Alice Fordham

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.

In this role, she reports on Lebanon, Syria and many of the countries throughout the Middle East.

Before joining NPR in 2014, Fordham covered the Middle East for five years, reporting for The Washington Post, the Economist, The Times and other publications. She has worked in wars and political turmoil but also amid beauty, resilience and fun.

In 2011, Fordham was a Stern Fellow at the Washington Post. That same year she won the Next Century Foundation's Breakaway award, in part for an investigation into Iraqi prisons.

Fordham graduated from Cambridge University with a Bachelor of Arts in Classics.

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7:31am

Sun May 24, 2015
Parallels

With Syria's Army Losing Ground, A Boost From Hezbollah

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 10:43 am

Mourners attend the May 14 funeral of Hezbollah fighter Ahmad al-Amin in Babliyeh, Lebanon. Hezbollah is fighting alongside the Syrian army and Amin was killed while fighting in Syria's Qalamoun mountains against Nusra Front, al-Qaida's branch in Syria. The Syrian army has suffered multiple setbacks recently, but Hezbollah did help dislodge rebel fighters along the Syria-Lebanon border.
Mohammad Zaatari AP

The dirt roads on the border between Syria and Lebanon wind across a mountain range dotted with little wildflowers.

It's windswept and deserted except for a few hilltop outposts with clumps of gray tents, machine-gun nests and flags that fly the green and gold colors of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

These posts are new. In a three-week offensive, Hezbollah has worked with Syrian government forces and other allies to push rebel fighters out of a chunk of territory that the rebels held along this border for two years.

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9:33am

Fri May 22, 2015
Parallels

A Wedding And A Challenge: Lebanese Couples Fight For Civil Marriage

Originally published on Sat May 23, 2015 11:52 am

Kholoud Succariyeh (right) and Nidal Darwish, who got married in defiance of Lebanon's ban on civil unions, walk past Beirut's landmark Pigeon Rock in 2013.
Joseph Eid AFP/Getty Images

Like lots of young married couples, Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish love to show their wedding video. They go all misty-eyed remembering that day two years ago.

"Very beautiful," says Succariyeh. "Everything is nice."

Their wedding was special, not only as a personal milestone for the couple. It was a political milestone, as well.

Darwish says their union was a challenge to the state: It was Lebanon's first civil marriage.

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6:14pm

Tue May 19, 2015
Parallels

After A Big Victory For ISIS, Iraqi Forces Look To Regroup

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:06 pm

A car is engulfed by flames during clashes in Ramadi on Saturday. Islamic State militants drove Iraqi security forces out of the city, which is just 70 miles west of Baghdad.
Reuters/Landov

The black flag of the self-proclaimed Islamic State is flying over the Iraqi city of Ramadi after government forces collapsed and the extremists seized control over the weekend.

Thousands of civilians have fled Ramadi and those left behind face a chaotic situation.

"No food, no fuel, no electricity. It's very difficult there," says Sheikh Hekmat Suleiman, an adviser to the governor of Anbar Province. Ramadi is the provincial capital, and the local government has now fled the city, just 70 miles west of Baghdad.

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10:26am

Thu April 30, 2015
Parallels

Is Bashar Assad Just Losing Some Ground ... Or His Grip On Power?

Originally published on Thu April 30, 2015 8:19 pm

People gather around a helicopter reportedly belonging to Syrian government forces that crashed in March in Jabal al-Zawiya in northwest Syria. Islamist rebels captured four crew members, while a fifth was killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Opposition fighters have made a number of advances in recent weeks.
Ghaith Omran AFP/Getty Images

The past few weeks have brought almost daily news of rebel victories in their 4-year-old battle against Syria's President Bashar Assad.

There was the capture of the crucial Nassib border crossing with Jordan — a key trade route and source of government taxes. And some of the biggest rebel victories have come in the northern province of Idlib, where the opposition recently captured the provincial capital, Idlib City, as well as military bases and other key towns.

