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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Africa
4:02 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Egyptians Unsatisfied With Mubarak Verdict

Originally published on Mon June 4, 2012 11:26 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Egypt, protests continue against the verdicts in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak and various people in his old regime. Mubarak was handed a life sentence in connection to the deaths of protesters during last year's revolution. But critics say the judge's ruling all but ensured the former president's sentence will be overturned on appeal.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story from Cairo.

JUDGE AHMED REFAAT: (Foreign language spoken)

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Middle East
3:05 pm
Sat June 2, 2012

Life Sentence For Ex-Egyptian Leader Hosni Mubarak

Protesters hold Egyptian flags during the demonstration in Tahrir Square.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat June 2, 2012 4:49 pm

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison Saturday for his role in killing protesters during the revolution that ousted him from power.

A hushed courtroom listened as the head judge read the verdict: guilty of accessory to murder and attempted murder. Mubarak lay motionless on a hospital gurney inside a courtroom cage, his only noticeable emotion being the slight quivering of his lips.

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Middle East
3:28 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Egyptians Prepare For Historic Presidential Vote

An Egyptian woman walks under a campaign banner in Cairo on Tuesday. Egypt holds its first competitive presidential election on Wednesday and Thursday, with a dozen candidates in the race.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 6:46 pm

The first free presidential election in Egypt begins Wednesday.

Twelve candidates are running for the top spot vacated by Hosni Mubarak during last year's revolution. But none is expected to get an outright majority, and if that proves true, then a runoff will take place next month between the two leading vote-getters.

Many Egyptian voters say they are excited about the presidential election, which the country's ruling generals promise will be fair.

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Middle East
6:39 am
Sun May 20, 2012

Egyptian Candidate Gains Support, Despite Reputation

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Egyptians are getting ready for an historic vote, their first real presidential election since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted during the Arab Spring. Twelve candidates are in the running. One them, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, is already dividing voters ahead of Wednesday's vote. Many consider Shafiq a corrupt holdover from the old regime.

But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, he is gaining widespread support from Egyptians fed up with the growing insecurity in their country.

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Middle East
12:52 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Egypt's New President Could Come From Old Guard

Amr Moussa, a prominent figure during the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, is the front-runner as Egyptians prepare to vote for president next week. He is shown here during a campaign event on the outskirts of Cairo on Wednesday.
Mohamed Abd El Ghany Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 4:34 pm

In Egypt's historic presidential race, opinion polls place the oldest candidate with the most political experience far ahead of his 11 rivals.

Many opponents try to portray Amr Moussa as a holdover from the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak. Moussa was Egypt's foreign minister under Mubarak and later the secretary-general of the Arab League.

Yet many voters believe he is the only candidate who can end the country's growing insecurity and economic problems.

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Africa
3:10 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Political Rift Widens Between Egyptian Islamists

Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh is welcomed by supporters upon his arrival at a meeting north of Cairo, on April 26. He was formerly a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, but was kicked out of the organization.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Fri May 4, 2012 4:31 pm

The two top Islamists running in Egypt's first real presidential race share a common history.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a physician, is a former senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood whose moderate stance has made him popular not only with Islamists, but with liberal and secular Egyptians.

Mohammed Morsi, an engineer, heads the Brotherhood's political party, which holds nearly half the seats in parliament.

Yet despite their common political background, the two men are bitter rivals.

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Middle East
3:18 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Egypt Recalls Its Ambassador From Saudi Arabia

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 5:03 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Egypt has made a request to Saudi Arabia. In effect: Please, send your ambassador back here to Cairo. The Saudis recalled their ambassador over the weekend, exposing tension in one of the most important relationships in the Arab world. The Saudis have the most money. Egypt has the most people.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, on what they do now.

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Middle East
8:02 am
Sun April 29, 2012

Egyptian Comedian's Case Raises Free Speech Concerns

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 10:31 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One of the Arab world's most popular comedic actors is facing jail time in Egypt after a judge ruled he insulted Islam in some of his past film roles. The case worries those already concerned about the growing influence of Islamists in Egypt. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has that story from Cairo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Africa
2:06 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

At Last, Egypt Settles On Presidential Candidates

Amr Moussa, the front-runner in the Egyptian presidential race, speaks during a press conference in Cairo on Apr. 22. The country's election commission said Thursday that Moussa and 12 other candidates are eligible to compete in next month's election.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 4:27 pm

After months of anticipation, and just a few weeks before the voting, Egypt now has a list of 13 officially approved presidential candidates.

