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.

Pages

Middle East
2:39 am
Mon November 18, 2013

After Stalemate, Regime Troops Gain Against Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 4:09 am

The Syrian army has been gaining significant ground against the rebels around the capital and in the north city of Aleppo. Analysts say the regime has better allies, superior fire-power and in this sectarian battle, has finally integrated Shiite forces from Hezbollah into a formidable force that is effective against disunited rebels.

Middle East
4:46 am
Sat November 2, 2013

A Conquered Foe Returns To War-Torn Syria: Polio

A health worker administers polio vaccine as part of a UNICEF-supported campaign in Damascus. Aid agencies sometimes have to negotiate with rebel groups and work in dangerous situations to immunize vulnerable children.
Omar Sanadiki AP

Originally published on Sat November 2, 2013 6:11 pm

In a refugee camp in eastern Lebanon, aid workers put sandbags around plastic tents to keep winter rains from flooding dirt floors. For weeks now, the threat for Syrian refugees was the coming cold. Now refugees have a bigger fear: polio.

A childhood disease that causes paralysis and sometimes death, polio can spread rapidly, especially with the huge movement of people fleeing the war.

Some 4,000 Syrians still cross into neighboring countries every day, at least half of them children.

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NPR Story
2:57 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Saudi Women Get In Driver's Seat To Protest Ban

Originally published on Mon October 28, 2013 6:00 am

Dozens of women in Saudi Arabia drove cars Saturday in open protest against the kingdom's ban on women driving. NPR's Deborah Amos, who has been covering the story, speaks with Steve Inskeep about the outcome and implications of the protest.

Parallels
11:25 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Saudi Women Go For A Spin In Latest Challenge To Driving Ban

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are barred from driving, but activists have launched a renewed protest and are urging women to drive on Saturday.
Faisal Al Nasser Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 5:39 pm

Activists in Saudi Arabia tried once, they tried again and now they're making a third challenge to the kingdom's long-standing ban on female drivers.

Some women have recently made short drives, posting videos on social media sites, and many more are planning to get behind the wheel on Saturday.

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Parallels
9:25 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Syria's Grinding War Takes Toll On Children

Children play at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where more than 120,000 Syrian refugees live. Roughly two-thirds are kids, many of whom have been traumatized by the violence in their homeland.
Cassandra Nelson Mercy Corps

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 12:19 pm

Alexandra Chen, a specialist in childhood trauma, is on her way from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, to the southern town of Nabatiyeh, where she's running a workshop for teachers, child psychologists and sports coaches who are dealing with the Syrian children scarred by war in their homeland.

"All of the children have experienced trauma to varying degree," explains Chen, who works for Mercy Corps and is training a dozen new hires for her aid group.

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Parallels
9:20 am
Fri October 4, 2013

Do You Know What The U.S. Government Is Up To In Syria?

Syrian youths line up for food distribution in the Maiber al-Salam refugee camp in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey. The U.S. government has provided more than $1.5 billion in aid to Syrians since the uprising began in 2011.
Dimitar Dilkoff AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 8, 2013 7:47 am

Mark Ward is the U.S. State Department's senior adviser on assistance to Syria, and when he heard the Syrian border town of Azaz was overrun by an offshoot of al-Qaida in September, he knew it was time to get creative again.

"You always have to have a plan B in this kind of work," he says.

Ward is based in Turkey. His job is to oversee a growing and unusual U.S. humanitarian assistance program in rebel-held areas in seven provinces across northern Syria.

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World
1:43 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Syrian Rebels: U.S. Distracted By Focus On Chemical Weapons

Smoke from heavy shelling rises above buildings in Dara'a, Syria, on Aug. 28.
Ugarit News AP

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 3:06 am

A satellite cellphone rings for rebel commander Bashar al-Zawi, at home with his family in the Jordanian city of Irbid. It's a rare domestic break for this wealthy businessman turned rebel commander. But he is anxious to get back to his battalion of 5,000 fighters in southern Syria.

They are taking part in a rebel offensive that is squeezing the Syrian army around the city of Dera'a. Military analysts say the fight is one of the most strategically important battles in Syria's civil war, because Dera'a, close to Damascus, is President Bashar Assad's stronghold in the southwest.

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Parallels
2:21 pm
Sun September 22, 2013

Small Syrian Border Town Magnifies Rift Between Rebel Groups

A Free Syrian Army soldier stands on a Syrian military tank in front of a damaged mosque in the Syrian town of Azaz in September 2012. A different rebel group, an al-Qaida offshoot, took over the town on Wednesday.
Hussein Malla AP

Originally published on Sun September 22, 2013 2:22 pm

A small town on the Syrian-Turkish border is playing an outsized role in what has become a war within the war in Syria. Azaz is now a symbol of the dangerous rift between Western-backed rebels under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army and a radical Islamist groups linked to al-Qaida.

