Jane Arraf | KALW

Jane Arraf

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Cairo, Egypt.

Arraf joined NPR in 2017 after two decades of reporting from and about the region for CNN, NBC, the Christian Science Monitor, PBS Newshour and al-Jazeera English. She has previously been posted to Baghdad, Amman, and Istanbul, along with Washington, DC, New York, and Montreal.

She has reported from Iraq since the 1990s. For several years, Arraf was the only Western journalist based in Baghdad. She reported live the war in Iraq in 2003; covered the battles for Fallujah, Najaf, and Samarra; and was embedded with US forces during the military surge in Iraq. She has also covered India, Haiti, Bosnia, and Afghanistan and did extensive magazine and newspaper reporting and writing.

Arraf is a former Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Her awards include a Peabody for PBS Newshour, an Overseas Press Club citation, and inclusion in a CNN Emmy.

Arraf studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa and began her career at Reuters.

Mazen looks like he wants to disappear into his gray hoody as he sits in the corner of a tent in a camp for displaced Yazidis in Iraq. The 13-year-old boy's eyes are haunted and huge in a face still gaunt from not getting enough to eat.

After almost five years held captive by ISIS, Mazen says he wants to talk about what happened to him but he doesn't have the words.

"How do I feel?" he says as if bewildered by the question. "Really I don't know how to feel."

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

With a single line, President Trump fanned the flames of a push in Iraq to expel U.S. forces, just as he declared he wanted to keep troops in the country.

"We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it," Trump said in a CBS interview on Feb. 3, referring to the Ain al-Asad military base in Iraq's western desert. "And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem."

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"Can you imagine?" Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani was fond of saying, her voice rising in delight.

It was often about some item showing the ingenuity of Sumerian civilization, like a scythe made of clay the last time I toured the National Museum of Iraq with her, last spring.

I'd known Gailani since the 1990s. She was one of a generation of women — accomplished, unconventional and entirely original — who first drew me to Iraq.

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Pompeo Visits Iraqi Leaders In Baghdad

Jan 9, 2019

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Baghdad today. He is touring the Middle East to reassure allies amid shifting U.S. declarations of its plans for Syria. NPR's Jane Arraf joins us from Baghdad. Hi there, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

It had been years since anyone had seen an American military commander walking around the streets of downtown Baghdad.

So when Marine Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth went with his Iraqi counterpart for a tour of the city's most crowded neighborhoods on Friday, it wasn't clear what kind of reception he would get.

Sixteen years after the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq, most Iraqis still blame the U.S. for disbanding the Iraqi army and for the security vacuum and devastating civil war that followed.

Naser al-Shimary is waiting at the arrivals gate at Baghdad's international airport. He says he's so nervous his "heart is skipping beats."

"Last time I held my wife and son was May 2017," says Shimary, 29, speaking English with an American accent. "That was the last time I got to kiss them and hold them."

Mohaned Ahmed is standing on scaffolding at the ancient site of Babylon, dipping water into a bucket and sponging the bricks around a stone relief showing a dragon with a serpent's head.

The image is so well defined it looks as if it might have been made yesterday instead of more than 2,000 years ago. But below it, the bricks and mortar of one of the ancient world's grandest cities are disintegrating.

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The humanitarian situation in Yemen is worsening, with millions of children at risk of starvation and fighting intensifying despite international pressure for a cease-fire in the country's civil war, according to a senior United Nations official who last week visited the rebel-held port of Hodeidah.

A bidding war at Christie's this week sent the price of a 3,000-year-old stone relief from $7 million to more than $28 million, setting a world record for ancient Assyrian artworks and raising fears among some archaeologists that soaring prices will fuel the market for looted antiquities as well as legally acquired ones.

As dusk falls in Iraq's port city of Basra and searing heat of day cools to under 100 degrees, the public square across the street from the city's burned provincial government building starts to fill with protesters.

