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.

An Islamist party heads Morocco's newly elected government, part of a wave of Islamist election victories following uprisings across North Africa.

But Morocco's case is a bit different. King Mohammed VI responded quickly to a pro-democracy movement last year with a new constitution and snap elections. The Justice and Development Party, known as the PJD, won the most votes in November. Now, Moroccans ask: How will this popular Islamist party govern?

When a pro-democracy movement took to the streets of Morocco last February, King Mohammed VI, who has been on the throne for more than decade, responded swiftly.

Within weeks, the king had proposed a new constitution and snap elections. The Moroccan example of reforms without violence was hailed by some as a model.

The Arab uprisings have ousted or weakened some American allies. Elections in Tunisia and Egypt have shown the strength of Islamist political parties. And after the long, hard war in Iraq, the U.S. appears to have a diminished appetite for new, complicated undertakings in the region. In the last of our six-part series on the upheavals changing the Middle East, NPR's Deborah Amos looks at what it all means for America.

Morocco has been called one of the winners of the Arab Spring. The country's young king, Mohammed VI, offered a new constitution and early elections, taking the steam out of a protest movement that rose up last February.

But the arrest and trial of an artist who writes provocative rap songs show that there seem to be limits to the reforms.

The rap songs of 24-year-old Mouad Belrhouate are popular in Morocco, even more so after the four months he has spent in jail.

For the past 10 months, Syrians have taken to the streets in large numbers to oppose a repressive regime that has not hesitated to use force. The United Nations estimates more than 5,000 Syrians have died, and it is far from clear how the uprising will play out. President Bashar Assad's regime blames the revolt on Islamist militants and casts the uprising as a threat to Syria's minorities, including Assad's fellow Alawites and the country's Christians.

The tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar has deep pockets and a big microphone in the form of its news network, Al Jazeera. In recent months, those assets have been used to propel the Arab Spring forward. Qatar has supported rebel movements in Libya and Syria, and is promoting a "Marshall Fund" for Oman, Morocco and Jordan. The country's emir has close, personal relationships with the emerging Islamist leaders from Casablanca to Cairo — and meanwhile provides a home to the largest U.S. military base outside the United States.

Despite the presence of an Arab League monitoring mission, Syrian security forces shot dead at least 40 protesters on Thursday, according to activists.

Arab League monitors visited the central city of Homs, an opposition stronghold, besieged and under bombardment by the Syrian army until the monitors showed up. Syrian army armor was withdrawn from the city streets ahead of the visit, but activists say they expect a resumption of the army offensive as soon as the monitors leave. They also complain that they have not been allowed to meet with the Arab League team.

The Arab League has a reputation for being long on rhetoric and short on action. That's why it was so surprising when Arab ministers approved an unprecedented package of sanctions against Syria at the end of November.

But the unity that produced that vote is falling apart, and a meeting in Cairo to set the terms of the sanctions was suspended indefinitely.

Srdja Popovic, a lanky biologist from Belgrade, helped overthrow a dictator in Serbia a decade ago. Since then, he's been teaching others what he learned, and his proteges include a host of Arab activists who have played key roles in ousting Arab autocrats over the past year.

"This is a bad year for bad guys," Popovic says with a broad grin in a New York cafe.

In a matter of months, Turkey has gone from one of Syria's strongest allies to one of its sharpest critics as the uprising in Syria has been met with a harsh crackdown by President Bashar Assad.

Turkey has become a haven for Syrian refugees, a base for Syrian army defectors and a home for Syria's main political opposition group. And on Friday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Turkey for talks that included the deteriorating conditions in Syria.

On the streets of Istanbul, Akram Asaf, a 31-year-old lawyer who fled Syria, says he feels safe, but not yet free.

The Syrian government has barred most international journalists from the country, restricting coverage since an uprising began last spring. In response, Syrian activists have played a crucial role in providing information to the wider world.

One of the most prominent is Alexander Page — an alias that a young Syrian used for his safety. He was often cited by international media outlets, including NPR.

But he recently fled Syria after his identity was compromised and he was in danger of arrest.

Syria's President Bashar Assad has survived an uprising that's now in its eighth month, and he shows no signs of buckling. The president has relied on a massive security presence to limit protests at home, and has dismissed criticism and sanctions from abroad.

But is this strategy sustainable, or is Assad simply buying time?

From the outset of the Syrian uprising last spring, Syria's president, Bashar Assad, offered promises of reform. Activists, meanwhile, documented abuses by his security forces, including video footage of shootings against unarmed protesters.

Now, the Assad government appears to be relying exclusively on brutal repression, giving free reign to the security services to crush the revolt, according to analysts inside and outside the country.

Every Syrian is feeling the economic pain of a seven month uprising and western sanctions to end a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.

But shopkeepers tell a different story along a street of open-air shops in the Midan neighborhood in central Damascus. A government escort accompanies an NPR reporter for interviews about the sensitive subject of tightening economic sanctions against Syria.

Hassan Shagharouri runs a sweets shop. When asked if prices are rising, he responds that the prices are the same and that everything is perfect.

Syrian exiles, both defecting soldiers and civilian protesters, have slipped across the border into northern Lebanon seeking safety from the Syrian government and its relentless crackdown on opponents.

But even here, they can literally hear the shooting from across the border in the restive Syrian town of Homs, less than 20 miles away. They express fear that President Bashar Assad's forces will track them down in Lebanon. Those most at risk are army defectors who are hiding out in small Lebanese villages.

After seven months of protests in Syria, the international community has stepped up economic pressure, and some of Syria's traditional allies have turned into critics.

Yet President Bashar Assad presses on with a relentless and bloody crackdown, and his government seems to be operating on its own timeline when it comes to the uprisings that have already toppled several Arab regimes.

The events in Syria suggest it's time for a reassessment of the Arab spring, according to Vali Nasr, a former U.S. government adviser and Middle East scholar at Tufts University.

Struggling to put down a rebellion now in its seventh month, the Syrian government has turned the Internet into another battleground.

Sophisticated Web surveillance of the anti-government movement has led to arrests, while pro-government hackers use the Internet to attack activists and their cause. It appears to be part of a coordinated campaign by the embattled government.

Syria's leadership insists there is no uprising in the country. Syria's official news media reports that the unrest is a fabrication, part of an international plot.

It was an unprecedented gathering in Syria: The security police were monitoring, but they did not break up, a six-hour meeting of more than 300 dissidents at a farmhouse outside the capital Damascus.

Syria's traditional dissidents, men and women who have spent years in jail, have met before. For the first time, they sat together Sunday with young street organizers of the current unrest.

Samir Aita, an opposition figure who lives in Paris, attended the gathering and talked about the significance when he reached Beirut.

Syria's uprising has been called the YouTube Revolution. The protest videos from cities across the country are a guide to how the movement works.

The banners and the slogans are remarkably similar, from the city of Dera'a in the south, to Hama on the central plain, to the eastern desert town of Deir Ezzor. Even in the capital of Damascus, the chants are the same: "It's time for President Bashar al-Assad to go."

The holy month of Ramadan begins Monday in many parts of the Muslim world — 30 days of fasting from dawn to dusk, when large crowds gather for an additional nighttime prayer.

Ramadan could also be a decisive time for the protest movement in Syria. The government has stepped up mass arrests as activists vow to shift from weekly rallies to nightly ones outside mosques that have become centers of protest.

"I am not going to stop," said Mohammed Ali, a 24-year-old architect, and one of many activists who say they will be on the streets every night during Ramadan.

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