Clashes on Wednesday — the seizure of Azaz by an al-Qaida offshoot — were followed more closely than other battles, in part because Azaz was the gateway town for journalists reporting on Syria.

From Cooperation To Competition

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Parallels
12:55 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

For Some Syrian Refugees, A New Home In Germany

Syrian refugees wait in Beirut before a flight to Germany on Wednesday. More than 100 Syrians were on the flight, the first mass relocation program for Syrian refugees. Germany has agreed to take in 5,000 of them.
Nabil Mounzer EPA/LANDOV

Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 3:21 pm

As a Syrian Christian man rolled the family luggage through Beirut's international airport, he practiced his German: "Thank you, danke, dankeschon."

The man, who asked not to be named, is part of a group of Syrian refugees offered temporary resettlement by Germany for two years. The contingent, which flew out Wednesday, included 70 adults and 37 children and infants.

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Parallels
9:49 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Who Are The Syrian Rebels?

A rebel fighter inspects purchases made by civilians as they cross through a building near the front lines in Aleppo, in northern Syria, on Monday. The city has been divided for more than a year, with the rebels holding the eastern part and government troops holding the west.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 11:46 am

When it comes to Syria's rebels, the conventional wisdom in Washington has been that there are countless factions with a range of agendas and it's difficult, if not impossible, to know exactly who they are.

But ask researchers who've spent two years digging into social media and YouTube videos and they offer a remarkably detailed picture of rebel brigades, their ideologies and their arsenal of weapons in the fight against President Bashar Assad's regime.

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Parallels
3:22 am
Sun July 14, 2013

The Don Who's Taken Charge Of Jordan's Biggest Refugee Camp

Mohammed al Hariri is known as the mafia don of the Zaatari Refugee camp. He is the man who gets things done.
Peter Breslow/NPR

Originally published on Sun July 14, 2013 9:14 pm

In chaotic situations, certain people rise to the top, and that is certainly the case for Mohammed al-Hariri, a former air conditioning repairman who commands enormous deference on the windblown streets of Zaatari refugee camp.

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Middle East
1:17 am
Fri July 12, 2013

In Southern Syria, Rebels Say U.S. Support Is Critical

Free Syrian Army fighters after a battle against government troops in Zaizoon, near Dera'a, on Feb. 16.
Shaam News Network Landov

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 6:38 pm

The battle for the city of Dera'a in southern Syria has become a test of an American pledge to give military support to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. After a string of defeats, the rebels have scored rare victories around Dera'a.

But in interviews,rebel commanders passing through neighboring Jordan say those gains could be lost without a dependable arms pipeline and promised U.S. support.

Yasser Aboud, a thin, intense former colonel in the Syrian army, commands the joint operations center for southern Syria.

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Parallels
11:59 am
Mon July 8, 2013

Reversing Direction, Some Syrian Refugees Now Head Home

Refugees at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan try to squeeze on one of the buses heading back to Syria. Syrian refugees have been coming to Jordan for two years, but some are now starting to head home.
Peter Breslow NPR

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:36 am

In the Jordanian desert, the chaos begins at sundown, when the wind whips up the desert sand and the buses arrive. For the past two years, Syrian refugees have been streaming into Jordan, and they now number an estimated half million.

But for the past month, more refugees have returned to Syria than entered Jordan, and hundreds are leaving daily from Zaatari, the U.N.'s largest refugee camp in Jordan.

"Four buses are going every day," says Kilian Kleinschmidt, who runs Zaatari. "Depending on how many people manage to storm the buses, it's probably 300 to 400 people."

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Middle East
1:21 pm
Sat June 29, 2013

As Doctors Leave Syria, Public Health Crisis Looms

Refugees fill cans with water inside a camp in Baalbek, Lebanon, for Syrians who have fled the fighting in their country.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Sat June 29, 2013 1:44 pm

The death toll in Syria's ongoing civil war may now be as high as 100,000. As the violence mounts, another emergency is looming: a public health crisis across the region.

That's the conclusion of a new study published by the British medical journal The Lancet. Syria's health care system is near collapse. Outbreaks of disease are on the rise in the country, and refugees sheltered beyond the border are also at great risk.

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Parallels
6:28 am
Wed June 26, 2013

Jordan Accused Of Targeting Online Dissent

A Jordanian woman surfs the Web at an office in the Amman, Jordan, on Sept. 30, 2009. The country's government is under fire from media activists for blocking hundreds of websites across the kingdom.
Ali Jareki Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed June 26, 2013 12:43 pm

Jordan's King Abdullah vowed to make the desert kingdom a "free Internet" country as he began his rule more than a decade ago. On June 2, when local Internet providers were ordered to block hundreds of news websites across the kingdom, Web publishers protested the broken promise and international media watchdog organizations charged censorship.

