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.

The Syrian uprising started three years ago this week with protests and eventually a military crackdown that led to all-out civil war. More than 130,000 people have died.

For months, a military stalemate has defined the war in Syria. Now, a new strategy is emerging as Western allies and Gulf states step up support for rebels in southern Syria.

Along Jordan's northern border, Syrian rebels say they are unifying their fractious ranks, urged to unite by Western and Arab intelligence operatives who work in a covert command center in Jordan's capital.

At the National Theater in downtown Tehran, "Waiting for Godot" seems to have captured the mood of a country.

The Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett dramatized endless waiting in vain for someone named Godot. The play, translated into Farsi, got a standing ovation on the night I attended. The characters, in classic white suits, black top hats and black shoes, took endless bows as the audience whistled and clapped.

Iran is starting to see a re-launch of activist groups following the election last year of President Hassan Rouhani. Social movements were scarce after the government crushed public protests known as the Green Movement following the 2009 elections. After the decisive vote for Rouhani, a surge of hope in Iran has attracted activists back to the political arena. Iranian women, in particular, are seizing the opportunity.

For eight days, the Syrian regime and an opposition delegation sat face-to-face, but were not on speaking terms in Room 16 of the Palais des Nations in the sprawling complex of United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

Round one demonstrated the bitter divide with no breakthrough on the core issues of a political transition or access to humanitarian aid.

So what comes next?

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The meeting between Syrian government and opposition leaders also brings competing entourages to Geneva. Pro-government reporters and opposition journalists are covering the same events, often in the same room, and it's not pretty. They've sparred, traded insults and even thrown punches.

NPR's Deborah Amos reports on a media war that reflects the passions of the battlefield.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

Friday was the first day of negotiations at the Syrian peace conference. There were no direct talks, however. Instead, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi shuttled between government and opposition delegations in separate rooms.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. The Syrian peace conference got off to a bitter start today with sharply opposing visions over a future role for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. More than 40 countries sent delegations and many of their speeches struck similar themes decrying the vast human suffering in Syria and calling for a political solution to the crisis.

The long-anticipated Syrian peace conference is again in turmoil. The U.N. secretary-general's surprise decision to invite Iran to attend the conference prompted a boycott threat from Syria's exiled opposition. At issue is the fact that Iran has not publicly committed to the framework for the conference or pledged to withdraw its troops and allied militias from Syria. Under pressure from the opposition groups and the U.S., the U.N. has since withdrawn its invitation to Iran.

Can a meeting in Switzerland, known as Geneva-2, solve the crisis in Syria?

The expectations are low. The warring parties are reluctant. Some of the most important players, including powerful armed rebel groups, are not on the invitation list.

The superpower hosts, the U.S. and Russia, fully back the peace conference, set for Wednesday. They hope to kick-start a political process and end the armed conflict that has ravaged Syria and destabilized the region.

When peace talks open in Switzerland, one common concern between the West and Syria is expected to be the threat of Islamist extremists and the rise of al-Qaida-linked militias. Thousands of Sunni militants from around the world have joined the rebel groups in Syria, but there are other groups of militant foreign fighters who support the Syrian regime. Iraqi Shiites are being recruited in the thousands to bolster Syria's armed forces. Recruiting billboards and social media help portray the fight as an existential battle between Sunnis and Muslims.

Reports from the Syrian city of Raqqa are dire. In the north-central provincial capital, "the atmosphere has gone from bad to worse," says one activist with a rare link to the Internet. He reports the city is "completely paralyzed," the hospital is abandoned, and there are bodies in the central square. There is no power or water for a city of more than half a million people. Even the critical bread ovens are shut.

In a clinic in southern Turkey, Mohammed Ibrahim helps 23-year-old Syrian Mustapha Abu Bakr take his first steps since he lost his legs, holding on to a set of bars for balance.

"He can't express his feelings," Ibrahim says. "It's a new thing completely for him."

Ibrahim explains that patients who have lost a leg below the knee can walk out of the clinic without crutches after a day of practice. For double amputees like Abu Bakr, who was injured in Syria's civil war, the adjustment takes more time.

There are differing versions of what happened to the Greek Orthodox nuns of Maaloula, who left their convent north of Damascus earlier this month. Some say the nuns are being held hostage by Islamic radicals. Others say they were under missile assault by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and were rescued by rebel fighters.

The 27-year-old Syrian, who once smuggled arms for Syrian rebels, is now waiting in Istanbul for a human smuggler to get him to Europe. He says his name is Mohammed. He does not offer a second name. He will go by air, he says, the safest route. He has paid a smuggler more than $8,000, and he's sure he will get to Austria.

In the past week, he connected seven friends with smugglers.

"I know that most of them made it," he says, with a tight smile. He is traveling light. Everything he owns is in a backpack.

"I am leaving Syria under a lot of pressure," he explains.

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