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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Parallels
11:47 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Amid Strains, Syrian Refugees Are Facing Curfews In Lebanon

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

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 12:46 pm

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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Middle East
3:26 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Contestant From War-Torn Syria Wins 'Arab Idol'

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 4:09 pm

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

Parallels
3:39 am
Sat December 13, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Sat December 13, 2014 12:21 pm

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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Parallels
3:40 am
Sun November 30, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Sun November 30, 2014 10:44 am

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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Parallels
1:28 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Amid Violence, Iraq Fractures Again Along Religious Lines

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

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 5:06 pm

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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Parallels
1:52 am
Thu November 20, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 7:12 am

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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Parallels
1:27 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 12:03 pm

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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Iraq
4:00 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

We Are Not Slaughterers: An Iraqi Village Rejects Islamic Militants

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

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 9:38 am

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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Parallels
2:39 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Facing The Islamic State Threat, Kurdish Fighters Unite

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

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 11:17 am

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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Parallels
2:53 am
Fri October 24, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 8:23 am

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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Parallels
1:16 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Ambushes, Mines And Booby Traps: ISIS Militants Change Tack

Peshmerga look out from a front-line outpost — a few sandbags, soldiers, and grenades perched on the brow of a hill — to the eastern Iraqi town of Jalula. The Kurdish fighters are grappling with how to combat changing ISIS tactics.
Alice Fordham NPR

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 5:01 am

At a front-line outpost — a few sandbags, soldiers and grenades perched on the brow of a hill — the Iraqi Kurdish soldiers known as Peshmerga are looking out toward the eastern Iraqi town of Jalula, maybe three miles away.

A few months ago, the so-called Islamic State seized Jalula. The Peshmerga took it back, but now the militants have retaken it. The soldiers catch sight of three vehicles belonging to the Islamic State rolling toward the outpost.

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Parallels
2:59 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Kurds Leave Life In Europe To Fight ISIS In Their Iraqi Homeland

Aza Betwata (left) and his brother Mirwan (center) left Holland to join the Kurdish peshmerga fighting against ISIS militants in northern Iraq. Though the brothers come from a family of fighters, Aza had just two days of training — his brother must show him how to strip and clean his rifle.
Alice Fordham NPR

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 7:33 am

The men of the Betwata tribe gather to drink tea every morning in Irbil, Iraq, in an outdoor courtyard with curving pillars and climbing plants.

In northern Iraq, almost everyone is ethnically Kurdish, and most of them wear a traditional Kurdish baggy blue suit with a colored sash, and a black-and-white headdress. And they all talk about the war.

One of the men — Sarhad Betwata — is a general. The grizzled officer says he commands about 1,000 men and later this morning will head off from Irbil to the front lines against the Islamic State, close to the Syrian border.

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Cities Project
1:23 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Ghosts Of The Past Still Echo In Beirut's Fragmented Neighborhoods

Lebanon's parliament sits in Beirut's rebuilt Nejmeh Square, near the center of the city. Unlike many of Beirut's neighborhoods, the square is often mostly empty.
Tim Fitzsimons NPR

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 1:26 pm

The heart of downtown Beirut is an elegant area, fringed with expensive buildings. But on a beautiful sunny day, you may not find anyone there — there's no cafe, no park, no place for people to hang out.

Even though the Lebanese capital is a bustling and even glamorous place, the heart of Beirut is empty.

That's because the ghosts of this otherwise vibrant city's past still play out in Beirut's neighborhoods. Decades after Lebanon's civil war in the 1980s, those divides still carve up the city and help determine who lives where and who interacts with whom.

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Parallels
7:32 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

U.S., Iraqi Militias Join In Uneasy Alliance

Members of the Mehdi Army militia, which once fought U.S. forces in Iraq, take part in training in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on June 17. The militia's fighters now find themselves allied with the U.S. against the self-declared Islamic State.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 21, 2014 9:15 am

In the Middle East, alliances have a strange way of shifting. And as the United States again becomes deeply involved in the conflict in Iraq, it's found itself making some strange alliances too.