Amr Moussa, the former secretary-general of the Arab League, is one of the 13, and he is ahead in most opinion surveys in advance of the May 23-24 election.

And in a reversal, Egyptian election officials agreed Thursday to let one of Hosni Mubarak's former prime ministers run for president.

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Middle East
3:13 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Egyptians Warily Await Final Slate Of Candidates

During a demonstration at Cairo's Tahrir Square last week, veiled Egyptian women hold posters supporting Muslim cleric Hazem Abu Ismail, an ultra-conservative preacher who was disqualified from running for the presidential elections on technical grounds.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 5:39 pm

Egypt's election commission is expected to announce the final list of candidates this week for next month's presidential elections. But which candidate will win is far from clear.

A recent Egyptian poll shows nearly 40 percent of voters have no idea who to support. Another 30 percent who had decided will be forced to select someone else because their preferred candidates were among the 10 barred by election officials recently.

As a result, Egyptian voters who were once excited about the prospect of their first free presidential election are growing frustrated.

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NPR Story
2:42 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Egypt's Banned Candidates Vow Not To Go Quietly

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat el-Shater talks to reporters in Cairo on Tuesday. The elections commission has disqualified 10 presidential hopefuls, including el-Shater.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 6:48 am

Egyptian election officials upheld their ban of nearly half of the presidential candidates running in next month's contest. Among them are two leading Islamist candidates and the intelligence chief for former President Hosni Mubarak. The decision radically alters the race for a post that will shape Egypt's political landscape.

Minutes after official news outlets announced the election commission ruling, candidate Hazem Abu Ismail took to the airwaves to denounce it as a conspiracy.

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Africa
1:12 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

Once-Thriving Egyptian Port Suffers After Soccer Riot

Egyptian soccer fans clash with riot police following a match between the hometown Al-Masry team and Cairo's Al-Ahly at the soccer stadium in Port Said, Egypt, on Feb. 1.
AP

Originally published on Mon April 2, 2012 3:12 pm

The Egyptian city of Port Said is the northern gateway to one of the world's key shipping lanes, the Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. With its ornate buildings and clean streets, the sprawling city has one of the highest standards of living in Egypt.

But this year, Port Said has become known for something more sinister: It was the site of Egypt's deadliest soccer riot.

Many of the city's officials and residents say the tragedy has destroyed Port Said's reputation and left them in financial trouble.

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Africa
1:27 am
Mon April 2, 2012

Unease Grows Over Islamist Political Agenda In Egypt

Egyptians protest outside the administrative court in the capital, Cairo, on Tuesday. The protesters are calling for the panel drafting the constitution to be made up entirely of non-parliamentarians. Controversy swirls around the 100-member panel — handpicked by Islamist lawmakers — which includes only a handful of women and Christians.
Gianluigi Guercia AFP/Getty Images

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in Egypt are flexing their growing political muscle. They control the legislative agenda in parliament, and in recent weeks introduced controversial proposals to curb social freedoms and legal rights.

Islamist lawmakers also handpicked a 100-member panel that began meeting this week to write a new constitution, which is widely expected to enshrine Islamic law.

Even so, Islamist leaders say they want Egypt to remain a secular state. But many secular Egyptians are not convinced.

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Africa
9:05 am
Thu March 22, 2012

To Be Heard, Egypt's Bedouin Take Tourists Hostage

A Bedouin guide makes his way down from Mount Sinai to the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The Bedouins depend on tourism, but have been kidnapping visitors in recent months in an attempt to pressure Egypt's government.
Mike Nelson EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 2:05 pm

Bedouin tribesmen on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula rely on tourists for their livelihood — taking them on safaris, selling them trinkets, renting them huts at no-frills resorts on the Red Sea.

But these days, some Bedouins are using tourists for something completely different: as hostages in their political battle with the Egyptian government. In one recent incident, the tribesmen kidnapped two Brazilian tourists to secure the release of imprisoned relatives. The kidnappers released the women unharmed a few hours later.

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Sports
10:01 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

An American Soccer Coach In Egypt's National Court

The Egyptian national soccer team's American coach, Bob Bradley, attends his team's friendly match against Kenya in the Qatari capital, Doha, in February. The Egyptian team won 5-0.
Karim Jaafar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 14, 2012 10:24 am

Anti-Americanism is on the rise in Egypt these days. A highly publicized trial is under way in Cairo against U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups, and Egyptians are making it clear they reject any American involvement in their country's affairs.

