Leila Fadel

Leila Fadel is NPR's international correspondent based in Cairo.

Before joining NPR, she covered the Middle East for The Washington Post. In her role as Cairo Bureau Chief she reported on a wave of revolts and their aftermaths in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria.

Prior to her position as Cairo Bureau Chief for the Post, she covered the Iraq war for nearly five years with Knight Ridder, McClatchy Newspapers and later the Washington Post. Her foreign coverage of the devastating human toll of the Iraq war earned her the George. R. Polk award in 2007.

Leila Fadel is a Lebanese-American journalist who speaks conversational Arabic and was raised in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Three years ago, Egypt's military carried out a swift and successful coup, ousting a conservative Muslim ruler and party that had been elected. A part of Turkey's armed forces attempted a very similar overthrow on July 15.

In both countries, the two most populous in the region, democracy suffered a setback in the wake of the military actions.

The parallels mostly end there.

Turks survived a chaotic and bloody attempted military takeover on Friday that left more than 260 dead. Since then, the government has suspended thousands of public and private sector employees — everyone from teachers to police officers. Meanwhile, the parliament has ratified a state of emergency that will last up to three months. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it's necessary to protect democracy. But many Turks are afraid of what's to come.

Turkey's government says it is removing from government institutions anyone it considers loyal to Fethullah Gulen, an elderly Turkish cleric who has been living in eastern Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Turkish officials are blaming Gulen, who has a large following inside and outside Turkey, for a failed coup last Friday, an accusation Gulen denies.

Meanwhile, the broadcasting licenses for at least two dozen Turkish radio and TV stations have been canceled for alleged links to Gulen, whose extradition Turkey says it will seek from the United States.

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An electronic billboard hangs on the side of a towering government building in eastern Cairo, the home of Egypt's statistical agency, CAPMAS. In an alarming red, the billboard ticks off the estimated number of Egyptians, and on a recent day it said there were more than 91 million. Or 91,034,024, to be precise.

Monday's bombing in the Saudi city of Medina stands out, even among the wave of terrorist attacks in recent days. It wasn't the death toll. It didn't produce the scenes of carnage like Saturday's bombing in Baghdad that killed nearly 200 people or last week's attack on the airport in Istanbul that left 44 dead.

It was the chosen target — Medina, the site of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad's tomb and his house.

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Khaled el-Balshy greets a fellow journalist with two kisses on the cheek and a hearty handshake in his office. He has just been released on bail after being charged with harboring fugitives and publishing false news.

Balshy is the undersecretary of the journalists union in Egypt, also called the Press Syndicate. Balshy; the head of the union, Yehia Qalash; and another board member, Gamal Abdel Raheem, are facing trial on Saturday and the prospect of going to prison, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi continues a broad crackdown on critics.

Constantin Ibanda Mola unlocks the door to his small, two-bedroom apartment in a poor suburb of Rabat, Morocco. 


Mola was an economist in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as a migrant in Morocco who makes just over $300 a month, this apartment is a luxury. He shows me the tiny kitchen, the little balcony that opens near the sink and his bedroom.

"I'm very happy here," he says.

Ben Guerdane is a dusty town in Tunisia's south, just 20 miles from the border with Libya, a roiling nation of militias and guns galore. It's a smuggling town, and it depends on the nearly 300-mile border with Libya to survive.

In more normal times, it's everyday products that get smuggled, but these days something more nefarious is coming across that border — weapons and militants.

The spillover from the conflict in Libya is setting off alarm bells in Tunisia, threatening a fragile democracy in the one place that emerged from the 2011 Arab revolts as a bright spot.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron promised back in 2010 to bring net migration down to 100,000 people a year. Six years later, it's more than three times that number.

That's one reason the government's Home Office decided that non-Europeans on skilled worker visas — known as Tier 2 visas — are not welcome to stay unless they are making at least 35,000 British pounds (about $50,000 a year).

Egypt has an unusual law known as the "seasonal marriage" law, and the government says it's aimed at helping the many poor families who resort to selling their daughters into temporary or long-term marriages with wealthy, older foreign men to support themselves.

Egypt's Justice Ministry says it will begin strictly enforcing that law, which requires foreign men — usually from Gulf countries — to pay to marry women 25 years or more their junior. And it's increasing the amount the men must pay. All this, it says, is to protect Egyptian women.

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In January, Dr. Raslan Fadl was convicted after one of his patients, a young girl called Soheir al Batea, died under his care.

But Fadl hasn't served a day behind bars.

Soheir was 13 years old when her parents took her to Fadl to undergo a procedure that's a rite of passage for most girls here in the Nile Delta — genital cutting.

It's known around here as "cleansing," but most people call it female genital mutilation or female circumcision — a procedure that has been illegal in Egypt since 2008.

In Egypt, one of the country's most prominent rights defenders, Hossam Bahgat, was detained and is being interrogated on charges of publishing false news that could harm the nation.

Recently Bahgat, 36, has emerged as a standout investigative journalist in a country where much of the news media has been cowed into toeing the state line.

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For generations, John Harris's family has arranged lavish funerals for Cockney East Enders. But London is changing, and Harris has been quick to adapt.

He watches the latest procession go by: Two regal white horses with plumes of feathers fastened to their foreheads, trot through an East End borough, drawing a gleaming white Victorian carriage. Inside is a coffin bedecked with flowers. Eight black, custom-made Jaguar limos follow. The conductors wear three-piece suits with coattails and top hats and carry canes.

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Architecture professor Soheir Zaki Hawas has dedicated her life to documenting the beautiful historic buildings in downtown Cairo and to trying to preserve them.

"Heritage is the memory of a city," Hawas says. "If I lose my memory for five minutes, I will not be able to introduce myself to tell you anything about anything."

She pulls her book off the coffee table in her living room; it took her years to document the buildings in downtown Cairo.

"I want to show you this page here," she says, flipping through the book. "This is a beautiful catalogue."

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In 2013, there were seven known militants from the village that Ahmed Abu Deraa comes from in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula. Today, that number has jumped to about 60, says Abu Deraa, an independent journalist who sometimes works for NPR. All of them are with Sinai Province, the local affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.

The Sinai's militants are all gathering under the ISIS umbrella, Abu Deraa says. But what they're fighting for isn't some grand regional cause.

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