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
3:16 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 7:01 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
5:15 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 9:33 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
3:23 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 3:26 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
5:11 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 9:27 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
6:29 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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ARUN RATH, HOST:

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Iraq
9:57 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 11:56 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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Parallels
10:45 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 3:04 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
4:12 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Rebels Storm Key Border Crossing Between Syria And Israel

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 7:28 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/.

Transcript

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Middle East
8:38 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 11:39 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
4:35 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 8:02 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
4:17 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Introducing Iraq's New Appointee For Prime Minister

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 9:14 pm

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Parallels
4:40 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 10:44 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
5:48 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 6:33 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
7:49 am
Sat August 9, 2014

Without A Truce, Strikes Resume In Gaza

Originally published on Sat August 9, 2014 11:40 am

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

Middle East
4:35 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 6:57 pm

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

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Iraq
5:00 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 6:41 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
6:26 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 7:35 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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Middle East
5:33 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

For Islamic State, Victories In Iraq Mean Momentum In Syria

Originally published on Fri July 25, 2014 7:40 pm

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

Parallels
12:55 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Syrian President Issues New Stamps, But Can't Deliver The Mail

One of the three stamps issued recently to commemorate Syrian leader Bashar Assad's presidential election victory.
Via Syrian Arab News Agency

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 4:06 pm

As the Middle East froths with blood — from Iraq to Syria to the Gaza Strip — a commemorative set of three stamps depicting Syrian President Bashar Assad may not seem hugely relevant.

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Iraq
7:55 am
Sun July 6, 2014

Iraqi Lawmakers Fail To Reach Deal On A New Government

Originally published on Sun July 6, 2014 12:50 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Iraq is looking more and more like a country being divided into three parts. Hard-core Sunni militants have taken much of the west. Well-organized Kurdish soldiers have grabbed the north. And everywhere else, Shiites are mustering sectarian militia. Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in just the last month. NPR's Alice Fordham reports there are a lot of ideas for helping the Iraqis, but the country's newly elected politicians are not exactly rushing to address the situation.

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Iraq
4:25 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Iraqi Parliament, And Maliki's Fate, Float In Limbo

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 7:37 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. With Iraq in crisis under the onslaught of Sunni extremists, the country's government is unable to pull together. A meeting of the Iraqi parliament fell apart today, and the issues before the body are critical for the government to function. The parliament was elected back in April, but members still have yet to agree on a speaker, a president and a prime minister. NPR's Alice Fordham is in Baghdad.

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Iraq
4:17 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

ISIS Gets A Rebrand, Declaring Its New Caliphate In The Process

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 2:07 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Parallels
5:53 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Angry At Shiite-Led Government, Sunnis Are Loath To Help Calm Iraq

A leading Sunni tribal chief, Sheik Abu Ali al-Jubbouri says he misses former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who favored his sect.
Hussein Malla AP

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 9:30 pm

Iraq is looking increasingly like a state partitioned along sectarian lines. Shiites control the south, but Sunni militants are sweeping through the north and west — and they're doing it with help from local Sunni populations.

Interviews with Sunni leaders show how hard it will be to build the kind of trust needed to put the country back together under one functioning authority.

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Iraq
4:07 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Maliki's Power Base Crumbles As Iraq Slips Into Chaos

Will Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki be able to unite Iraq's various factions, or will he be forced out?
Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 8:18 pm

Tens of thousands of Iraqi men brandishing assorted weapons are responding to a call to arms. They invoke the Mahdi, a figure from Shiite Muslim prophecies, as they march in a recent parade in Sadr City, a Shiite suburb of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

"We volunteer to protect our dear country," says Hazem al-Shemmari.

When Sunni militants took over parts of Iraq this month, Shiite religious leaders called for volunteers to fight back.

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Iraq
4:11 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Even Amid Onslaught, Hints That Violence In Iraq Could Escalate

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 6:23 pm

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Middle East
6:08 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Iraq's Army Is Ineffective Against Islamist Insurgents

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 9:30 am

There are reports of Iraqi government troops just fleeing, dropping their weapons and shedding their uniforms. The U.S. spent a lot of time and money training Iraqi forces.

Iraq
5:22 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Islamist Militants Gain Ground In Northern Iraq

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 7:41 am

Sunni Islamist militants have seized control of the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit and appear to be preparing an assault on Baghdad. Americans fought and died trying to prevent that from happening.

Iraq
4:18 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Half A Million Iraqis Flee As Militants Move South

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:24 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. In Iraq, swaths of the country of fallen to Islamist militants. They took the largest city of Mosul earlier this week. Now they're heading south. Today there are reports the militants have taken the city of Tikrit, an hour's drive from the capital, Baghdad. NPR's Alice Fordham has the latest.

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Iraq
6:40 am
Wed June 11, 2014

In Iraq, Mosul Falls To Insurgent Group

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 7:46 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

There are dramatic developments in Iraq where an extremist group, that's taken over large parts of Syria, has stormed into the major Iraqi city of Mosul. Leaders there are saying that this Al Qaeda offshoot, which is called the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, may even be pushing south in the direction of Baghdad. NPR's Alice Fordham joins us now from northern Iraq for more. And tell us, what exactly the situation is there, in Mosul.

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Iraq
4:33 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Key Iraqi City Falls To Islamist Militants

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:30 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

I'm Audie Cornish, and we begin the hour with the threat of a de facto Islamist state stretching across parts of Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi government has now lost control of one of its biggest cities, Mosul, to extremist Sunni militants. The group is known as ISIS, which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been rejected as too extreme, even by some leaders of al-Qaida.

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