There's one exception, however: an American living in Cairo whom Egyptians are counting on to shake things up. His name is Bob Bradley, and he's the New Jersey-born coach of Egypt's struggling national soccer team.

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Middle East
1:25 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Egyptians Prepare For Wide-Open Presidential Poll

Egyptian presidential candidate and former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa delivers a speech to Bedouins in Ras Sidr during a campaign trip to the South Sinai last week. Egyptians are anticipating the first presidential elections after last year's ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Asmaa Waguih Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 1:00 pm

Egypt's presidential race officially kicks off Saturday, and there are already more than a dozen contenders for what is expected to be the most competitive presidential election ever.

Nevertheless, many Egyptians fear those currently in power will try to manipulate the process to make sure that a candidate of their choosing wins.

At 41, Khaled Ali is the youngest Egyptian vying to be his country's next president.

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Middle East
4:11 am
Sat February 25, 2012

In Egypt, Christian-Muslim Tension Is On The Rise

A Coptic Christian man holds a cross made of flowers during a clash between Christians and Muslims in Cairo in November. Relations are becoming more strained between the two communities, and there has been periodic violence.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Thu March 29, 2012 3:18 pm

Blackened rubble is all that is left of Abskharon Suleiman's appliance store in the northern Egyptian village of Sharbat.

Suleiman is a Coptic Christian, and his upstairs apartment, as well as his children's homes and shops, were gutted and looted in an attack last month by young Muslim men.

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Middle East
2:59 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

The Woman Behind Egypt's Crackdown On Aid Groups

Egyptian Planning and International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga (shown here in Washington, D.C., last April) has repeatedly warned Egyptians about the alleged danger foreigners pose to their country. She is the driving force behind recent efforts to prosecute 43 people, including American and other foreign democracy activists, for operating illegally in Egypt.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 16, 2012 4:39 pm

In Egypt, a female Cabinet minister has emerged as the driving force behind a crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups.

The attacks of Faiza Aboul Naga — a holdover from the regime of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — have made her a hero to many Egyptians who believe she is defending their country's honor. But the threat she poses to billions of dollars in U.S. aid and international loans could make her power short-lived.

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Middle East
2:56 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Egyptians Harbor Suspicions About U.S. Aid Groups

An Egyptian soldier on an armored vehicle guards an exchange office in Cairo on Monday. Tensions between the U.S. and Egypt are rising over Cairo's investigation of aid workers, many of them American. An Egyptian Cabinet minister, Faiza Aboul Naga, recently accused the U.S. of directly funding pro-democracy groups in order to create chaos in Egypt.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 4:16 pm

The Egyptian government has further escalated tensions with Washington by accusing U.S. officials of directly funding nonprofit groups to create chaos in the Arab country.

The latest comments were made by an Egyptian Cabinet member to prosecutors conducting a criminal probe into the activities of 43 aid workers, many of them American.

Such claims anger U.S. officials, who have threatened to hold back more than $1 billion in military aid if the crackdown on private, pro-democracy organizations doesn't end.

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Middle East
6:00 am
Sat February 11, 2012

A Year After Mubarak Fell, What Has Egypt Achieved?

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 9:46 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now let's move to Egypt where one year ago today mounting protests forced Hosni Mubarak to step down as president. Last February, millions of jubilant Egyptians poured out onto the streets across the country, but that mood has given way to widespread frustration. Many Egyptians object to the continued hold on power by Mubarak's military allies, a rapidly weakening economy and the failure to bring the former president to justice. This week we spoke with people around Cairo about their impressions one year on.

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Middle East
1:00 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Egyptian Judge Details Charges Against NGO Workers

Egyptian authorities have released details of the charges against 43 people, including 19 Americans, who worked for democracy-building NGOs around the country. Cairo says the suspects were carrying out political, not civil society activities, particularly after the revolution began just over a year ago.

NPR Story
6:00 am
Sat January 28, 2012

Egyptians Divide As They Celebrate Together

This week, Egyptians marked the first anniversary of the uprising that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Deepening political divisions between pro-Islamist and secular protesters marred the event, erupting into violent scuffles. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

Middle East
2:31 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

In Egypt, Islamists Take Control Of A New Parliament

Egypt's recently elected parliament, which is dominated by Islamists, held its first session in Cairo on Monday. The challenges facing the legislature include coming up with a new constitution.
Asmaa Waguih AP

Egypt's Islamists formalized their new stature on Monday as the first freely elected parliament in six decades held its inaugural session in Cairo.