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Middle East
4:03 am
Mon June 17, 2013

U.S. War Planes Participate In Exercises In Jordan

Originally published on Mon June 17, 2013 11:13 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Syria's Arab neighbors are increasingly being drawn into that country's conflict. Over the weekend, the Egyptian president cut all diplomatic ties with Syria and called for a no-fly zone to protect rebels there.

In Jordan - right next door to Syria - King Abdullah told graduates at the country's military academy that he would defend against any spillover from the fighting. That followed a Pentagon decision to base Patriot missiles and a squadron of F-16 fighter planes in the country.

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Parallels
7:51 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Is Syria's Bashar Assad Getting The Upper Hand?

Syrian President Bashar Assad reiterated his intention to remain in his current position during a television interview last week. The Syrian president and his army have been looking stronger in recent weeks, many analysts say.
SANA AP

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 9:19 am

After more than a year of military stalemate in Syria between the rebels and the government, President Bashar Assad appears to be making political and military gains and is not likely to be pushed aside anytime soon, according to many analysts.

Assad reasserted his plans to stay in power during a recent interview on Al Manar TV, a channel owned by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group, which has openly joined the Syria war on Assad's side.

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Parallels
11:36 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Teaching The Rules Of War In Syria's Vicious Conflict

This image provided by the Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad and released May 2 shows soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad standing amid dead bodies at Bayda village, in the mountains outside the coastal city of Banias, Syria.
Anonymous AP

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 1:02 pm

A new video from Syria is shocking even by the standards of a war that keeps setting new standards for brutality.

In the video, a rebel fighter identified as Khalid al-Hamad is shown cutting out and eating the organs of a dead government soldier.

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The Two-Way
3:34 pm
Thu May 9, 2013

Top U.S. Official Meets With Rebels Inside Syria

Robert Ford, the State Department's point man on Syria policy, appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 11.
Michael Reynolds EPA /LANDOV

Ambassador Robert Ford, the State Department's point man on Syrian policy, crossed into northern Syria on Wednesday. The secret visit was confirmed by Syrian activists at the media office at the Bab al-Salama crossing on the Turkish frontier.

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Middle East
3:25 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Thousands Of Syrians Ride Buses To Refugee Camps

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 9:54 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

Syria has accused Israel of flagrantly violating international law after a series of airstrikes on targets near the Syrian capital over the weekend. Now, Israel has not officially accepted responsibility, but Israeli sources say the targets included Iranian-made missiles bound for Hezbollah fighters in neighboring Lebanon.

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The Salt
4:03 am
Sat May 4, 2013

As Syria Melts Down, Ice Cream Shop Sets Up In Jordan

Employees scoop ice cream, which is topped with pistachios, at Bakdash's opening in Amman, Jordan, this week. Bakdash has been a landmark in Damascus, Syria, since 1895. But the war there has made it hard to get supplies, so the owners have set up a new shop in Amman.
Nabih Bulos for NPR

Originally published on Sat May 4, 2013 11:15 pm

Bakdash is a landmark in the Syrian capital, serving the Arab world's most famous ice cream since 1895. Manually churned with wooden paddles, loaded with milk, sugar and a generous coating of pistachios, Bakdash ice cream is memorable treat for any visitor to Damascus.

But, when a branch opened this week in Amman, Jordan, it was seen as another casualty of the Syrian war.

"It means there is no sense of security and safety in Damascus," says journalist Fahd al Kheytaan, "which forced the company to move some of its operation to Jordan."

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Middle East
2:22 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Sea Of Syrian Refugees Threatens To Overload Jordan

There are more than 100,000 Syrian refugees at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, near the Syrian border.
Mohammad Hannon AP

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 7:23 pm

Jordan's fastest-growing city lies in the middle of the desert, where the sand is so white that from a distance it looks like snow. There's little running water and not much electricity.

The name of this place? The Zaatari refugee camp, home to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees.

"This is a city — not one that anybody would want to create if they had a choice," says Caroline Gluck of Oxfam, one of the aid agencies working in the Zaatari camp. "It's certainly not urban planning at its best."

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Middle East
1:22 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

'It's Not Normal': Syrian War Transforms Lives

Razan Shalab Al-Sham, in bright blue, works for the Syrian Emergency Task Force. She helped provide uniforms for the new civil police force of Khirbet al-Joz in northern Syria.
Deborah Amos NPR

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 6:59 pm

In November, Razan Shalab Al-Sham, the daughter of a wealthy Syrian family, led the way to the Syrian farming village of Khirbet al-Joz to deliver an unusual kind of aid: police uniforms. A cold winter rain turned the frontier forest between southern Turkey and Syria into a muddy march up a mountain ridge along a smugglers' trail. She climbed the mountain to make the delivery herself.