Young Iraqis have gathered almost every night for more than three months to protest faltering public services and lack of jobs in the city in the heart of Iraq's rich southern oil fields.

On Mosul's Sarjkhana Street, old love songs spill out from a speaker in a tiny shop the size of a large closet, as a workman installs colorful strip lighting on the ceiling. The music is from decades ago — beloved local songs so infectious that the carpenter across the street seems to pound his hammer in time to the tune.

The business owners here — some of whose families have run shops on this street for generations — are starting again from nothing.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Iraqi officials flew to Tehran this week to try to cut a deal with Iran for electricity, attempting to defuse potentially destabilizing anti-government demonstrations spreading through the country's southern provinces.

The protests started a week ago amid anger over unemployment, corruption and lack of access to basic services such as power. Iraq's health ministry announced Monday that eight demonstrators had been killed in the unrest. Iraqi police say dozens of security forces have been wounded.

As U.S. military bases go, Um Jurius isn't much to look at: a collection of armored vehicles, makeshift wooden benches covered with camouflage netting and groups of tents pitched in the sand.

The fire base has sprung up in the past month in the northern Iraqi desert, just over a mile from the Syrian border. At the request of the Iraqi government, U.S. artillery here targets ISIS fighters who have fled from Iraq to Syria.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Archaeologist Eckart Frahm didn't have much time to determine where the 4,000-year-old clay tablets had come from. Homeland Security officials had given him just 2 1/2 days in a dimly lit New York warehouse to pore over the cuneiform inscriptions etched into the fragile, ancient pieces and report back.

Ahmed Alaa describes raising a rainbow flag at a crowded concert in Cairo last September as "the best moment" of his life. In photos from the event, he looks ecstatic as he waves the flag in the spotlights of the outdoor stage hosting the Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou' Leila.

He posted the photos on Facebook, and others did too. The next morning, he woke up to death threats.

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

A Saudi-led coalition backing pro-government troops in Yemen has launched an assault on the country's main port city of Hodeidah in what threatens to become the fiercest battle of a three-year war against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

The United Arab Emirates state news agency said early Wednesday that large numbers of forces had reached the outskirts of the city. The UAE is a key partner with Saudi Arabia, which is backed by the United States.

The United Nations has withdrawn its international aid workers from the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, amid intense negotiations to avert a devastating attack by pro-government forces backed by the United Arab Emirates.

A senior United Nations official warns a prolonged siege of the Red Sea port could put hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk.

Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said all international staff had been pulled out of Hodeidah Monday to the capital Sanaa and elsewhere.

A young woman in a traditional long black cloak and a pink prison shirt holds a baby as she stands before a judge.

Then a toddler, becoming agitated in the hallway, is led into the wooden dock to join her mother. The little girl is perhaps 2 years old. She clutches the folds of her mother's black abaya with a chubby hand, as she peers out through the wooden bars.

The biggest protests in years in Jordan brought down the country's prime minister and his cabinet Monday.

After four nights of anti-government protests in Amman and other cities, Jordan's King Abdullah II summoned Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki to the palace, where Mulki tendered his resignation.

Egypt's LGBT Crackdown

May 26, 2018

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Two weeks after parliamentary elections delivered a surprise win for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's divided political leaders are scrambling to put together the pieces of a coalition government.

Sadr's Sa'iroun political bloc won 54 seats in Iraq's 329-member parliament – more than any other political grouping, but far from the majority needed to govern. Under Iraqi rules, the biggest coalition of any kind registered in parliament will form the government.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the biggest winner in parliamentary elections, limiting the chances for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to form another government and setting the country on an uncharted course.

Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

Iraqis voted Saturday in the first parliamentary elections since defeating ISIS.

Iraqi officials had worried that security concerns would keep voters from the polls. But as polling centers closed, it was apparent that many voters stayed away from apathy rather than fear.

With more than 90 percent of the votes in, Iraq's election commission announced voter turnout of 44.5 percent. The figure is down sharply from 60 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the last elections in 2014.

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