The session was broadcast live on Egyptian state television and was largely spent swearing in the 508 members, most of whom belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Salafist movement.

But outside the parliament, not everyone was celebrating.

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Middle East
1:43 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Egypt's Street Kids Are Revolution's Smallest Soldiers

In Egypt, a disturbing trend has emerged in recent clashes between protesters and security forces: children placing themselves on the front lines.

Activists say several have been killed or wounded in recent months by gunfire and tear gas. Plus, one out of every four protesters thrown in jail following clashes in December was a child.

Their advocates say most, if not all, of these kids live on Cairo's streets, and that they see the revolution as a way to escape their isolation from society.

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World
3:37 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

Egyptians Discuss Final Stage Of Parliament Vote

The third stage in Egypt's parliamentary elections got underway Tuesday. In upper Egypt, tensions between Muslims and Christians have intensified in the aftermath of the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Qena is a stronghold of the ultra-conservative Salafi movement, and its members have clashed repeatedly with local Coptic Christians over the past year.

Middle East
10:01 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Egypt, Tunisia Try To Turn Elections Into Democracy

Egypt is holding parliamentary elections, but the military remains the most powerful force in the country. Here, election officials take away ballot boxes from a polling station in Cairo on Nov. 29, 2011.
Odd Andersen AFP/Getty Images

One year ago, the people of Tunisia and Egypt rose up against their autocratic rulers and forced them from power. Those revolutions spread across the Arab World, leading to the region's biggest upheaval in decades. It's still not clear how these seismic changes will play out, and so far, the results have been mixed. Today, NPR begins a six-part series looking at where the region stands today. In our first story, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports on the elections in Egypt and Tunisia as these countries struggle to build democracies.

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Middle East
10:01 pm
Wed December 28, 2011

Will Islamist Politicians Hamper Egyptian Tourism?

Tourists visit the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza near Cairo. Tourist numbers have plummeted this year with the political turmoil in Egypt. Now, some Islamist politicians are proposing rules that could discourage visitors.
Jamal Saidi Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 6:03 am

Islamists are widely expected to hold a majority of seats in Egypt's new parliament when it convenes next month, and a leading priority is the sagging economy.

Yet their conservative religious approach could threaten a key pillar of Egypt's economy: Western tourists.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party received many votes from vendors at the Khan el-Khalili market, a hub for tourists in Cairo with narrow twisting lanes and soaring minarets.

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Middle East
2:33 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Egyptian Islamists Favored In Second Phase Of Voting

Women stand in line to cast their votes in Suez, Egypt, on Wednesday. For months after the revolution, the port city had no government or services. Some voters are turning to the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood to bring change.
Eman Helal AP

Originally published on Tue January 31, 2012 9:48 am

A steady stream of voters showed up Wednesday at polling centers in the port city of Suez and eight other governorates in Egypt. Islamists are expecting to boost their lead in the second phase of the country's landmark parliamentary elections.

The first phase was held last month, and the third and final phase will come next month as the country votes by region.

At a school called "Freedom" in Suez, many women were heavily veiled with only their eyes showing.

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Middle East
2:01 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Islamist Parties At Odds In Egypt's Ongoing Elections

Egyptian soldiers stand in front of campaign posters for candidates from the hard-line Islamist Salafist Al-Nour party, in the coastal city of Alexandria.
AFP/Getty Images

As the Egyptian elections roll on over the course of several more weeks, the incoming parliament looks likely to be dominated by Islamists. But the two leading Islamist blocs have little in common and are doing their best to undermine each other.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists do not get along in Alexandria's working-class slum of Abu Suleiman. Outside one polling station, the tension is thick as campaign workers for each group's political party hand out fliers.

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Africa
1:22 pm
Mon November 28, 2011

In Egypt's Vote, Islamists Expect Strong Showing

Sobhi Saleh, right, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and candidate for parliament, speaks to voters at a polling station in Alexandria, Egypt on Monday. The Brotherhood is expected to make a strong showing in the polls.
Tarek Fawzy AP

Dozens of veiled women tried to squeeze past each other Monday and into a polling station in the working-class neighborhood of Raml in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria.

They were eager to cast ballots for a clean-shaven man in a crisp blue suit and matching tie.

His name is Sobhi Saleh and he heads the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party ticket in three of Alexandria's districts. The party is considered the best organized in Egypt and is expected to do well in the country's first election since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.

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