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4:39pm

Wed April 1, 2015
Parallels

In Battered Tikrit, Iraqi Forces Claim Much, But Not All Of City

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 6:01 am

Iraqi security forces and allied Shiite militiamen look for Islamic State extremists in Tikrit on Tuesday. Iraqi forces were going house-to-house in search of snipers and booby traps.
Khalid Mohammed AP

Driving from Baghdad north to Tikrit, we speed up a main road Wednesday through small towns that have been won back from the self-declared Islamic State, or ISIS. Some still have smoking buildings.

On the outskirts we pass through places that have obviously seen heavy fighting. Half-built houses are pocked with bullet holes, their windows shattered.

As we move into Tikrit proper, the excited fighters begin celebrating, Iraqi style, with gunshots into the air. They have reason to celebrate. A hard-fought battle appears to be nearing a conclusion.

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3:42pm

Wed March 25, 2015
Parallels

Lebanon's Reality TV: Like The Kardashians, Only Less Serious

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 2:51 pm

A photo of the Abdelaziz sisters before their reality show aired.
Nadine Abdelaziz Via Instagram

The Abdelaziz sisters live in a world of pretty artifice. Alice, Nadine and Farah answer the door in a flurry of hellos while their fluffball dog Stella barks and tinkles the bells on her tiny collar.

They usually live in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in a family home, but for the purposes of their new reality show, The Sisters, they reside in this apartment where green hillsides spill down from picture windows to the Mediterranean below.

"The view is amazing here," says Nadine, the middle sister. "And you see the weather today is sunny."

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9:53am

Sun March 22, 2015
Parallels

Qatar Digital Library Preserves The Music Of A Vanishing Past

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 1:30 pm

Ṣawt musicians during a performance in Kuwait in May 2014.
Rolf Killius Qatar Digital Library

The songs our grandparents sang can tell us who we are. Here in the U.S., the Lomax family became famous in the 1930s, when they recorded America's folk music.

In other countries that are changing fast, people are also trying to hold onto their heritage. The tiny, super-rich state of Qatar takes pride in its modernity, with its gleaming skyscrapers and lucrative gas fields. But it is also investing in a huge history project.

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5:52am

Mon March 9, 2015
Middle East

App Aims To Track Engrained Corruption In Lebanon

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 8:20 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

11:27am

Thu February 26, 2015
The Two-Way

ISIS Video Shows Extremists Smashing Priceless Artifacts

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 1:41 pm

The self-styled Islamic State has released a video showing an orgy of destruction of ancient statues in the Iraqi city of Mosul, with footage at a museum and at least one archaeological site nearby.

The video begins with an image of the police known as the Hisba, tasked with enforcing their strict interpretation of Islamic law, patrolling the streets. Then, the scene cuts to bearded men ripping protective coverings from statues in the museum.

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4:37pm

Tue February 3, 2015
Middle East

ISIS Video Purports To Show Killing Of Jordanian Pilot

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 11:02 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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4:34pm

Wed January 28, 2015
Middle East

Jordan Considers Handing Over Prisoner For Hostage Pilot

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 8:39 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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4:09pm

Mon January 26, 2015
Parallels

Syrian Rebels Want To Fight Assad, But Now They'll Face ISIS

Originally published on Tue February 3, 2015 4:00 pm

Free Syrian Army fighters run behind sandbags in Daraa Al-Mahata, in southern Syria, on Jan. 21. Many moderate rebels joined the uprising to fight against President Bashar Assad, but the U.S. plans to train them to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Wsam Almokdad Reuters/Landov

In the U.S. view, the most serious threat coming from Syria is the self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS. That's why the Pentagon is sending forces to train what it terms moderate Syrian rebel fighters.

But here's the catch. Moderate rebel commanders say it will be hard to explain this mission to their troops, who took up arms with the aim of toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad, not ISIS.

The U.S. plan calls for the Americans and their allies to train and equip about 5,000 Syrian moderates. U.S. troops are heading to Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the training.

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8:00am

Sun January 25, 2015
Parallels

Piece By Piece, Monks Scramble To Preserve Iraq's Christian History

Originally published on Sun January 25, 2015 2:40 pm

Father Najeeb Michaeel shows off one of the many Christian manuscripts he saved from Iraq's Christian libraries.
Alice Fordham NPR

In an unfinished building in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, displaced Christian children sing a little song about returning to their village. "We're going back," they sing, "to our houses, our land, our church."

