"

"Yes," the woman answers, holding up the cloth she is sewing.

Kaba tries again. "No, not the cloth — down there!"

The veiled woman shakes her head and turns back to her fabric.

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Europe
2:52 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Berlin's Frenzied Fireworks Have Locals Leaving, Hiding On New Year's

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 4:56 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

New Year's Eve in Berlin is a big draw for tourists from around the world. Revelers pack the streets around the Brandenburg Gate and greet the stroke of midnight with music, champagne and mulled wine. But for many residents of the German capital, the holiday can be a frightening and often dangerous experience. As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, thousands of people armed with fireworks transform the city's streets into what feels like a war zone.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Sports
3:22 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Berlin Cheers On Former East German Soccer Team

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 5:24 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

For people in Germany, Christmas means evergreens, "Silent Night" and mulled wine. In the city of Berlin, Christmas also means celebrating a scrappy group of athletes. The FC Union soccer team was formed by iron workers more than a century ago. During the Cold War, it became a symbol of resistance against the East German government. These days, despite mixed results on the field, FC Union remains a fan favorite.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson sent this postcard from a game over the weekend.

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