Kelly McEvers

After many years in the Middle East, Kelly McEvers is back home and working as a national correspondent based at NPR West. She previously ran NPR's Beirut bureau, where she earned a George Foster Peabody award, an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia award, a Gracie award, and an Overseas Press Club mention for her 2012 coverage of the Syrian conflict. She recently made a radio documentary about being a war correspondent with renowned radio producer Jay Allison of Transom.org.

In 2011, she traveled undercover to follow Arab uprisings in places where brutal crackdowns followed the early euphoria of protests. She has been tear-gassed in Bahrain; she has spent a night in a tent city with a Yemeni woman who would later share the Nobel Peace Prize; and she spent weeks inside Syria with anti-government rebels known as the Free Syrian Army.

In Iraq, she covered the final withdrawal of U.S. troops and the political chaos that gripped the country afterward. Before arriving in Iraq in 2010, McEvers was one of the first Western correspondents to be based, full-time, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In 2008 and 2009, McEvers was part of a team that produced the award-winning "Working" series for American Public Media's business and finance show, Marketplace. She profiled a war fixer in Beirut, a smuggler in Dubai, a sex-worker in Baku, a pirate in the Strait of Malacca and a marriage broker in Vietnam.

She previously covered the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia as a freelancer for NPR and other outlets. She started her journalism career in 1997 at the Chicago Tribune, where she worked as a metro reporter and documented the lives of female gang members for the Sunday magazine.

Her writing also has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Monthly, Slate and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her work has aired on This American Life, The World, and the BBC. She's taught radio and journalism in the U.S. and abroad.

She lives with her family in California, where she's still very bad at surfing.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

NPR's Kelly McEvers has been following events in Syria from neighboring Lebanon, and she joins me now from Beirut. Kelly, as we just heard, the UN Security Council has failed to agree on a resolution condemning Bashar Assad. Any reaction from Syria?

In Syria, the death toll is rising after what activists and opposition leaders are calling a massive offensive by pro-government troops in the city of Homs. Activists say at least 250 have been killed in what may be the single most violent day since Syria's anti-government uprising began in March.

Violence is increasing in Syria, with activists reporting multiple clashes in cities. The U.N. Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss a resolution on the conflict there. It's also likely to ask President Bashar Assad to step down.

One thing that's certain about the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad is that there is nothing romantic about it.

Unlike Egypt, there's no Tahrir Square filled with hundreds of thousands of people calling for democracy. Unlike Libya, there's no Mad Max warriors in the desert fighting a dictator with guns they've welded to the backs of their pickup trucks.

Instead, grim news seeps out piecemeal from unofficial sources. Most of the reports are little more than body counts, with most of the fatalities blamed on the Syrian security forces.

Arab revolts against secular leaders have been much more successful over the past year than those against monarchs. The one monarchy that faced a serious threat was the tiny Persian Gulf island of Bahrain. But after weeks of protests, troops from Saudi Arabia rolled into the country, the Bahraini regime imposed martial law, and a government crackdown followed. Kelly McEvers made several trips to Bahrain this past year and filed this report as part of NPR's series looking at the Arab Spring and where it stands today.

The "end of days," as soldiers were calling it, started at Contingency Operating Base Adder in southern Iraq. The base was the main staging ground for all U.S. troops exiting the country, and it was the last U.S. base to close.

There were a lot of lasts at COB Adder: the last signing ceremony, formally handing the last base over to the Iraqi government, the last briefing, the last patrol, the last hot meal.

The final convoy from the base left Iraq and crossed the border into Kuwait at dawn Sunday.

A 'Difficult Undertaking'

Nadia Karim Hassan says she stayed in her Baghdad neighborhood as long as she could, but by the height of the sectarian war in 2007, too many fellow Shiites were getting killed, and she had to leave the area and move into an abandoned building.

As American troops pull out of Iraq, one of the most striking consequences of the war remains unresolved today: the issue of people who were forced out of their homes and still can't go back. Relief organizations estimate there are some 2 million displaced people inside Iraq.

After nearly nine years of war in Iraq, a subdued flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad on Thursday marked the official end of one of the longest U.S. military missions in American history.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta watched over what's known as the casing of the colors — when the U.S. military flag is put away and sent back to the United States. The flag will then be retired and perhaps later go on display at the Pentagon.

Earlier this month, a ceremony took place in Baghdad that was unthinkable under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Ashura, the annual Shiite ritual marking the slaying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.

As the trumpets sounded in Baghdad's notorious Shiite slum of Sadr City, boys and men wearing white shrouds brought swords down onto their shaven heads. Thick red blood gushed onto their faces. Hussein sacrificed for us, the belief goes, and devoted followers are ready to sacrifice for him.

As American troops leave Iraq, the one place in the country that's most likely to erupt into violence, at least in the short term, is the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The city is a complicated ethnic mix of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and others. The question of whether it belongs to the autonomous Kurdish region in the north or to the Arab-dominated central government of Baghdad has long been a point of contention.

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