Right now, they're living in an open concrete structure. The self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS, took over their home village of Qaraqosh, and the Christians fled in fear, on foot.

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4:46pm

Mon January 19, 2015
The Two-Way

Suspected Israeli Strike Kills Iranian General Advising Syrian Troops

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 7:32 pm

Lebanese Hezbollah supporters carry the coffin of Jihad Mughniyeh during his funeral in Beirut on Monday. Mughniyeh was one of six ranking members of Hezbollah killed in a suspected Israeli strike Sunday. Iran says a general of its elite Revolutionary Guards was also killed.
Joseph Eid AFP/Getty Images

Iran says a general in the country's elite Revolutionary Guard was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sunday that also killed several ranking members of Hezbollah.

Though these aren't the first Iranians or Hezbollah fighters to be killed in Syria, this incident stands out because these men were on the Syrian Golan Heights, within 10 miles of Israel's northeastern border.

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5:12am

Thu January 15, 2015
Middle East

In Jordan, The Comic Book Superheroes Fight Extremism

Originally published on Tue January 20, 2015 3:34 pm

Comic book creator Suleiman Bakhit says he found that many kids did not have heroes to look up to and sometimes gravitated to religious extremists. This frame is from his story about a Jordanian special forces hero.
Courtesy of Suleiman Bakhit

We've been hearing a lot about cartoons for all the wrong reasons recently: the horrifying attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the divisive images, the threat of extremism. But one man in Jordan has been using comic book superheroes to try to bridge the divide and curb extremism.

His name is Suleiman Bakhit, and at a bar in Jordan's capital, Amman, he cracks open his laptop to show off some heroes. The artwork is sophisticated, vivid and influenced by Japanese comics.

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5:40pm

Thu January 8, 2015
Parallels

With A Son Missing, Family Questions Jordan's Mission Against ISIS

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 7:13 am

Safi al-Kasasbeh and his wife Saafia are the parents of Moath al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian air force pilot captured by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria. The worried parents are proud of their son, but say Jordan should not be involved in the coalition against ISIS.
Alice Fordham NPR

In Jordan, the talk these days centers on the fate of the Jordanian pilot who was captured by the self-styled Islamic State after his plane crashed in Syria on Christmas Eve.

Little is known about the condition of Moath al-Kasasbeh since the extremists tweeted pictures of him, bloody and bewildered, after the crash.

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3:53pm

Wed January 7, 2015
Parallels

Life Flows Back Into The Waters Of Baghdad's Tigris

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 1:15 am

Young members of the Baghdad Rowing Club practice on the river Tigris, close to the University of Mustansiriyah in the Iraqi capital.
Alice Fordham NPR

Some of the world's loveliest cities hug great rivers. Budapest curves around the Danube, London's gracious gray buildings look out on the Thames.

Baghdad doesn't conjure so easily the idea of lingering on a bridge, watching boats glide by, but the city's river Tigris is as wide and wet as the Seine or the Nile, and Baghdadis have fun on it too.

Last weekend, moored next to the Mutanabbi Street book market was a big white party boat, with tinsel and silk roses festooning its rails and pop music shaking its deck.

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5:19pm

Sat January 3, 2015
Parallels

After Making Waves In 2014, ISIS' Power Appears To Ebb

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 10:54 am

Iraqi crowds cheer as the countdown and fireworks begin during a New Year's Day celebration at Firdos Square in Baghdad on Wednesday.
Hadi Mizban AP

In the heat of summer in 2014, Baghdad was spooked. A third of Iraq was under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. The extremist group thrived in the chaos of the Syrian civil war, then surged over the border into Iraq and took over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit. People worried the capital might be next.

Six months on, that's changed. On New Year's Eve, for instance, the usual midnight curfew was lifted and people partied in the streets and uploaded videos of themselves letting off fireworks.