Militias that used to fights American forces in Iraq are now fighting against the Islamic State — on the same side as the U.S. — and all sides involved have reservations about it.

A decade ago in Sadr City, a sprawling Shiite suburb of Baghdad, the Mehdi Army, led by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, began to fight bitterly against American forces, calling them occupiers.

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Parallels
2:43 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Iraq's Artists Defy Extremists With Bows, Brushes And A Low Profile

The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra performs in Baghdad. The concert was promoted by word of mouth to avoid being targeted by bombs.
Graham Smith NPR

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 7:27 am

It's a hot night in Baghdad, and the national theater is packed with people who are here to see the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra.

They're fanning themselves with programs that show conductor Karim Wasfi, a striking man with thick eyebrows and a pointed beard, playing the cello. Tonight, he'll be conducting for the first time in more than a year.

Iraq has been in the headlines lately, with extremists taking over parts of the country, American airstrikes, the militias and the politics.

But the country was once a sophisticated center for learning and the arts.

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Middle East
4:29 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

Continued Killings Could Bolster Need For Action Against ISIS

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

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Iraq
7:57 am
Sun September 14, 2014

U.S. Call To Fight Militants Stirs Bitter Memories For Iraq's Sunnis

Iraqi troops in Anbar province in June. It's unclear whether Sunnis will join the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 14, 2014 9:56 am

If President Obama's plan to battle Islamic State militants by bringing Iraq's Sunnis on board to fight sounds oddly familiar, that's because it is.

When the U.S. faced a raging insurgency by Sunni militants — then called al-Qaida in Iraq — seven years ago, it recruited local Sunni leaders and paid their tribesmen to fight against those militants.

The effort, dubbed the Awakening, quieted the threat — for a while. But the local leaders who led the tribesmen back then say that this time, the U.S. might have trouble convincing Sunnis to rejoin the fight.

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World
2:39 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Obama's ISIS Plan A 'Sunni Awakening: Part Two'

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 6:54 pm

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

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Parallels
8:28 am
Sat September 6, 2014

Fears Of Sectarian Violence Grow In Baghdad

A car bomb exploded on Saadoun street in Baghdad on Thursday, killing seven people in a mainly Shia area of Iraq's capital, Voice of America reported. Though violence in the city hasn't reached the levels of 2006, residents worry sectarian conflicts may rise again.
Hadi Mizban AP

Originally published on Sat September 6, 2014 1:04 pm

The air in the Baghdad morgue is thick with the smell of death. There are perhaps two dozen corpses in black plastic bags lying around in the sweltering heat. One of them is burned and has its face exposed, white teeth stark against charred skin.

"The crisis began in June," says Zaid al Yousif, the director of the Medical Legal Center, which houses the morgue. "The number of victims in June increased, double to triple." Many of those bodies have marks of trauma, including blunt injuries, he says.

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Middle East
2:45 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Rebels Storm Key Border Crossing Between Syria And Israel

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 5:28 pm

The Syrian civil war has flared up in the south of the country, near the Israeli border. A group of Islamist fighters have now captured a border crossing between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights, which has long been monitored by United Nations peacekeeping forces.

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

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Middle East
6:02 am
Sun August 17, 2014

Another Front In Mideast Conflict: Fishing Rights In The Mediterranean

When boats come in to the Gaza city harbor, the fish are small and few. An Israeli blockade keeps Gazan boats within 3 nautical miles from shore, where there are few fish to catch.
Alice Fordham NPR

Originally published on Sun August 17, 2014 9:39 am

Down at the Gaza city harbor, a little after dawn, merchants wait with horses and carts and scales to weigh the morning's catch of fish.

But when they come in, the fish are small and few. One man scoops his catch up by the handful, tiny fish slipping through his fingers. Even the cats look hungry.

One of the merchants, Mohammad Belah, tells me that a few years ago, it wasn't like this.

"A fisherman used to bring 100 or 200 boxes in the past, but now if he's lucky he brings 10 or 20 boxes," he says.