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Middle East
1:03 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Syrian Financial Capital's Loss Is Turkey's Gain

Syrian refugees are pictured at Kilis refugee camp in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Nov. 1. An estimated 150,000 Syrians are reported to be living in the Turkish border town.
Maurizio Gambarini DPA/Landov

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 8:20 pm

There is a brain drain in Syria, an exodus of the skilled and the educated as the Syrian revolt grinds into a third year.

The health care system is one casualty, as hospitals and clinics are shelled and doctors flee the country.

The business community is another — particularly in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once the country's industrial and financial hub.

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Middle East
1:24 am
Tue March 26, 2013

Syrian Aid Groups Train An Army Of Activists

Workers prepare hundreds of food baskets to be distributed by the NGO Watan to needy refugees from Syria now living in Reyhanli, Turkey.
Jodi Hilton for NPR

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 6:57 pm

At a border crossing, Mulham al-Jundi directs aid vehicles from southern Turkey into Syria. The Turkish border officials know him; they quickly stamp his papers and wave him through.

Jundi is with Watan, a private Syrian aid group that collects donations from abroad and delivers support to some of the hot spots inside Syria — places that international aid agencies have been unable to reach.

The group has seven ambulances that help support field hospitals that have been established inside Syria, says Jundi, 28, who heads the aid operation from an office in southern Turkey.

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The Two-Way
10:36 am
Mon March 18, 2013

Syrian Opposition Poised To Vote On Interim Government

Demonstrators wave Syrian opposition flags during a protest in Istanbul against the government of Syria's President Bashar Assad, on March 15.
Osman Orsal Reuters /Landov

As Syria's revolt enters a third year, Syria's political opposition is meeting in Istanbul this week to choose a rebel government, despite opposition from the Obama administration.

Twelve candidates are in the running to lead the efforts, including an economist, a former agriculture minister and an IT specialist who is overseeing the Syrian National Coalition's aid operation on the Turkish border.

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Middle East
2:55 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Courts Become A Battleground For Secularists, Islamists In Syria

An Islamist rebel group in Aleppo called "the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Supporting the Oppressed" reviews applications for aid on Feb. 25. In addition to handing out aid, the Islamist group says it is carrying out civilian administration in parts of Aleppo.
Hamid Khatib Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 4:49 pm

In rebel-held parts of Syria, a clash of ideologies is playing out. Powerful Islamist brigades are competing with pro-democracy civilians to shape Syria's future.

One battlefront is in the courts. In many areas in northern Syria, Islamists have set up religious courts that deliver rulings under Shariah, or Islamic law — a fundamental change in Syria's civil legal system.

This is evident on a recent day in a courtroom in the northern Syrian city of Azaz.

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Middle East
2:28 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Syrian Cyber-Rebel Wages War, One Hack At A Time

Ahmad "Harvester" Heidar is a computer software engineer whose work for the Syrian rebels includes sweeping the hard drives of detained anti-government activists, and trying to develop a robot that will help extract sniper victims in Syria. Turkish officials have given Heidar the green light to develop a prototype of his robot, which he calls Tina.
Jodi Hilton for NPR

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 6:27 pm

The Internet is a battleground in Syria, a place where President Bashar Assad's regime has mounted a sophisticated surveillance campaign that includes monitoring and arresting activists by tracking their Facebook pages.

The Syrian Electronic Army, an arm of the Syrian military, is in charge of the monitoring.

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The Two-Way
3:53 am
Sun March 10, 2013

In Ancient Aleppo, Plotting The Future

Syrians carry a large revolution flag and chant slogans during a protest in Aleppo, Syria, where young people and children sang songs against President Bashar Assad and the Syrian regime, Dec. 21, 2012.
Virginie Nguyen Hoang AP

A soft-spoken, clean-shaven, 31-year-old aid worker hopes to determine, in part, the future of Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

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Middle East
8:45 am
Sun March 3, 2013

Miles From Home, Syrians Vote In Free Elections

As Aleppo residents in the Tariq al-Bab district recover from this week's attack by Syrian regime forces, delegates from the city are in Turkey holding an election for local officials.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 9:24 am

In Syria's northern province of Aleppo, the war is far from over. Yet civilians are planning a dramatic gesture: an election for a civilian government.

This weekend, delegates from across the province are taking part in the first free vote outside of the control of President Bashar Assad's regime. Its location: Gaziantep, Turkey.

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