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3:25am

Wed December 31, 2014
Parallels

There And Back Again For U.S. Military In Iraq

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 12:43 pm

U.S. soldiers patrol the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and U.S. troops north of the capital Baghdad. Taji is one of an eventual five sites where the U.S. and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the so-called Islamic State.
Ali al-Saadi AFP/Getty Images

Three years after the U.S. military officially withdrew from Iraq, 2,000 U.S. troops are back. They're restoring the old buildings they'd left behind and renewing contacts with Iraqi officers they knew before.

They're also taking incoming rocket fire at their bases.

This week began an ambitious training program to put 5,000 Iraqi soldiers through boot camp every six weeks.

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3:22am

Wed December 24, 2014
Parallels

For Syria's President, The Year Ends Better Than It Began

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 9:12 am

Syrian President Bashar Assad, shown here in July, appeared to be in a tough position at the beginning of the year. But many analysts say his hold on power grew stronger over the course of 2014, due in part to the U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State.
SANA AP

At the beginning of 2014, Syrian President Bashar Assad had agreed to send his ministers to take part in negotiations in Switzerland, and his future as Syria's ruler was not looking very bright.

He was accused of killing tens of thousands of his own people in a civil war that was nearly three years old. The opposition was demanding Assad's ouster. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Switzerland and called loudly for a political transition in Syria. He was clear about who would not be involved.

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1:47pm

Tue December 16, 2014
Parallels

Amid Strains, Syrian Refugees Are Facing Curfews In Lebanon

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:46 pm

A Syrian refugee child carries water in the Fayda Camp, some 25 miles east of Beirut, Lebanon, on March 10.
Jerome Delay AP

In Lebanon — a fragile little country of just 4 million people — there are about 1 million refugees from Syria. Many have been here three years, and their welcome is starting to wear thin.

Some towns and villages have imposed a curfew on refugees – enforced by local groups of volunteers. But in a country that experienced a brutal civil war, some are concerned about the return of armed civilian groups.

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5:26am

Tue December 16, 2014
Middle East

Contestant From War-Torn Syria Wins 'Arab Idol'

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 6:09 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

5:39am

Sat December 13, 2014
Parallels

Syrian Women Displaced By War Make Tragedy Of 'Antigone' Their Own

Originally published on Sat December 13, 2014 2:21 pm

Mona, 28, narrates during a rehearsal of Antigone. "I feel that Antigone resembles me a lot," says the former resident of Damascus and mother of two.
Dalia Khamissy for NPR

Barefoot in a yoga studio in Lebanon's capital Beirut, a couple dozen actresses raise voices and stretch bodies that had grown used to being quiet and still.

"Go on," they cry as a clapping exercise speeds up, and they fill the room with whoops and uninhibited yells.

But these women aren't professional actresses. In fact, they're refugees from Syria, and this production of the Greek tragedy Antigone is a project designed to help them deal with their trauma.

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5:40am

Sun November 30, 2014
Parallels

With Shopping, Holy Sites, Najaf Offers Respite From Iraq's Violence

Originally published on Sun November 30, 2014 12:44 pm

An Iranian national shops at a popular market in the holy Iraqi Shiite city of Najaf. Recently, the city — where millions of international pilgrims visit every year — has been spared the worst of Iraq's violence.
Haidar Hamdani AFP/Getty Images

The holy Iraqi city of Najaf has a brand-new and appropriately holy shopping center: the Najaf City Mall.

Under banners with Muslim prayers, children rampage through an adventure playground, while conservative women in long black robes browse for cute outfits to wear when they're home with family.

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3:28pm

Tue November 25, 2014
Parallels

Amid Violence, Iraq Fractures Again Along Religious Lines

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 7:06 pm

An Iraqi child, whose family fled from Islamic State violence in the northern city of Mosul, stands outside a tent that serves as a school in the southern city of Najaf on Sunday. Some 2 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes by fighting this year.
Alaa Al-Marjani Reuters/Landov

The shrine of Imam Ali in the Iraqi city of Najaf is a vast gold-domed edifice, where Shiite Muslims from all over the world gather to pray.

