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.

BABYLON, Iraq — On a mild winter weekend, the sun pours down on the yellow archways of the reconstructed palace of King Nebuchadnezzar II at the site of the ancient city of Babylon. Nearly three millennia after Nebuchadnezzar's reign, visitors from a tour group cluster to admire a brick frieze depicting strange creatures that look like lions with eagle claws.

Snapping photographs, they pass under arches, through hallways and across vast courtyards, imagining the regal ceremonies, worship and gossip of the past.

BAGHDAD — On a recent Sunday in Baghdad, a congregation of Chaldean Catholics gather — masked and distanced — to attend Mass at the Church of the Holy Family. Some are from the capital, others fled the north of the country when ISIS seized swaths of territory nearly seven years ago.

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Pandemic permitting, Pope Francis hopes to visit Iraq next month. Many of Iraq's Christians have fled the country after ISIS targeted them in recent years. So what would a papal visit mean to them? NPR's Alice Fordham has been asking.

With the gold domes of the famed Kadhimiya shrine as a backdrop, nearby streets full of shops, markets and tea-sellers in Baghdad look bustling and vibrant, even at night. Tempting windows display sparkly clothes and cascades of candy in rainbow colors.

But shopkeepers say no one has been buying much since Iraq devalued its dinar against the dollar last year.

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Looking now to another part of the world to Iraq. The economy there relies on government salaries, but its government relies on oil revenues, which have been falling. NPR's Alice Fordham reports.

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When doctors in Lebanon diagnosed a coronavirus case this week, it wasn't the country's first. There are several hundred cases, but this one was in a Palestinian refugee camp. NPR's Alice Fordham explains why that's particularly worrying.

April 2020 was a month Mohammad had yearned for. It was when he was set to fly to the U.S. with his wife and son to start a new life.

The Afghan had spent years painstakingly proving he was eligible for a special visa through his work as an interpreter with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan, and that he posed no danger to the American homeland.

"It took almost five years," he says with a sigh, speaking by phone from Afghanistan. He asks that NPR not use his full name because of threats from the Taliban against him.

Lebanon is a small, cash-strapped country in the Middle East, but its government estimates it hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees — the highest per-capita ratio in the world. About a third of them live in tents or in places like farm buildings or garages, in conditions that make regular hand-washing and physical distancing all but impossible.

High above the Mediterranean Sea, up a mountain wreathed in springtime mist and drizzle, is the monastery where the beloved Lebanese St. Charbel is buried.

The World Health Organization has begun working with doctors to test for coronavirus in opposition-held areas of Syria. So far, three tests have been conducted.

The samples — delivered across the Syrian border be tested in a lab in Turkey — all were negative. The WHO says that next week, 300 testing kits are expected to be delivered to a laboratory in Idlib province, so health workers in the rebel-held area can conduct tests themselves.

Turkey and Russia agreed to a cease-fire Thursday, to begin at midnight in northwestern Syria's Idlib region. Five Turkish soldiers were killed in Idlib earlier this week and nearly a million people have been displaced in fierce fighting since December, as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have made gains in the opposition's last redoubt.

The bond between the United States and the United Kingdom runs deep. The phrase "special relationship" was made famous by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in a speech in Missouri in 1946, after the two countries fought shoulder to shoulder in World War II.

Security is still a cornerstone of the relationship, as are trade and less tangible things like shared language and the fact that many Americans are proud of their British roots.

President Trump arrives in Brussels Tuesday for a summit at NATO, the latest pillar of the international order left wobbling by his adversarial approach to allies.

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On a bright afternoon outside the elegant facade of Trinity College Dublin, students hand out flyers to passers-by urging them to vote in Friday's referendum to lift Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion in most circumstances.

"Please vote yes on Friday! Thank you! Please vote yes," chirp the students, who have big smiles and colored sweaters with "REPEAL" emblazoned across the front.

"We've got massive flags with Harry and Meghan on," says Mike Drummond of the Red Bus souvenir shop next to the iconic London Eye. A Union Jack with the royal couple's faces in the middle hangs high on the wall and is selling fast.

There are commemorative plates in buttercup yellow and curly gilding, selling for $16, presentation stand included. And there are gold and white-fringed bookmarks, kitchen towels and bargain key rings ($4 each).

"The most popular item is the mugs, the souvenir mugs. But we've got coasters, teaspoons, magnets, everything," says Drummond.

In a village clinging to the side of a volcano in southern Guatemala, Florencio Hernandez sits in a cinder block house with the corn harvest piled up, a chicken coop in the corner and pots bubbling on a stove in the courtyard.

His home is the proud product of a hardworking life shaped by migration. As millions of migrants in the U.S. listen apprehensively to fierce political debate over who should be allowed to stay, this village of 550 families tells a stark story of the wide ripple effects that migration — and deportation — can have.

Guatemala is the site of a radical, internationally-led experiment in bringing the brutal and corrupt to justice. The project has had some breathtaking successes but is fighting to survive.

Reporting for this story was supported by the International Women's Media Foundation as part of its Adelante Latin America Reporting Initiative

Hassan Shami camp, about 15 miles east of Mosul, is pristine, the gravel spotless, the rows of tents still white and mostly empty.

There aren't yet the crowds of children, piles of garish mattresses, makeshift bathtubs, half-eaten bowls of rice and beans that have become familiar sights at Iraq's many camps for about 2 million people now displaced by the fight against the Islamic State.

That is likely to change, and soon.

The Iraqi military and its allies have been pushing for a week toward the city of Mosul, held by the Islamic State. For people fleeing the fighting, a few thousand so far, it's been an unbelievably frightening seven days.

In the Debaga camp for displaced people, about 50 miles southeast of Mosul, which is becoming more crowded, I sit with a family who tell me about leaving the village where they lived under ISIS more than two years.

For two weeks, a battle has raged in Aleppo, generating tragic images of injured civilians amid the rubble.

The city — once Syria's most populous and a commercial hub — is a key prize in the civil war. For four years, it has been divided between government and rebel forces and was in effect a military stalemate.

Russia is among the supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while the U.S. supports rebel forces. They were talking to try to find a way to calm the violence in Syria, but the negotiations collapsed this week.

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And even as diplomats are trying to hammer out a renewal of a ceasefire in Syria with little to show so far for those efforts, activists reported yesterday that chlorine gas was used against civilians in Aleppo. NPR's Alice Fordham in Beirut has more. And a warning - this report contains the sound of children in distress.

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On a sky-blue Sunday morning in the little town of Tell Tamer in northeastern Syria, sunlight pours through olive trees, dappling the path to a church that has for almost a century been the center of an Assyrian Christian community.

But inside the Church of Our Lady, the sound of sobbing mixes with the ancient Aramaic chants. Photographs of three people are on display at the front, propped up on white cloths embroidered with roses, next to silver crosses and golden bells; the mass is in their memory.

At a rehabilitation center in Turkey, just over the border from Syria, Bassam Farouh raises and lowers leg weights, wincing and holding onto a rail.

The gray-haired Farouh is a Syrian rebel fighter who battled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army for years, until he was wounded in a Russian airstrike on his hometown across the border two months ago.

"It wasn't a war at first, it was a revolution against the system," he says. "We were trying to take a stance against the system and that led us here."

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On a cold desert morning full of birdsong and smokers' coughs, the head of Iraq's special forces is holding court in the master bedroom of a commandeered family home, perched on the edge of a rumpled pink bed and lighting his first cigarettes of the day.

"In Ramadi city, and Ramadi's suburbs, ISIS is broken, they no longer exist," declares Maj. Gen. Fadhil Barwari, blowing smoke over curlicued bedroom furniture.

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