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Parallels
2:55 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Gaza Students Wonder When Their Schools Will Reopen

Displaced Palestinian Emada Al Attar, 23, holds her 16 day-old baby boy Anous in a classroom where they sleep in a U.N. school where the family is taking refuge during the war, in Gaza City, Gaza Strip on Aug. 8.
Lefteris Pitarakis AP

Originally published on Fri August 15, 2014 6:02 pm

There's clamor and hustle outside the Western Gaza City Educational Directorate. A month late, this year's graduating high school students are getting their high school diplomas.

Usually, there's a little ceremony. But today, they're just clustering around a window while the certificates are handed out. So many education workers are injured or have lost homes that only about a third of them showed up for work.

Nonetheless, the students' joy feels loud and luminous in a city numbed by war.

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Iraq
2:23 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Introducing Iraq's New Appointee For Prime Minister

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 7:14 pm

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

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Parallels
2:27 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Gaza's Casualties Of War Include Its Historic Mosques

The Omari mosque was badly damaged in the recent fighting in the territory. In the foreground are the remains of Qurans at the mosque, which dates back centuries.
Alice Fordham NPR

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 8:44 am

Because of the debris, you can't go through the door anymore to get into the Omari mosque. You have to climb over a pile of rubble and through a hole in the wall, followed by a surging crowd of kids.

The ceiling of the low building in the Jabaliya area, near Gaza City, is made of vaulted stone arches – except where the sunlight comes streaming through a hole torn in the roof and lands on a pile of ripped-up pages of Arabic calligraphy. It's what remains of the mosque's Qurans. Most were destroyed; some burned. It took Gazans three days to dig out the remains.

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Parallels
3:35 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

The Man Who Might Be Iraq's Next Prime Minister

Iraqi lawmaker Haidar al-Abadi, shown here in 2010, was appointed Monday to become Iraq's prime minister. However, Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister since 2006, has so far refused to step down.
Karim Kadim AP

Originally published on Mon August 11, 2014 4:33 pm

Haider al-Abadi is an affable Shiite politician who has been close to the center of power in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He may soon be the most important political figure in the troubled country.

Iraqi President Fuad Masum, whose position has traditionally been ceremonial, on Monday nominated Abadi to be prime minister, a job that requires him to form a new coalition government based on parliamentary elections that were held in April.

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Middle East
5:51 am
Sat August 9, 2014

Without A Truce, Strikes Resume In Gaza

Originally published on Sat August 9, 2014 9:40 am

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

Middle East
2:05 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

As Cease-Fire Reaches Its Close, Fire Reignites In Gaza

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 4:57 pm

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

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Middle East
2:33 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

With Gazans' Eyes On Cairo, Hamas Hopes For Leverage

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 4:43 pm

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

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Iraq
3:00 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Militants In Iraq Seek Control Of Precious Weapon: Dams, Waterways

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Mughdeed talks to the men he commands to protect the Mosul dam, a critical piece of infrastructure that supplies water and electricity. The dam is now close to the front line with the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq.
Alice Fordham NPR

Originally published on Sat August 2, 2014 4:41 am

In the searing heat of northern Iraq, among its dry, scrubby landscape, there's a surreal sight: a wide, shimmering blue lake, held back by the concrete and steel of a dam. It's on the Tigris River, near the city of Mosul.

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Mughdeed, the commander of the soldiers guarding this dam, says even a small attack on the dam could have major repercussions: flooding, power cuts.

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Parallels
4:11 am
Tue July 29, 2014

For Iraqis In Crisis, Dividing The Country Seems A Poor Solution

A volunteer at a Christian church in Qosh, Iraq, loads aid onto a handcart Monday for delivery to displaced Shiites who are sheltering there.
Alice Fordham NPR

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 5:35 am

The muscular farmer sits in the basement kindergarten of the church, perched on a tiny chair intended for a child. He and his family are spending the holiday here, after being forced to flee from extremists.

"Our village is more than 300 years old," Ahmed Ali says of Shreikhan, near Mosul, "and we never had any such problems."

For most Muslims around the world, Eid is a time for gifts, feasts and visiting relatives. But for him and others in a militant-controlled swath of northwest Iraq, it's a strange and unhappy holiday.

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