But just a few minutes drive away, are travelers of a different, shabbier kind. A long row of cinder block and sheet metal buildings is draped in bright flags with religious slogans. Usually, these are for pilgrims to sleep in. But right now, they're spilling over with displaced Iraqi families.

"It's tough for the children," says Zaira Raqib, a mother of four of them. "We know we're displaced, but they don't understand."

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3:52am

Thu November 20, 2014
Parallels

Despite A Massacre By ISIS, An Iraqi Tribe Vows To Fight Back

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 9:12 am

Sunni tribesmen train on the outskirts of Ramadi, Iraq, on Nov. 16. Legislation authorizing a force of Sunni fighters drawn from Anbar province itself — modeled on the U.S. National Guard — has yet to be passed.
Ali al-Mashhadani Reuters/Landov

The massacre of the Albu Nimr tribe came after they had fought against the extremists of the so-called Islamic State for weeks. In Iraq's vast western province of Anbar, the tribesmen had been driven from their stronghold in the city of Hit in early October.

They clung on to one last outpost on the outskirts of the city for nearly two more weeks. The Albu Nimr are accustomed to fighting. They say they participated in two insurrections against Saddam Hussein and boast of their ancestors' roles in pushing out British colonial rule.

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3:27pm

Wed November 12, 2014
Parallels

Who's That Lebanese Man With A Beard: Hipster Or Jihadi?

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 2:03 pm

Mazen Hariz, a bartender and business student in east Beirut, says it took him seven months to grow his beard.
Tim Fitzsimons for NPR

Mazen Hariz is well-groomed. A bartender and business student, he has fine features, limpid dark eyes and a long, shiny beard topped with a twirling mustache.

He tends to his appearance meticulously.

"My beard is like my girlfriend," he says during a cigarette break from a shift at the Kayan bar in east Beirut.

It took seven months to grow, and needs 30 minutes of attention every morning. First, hot water, then shampoo, conditioner, blowout and then sometimes straighteners. But not too often because that's not good for the beard.

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6:00pm

Tue November 4, 2014
Iraq

We Are Not Slaughterers: An Iraqi Village Rejects Islamic Militants

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 11:38 am

Citizens of Dhuluiyah, Iraq, must take boats to get in an out, since one of the town's two bridges was blown up by the Islamic State and the other was commandeered by tribesmen defending them.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye AFP/Getty Images

The only way for civilians to get to the town of Dhuluiya is by boat across the river Tigris, since the so-called Islamic State blew up the main bridge here and tribesmen battling them commandeered the other.

Steering through long reeds, we pull into a little dirt harbor. Here, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, is the home of a branch of the Jubbour tribe. They're a big Sunni group in this agricultural area and they want to tell me how they've halted the advance of the Islamic State.

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4:39am

Tue October 28, 2014
Parallels

Facing The Islamic State Threat, Kurdish Fighters Unite

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 1:17 pm

Three female members of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and an Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighter stand near the front line in Makhmur, in northern Iraq, on Aug. 9. The Turkish and Iraqi Kurds have been fighting together against the Islamic State.
Safin Hamed AFP/Getty Images

At a checkpoint outside the northern Iraq town of Makhmur, I saw something I'd never seen before in Iraq.

Two men were checking cars. One was young and wearing a sand-colored uniform of the official Iraqi Kurdish forces, called the peshmerga. The other was older, grizzled and dressed in an olive-green, traditional Kurdish overall, and he's with Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"We're happy to be working together," said the older man, Hajji Hussein Abdulrahman.

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4:53am

Fri October 24, 2014
Parallels

Iraq's Abu Ghraib Is Back In The News, Now As A Front-Line Town

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 10:23 am

Iraqi policemen patrol Abu Ghraib, 25 miles west of Baghdad, in June. Islamic State militants have captured many cities and town in western Iraq this year. The government still controls Abu Ghraib, but the militants are nearby and local tribes are also restive.
Karim Kadim AP

To get to Abu Ghraib, I hitch a ride with an Iraqi military patrol. We start in Baghdad, where the convoy of battered Humvees weaves through heavy traffic. But as we head out west of the capital, the roads empty and we hardly see any civilian cars.

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