Leila Fadel

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Las Vegas, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.

Most recently, she was NPR's international correspondent based in Cairo and covered the wave of revolts in the Middle East and their aftermaths in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond. Her stories brought us to the heart of a state-ordered massacre of pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo in 2013 when police shot into crowds of people to clear them and killed between 1,000 and 2,000 people. She told us the tales of a coup in Egypt and what it is like for a country to go through a military overthrow of an elected government. She covered the fall of Mosul to ISIS in 2014 and documented the harrowing tales of the Yazidi women who were kidnapped and enslaved by the group. Her coverage also included stories of human smugglers in Egypt and the Syrian families desperate and willing to pay to risk their lives and cross a turbulent ocean for Europe.

She was awarded the Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club for her coverage of the 2013 coup in Egypt and the toll it took on the country and Egyptian families. In 2017 she earned a Gracie award for the story of a single mother in Tunisia whose two eldest daughters were brainwashed and joined ISIS. The mother was fighting to make sure it didn't happen to her younger girls.

Before joining NPR, she covered the Middle East for The Washington Post as the Cairo Bureau Chief. Prior to her position as Cairo Bureau Chief for the Post, she covered the Iraq war for nearly five years with Knight Ridder, McClatchy Newspapers, and later the Washington Post. Her foreign coverage of the devastating human toll of the Iraq war earned her the George. R. Polk award in 2007. In 2016 she was the Council on Foreign Relations Edward R. Murrow fellow.

Leila Fadel is a Lebanese-American journalist who speaks conversational Arabic and was raised in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Egypt has an unusual law known as the "seasonal marriage" law, and the government says it's aimed at helping the many poor families who resort to selling their daughters into temporary or long-term marriages with wealthy, older foreign men to support themselves.

Egypt's Justice Ministry says it will begin strictly enforcing that law, which requires foreign men — usually from Gulf countries — to pay to marry women 25 years or more their junior. And it's increasing the amount the men must pay. All this, it says, is to protect Egyptian women.

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In January, Dr. Raslan Fadl was convicted after one of his patients, a young girl called Soheir al Batea, died under his care.

But Fadl hasn't served a day behind bars.

Soheir was 13 years old when her parents took her to Fadl to undergo a procedure that's a rite of passage for most girls here in the Nile Delta — genital cutting.

It's known around here as "cleansing," but most people call it female genital mutilation or female circumcision — a procedure that has been illegal in Egypt since 2008.

In Egypt, one of the country's most prominent rights defenders, Hossam Bahgat, was detained and is being interrogated on charges of publishing false news that could harm the nation.

Recently Bahgat, 36, has emerged as a standout investigative journalist in a country where much of the news media has been cowed into toeing the state line.

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Shortly after the Egyptian government-sponsored National Council for Human Rights visited one of the country's most notorious prisons, known as "Scorpion," a video leaked.

In the video, one of the members nods happily as he tastes prison food served to him from large bowls.

Architecture professor Soheir Zaki Hawas has dedicated her life to documenting the beautiful historic buildings in downtown Cairo and to trying to preserve them.

"Heritage is the memory of a city," Hawas says. "If I lose my memory for five minutes, I will not be able to introduce myself to tell you anything about anything."

She pulls her book off the coffee table in her living room; it took her years to document the buildings in downtown Cairo.

"I want to show you this page here," she says, flipping through the book. "This is a beautiful catalogue."

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In 2013, there were seven known militants from the village that Ahmed Abu Deraa comes from in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula. Today, that number has jumped to about 60, says Abu Deraa, an independent journalist who sometimes works for NPR. All of them are with Sinai Province, the local affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.

The Sinai's militants are all gathering under the ISIS umbrella, Abu Deraa says. But what they're fighting for isn't some grand regional cause.

Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as the freelance photographer Shawkan, has been behind bars in Egypt for 705 days without charge. Today's hearing to either renew his time in jail or release him was postponed. His detention continues.

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On Saturday, a blast ripped through Cairo's Italian consulate, rocking the capital. And one of the first things Egyptian police did was briefly hold four foreign journalists — because they arrived too quickly.

It's not a surprise in the current atmosphere, where the foreign media is basically being painted as an enemy of the state in local press and in official statements.

Ahmed Kardous sets up an establishing shot. He trains the camera on the actors standing on a cliff overlooking a valley of greenery, and someone yells out, "Action."

Kardous is the director of photography for this Ramadan's breakout television show in Egypt. It's called Haret el-Yahood, or The Jewish Quarter.

The massive wave of people fleeing the Middle East and Africa face dangerous conditions to make the trip across the Mediterranean Sea, crowded onto rickety boats and overloaded ships. An estimated 2,000 migrants have died so far this year alone.

But, despite the danger, the burgeoning business of smuggling migrants has taken on some retail features.

Smugglers sending desperate migrants from Egypt to Europe are looking to make money — but they do offer discounts. Small children can go for free; migrants who organize a group can go free, as a sort of referral bonus.

It happens suddenly. One day, without warning, someone goes out to run an errand or go to class, and they don't come home.

Forced disappearances by Egypt's security forces aren't a new tactic in Egypt, but they're on the rise, human rights groups and activists say. And a cross section of activists, human rights defenders and journalists are being targeted.

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At the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the booming call to prayer competes with the racket of construction.

The Grand Mosque is the destination for the most sacred Muslim pilgrimage and it holds the Kaaba, the black cube of a building in the center of the mosque known to Muslims as the House of God.

But skyscraper hotels increasingly dominate the skyline, dwarfing the Great Mosque where worshippers gather, and angering those who seek to retain the city's history and traditional architecture.

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Things are changing in Saudi Arabia. The new king made a surprising move this week, choosing his nephew to take over as crown prince and his son to take the position of deputy crown prince.

The decision marks a generational shift. For the first time, a grandson of the founder of the kingdom is heir to the throne. And one young prince, the son of King Salman, is emerging as a war hero for many Saudis as the country continues to carry out airstrikes in Yemen.

Saudi airstrikes in Yemen began almost a month ago, targeting rebels who have taken over much of the country.

Internationally, there are concerns about increasing casualties and questions about the strategy in the Saudi operation, which is receiving help from the U.S., among others.

But at home in the kingdom, the war has sparked a patriotic fervor that's noticeable just about everywhere you turn.

Christopher Catrambone, a wealthy businessman from Lake Charles, La., docks his boat these days in Malta, the Mediterranean island he now calls home. That boat, called the Phoenix, has been getting outfitted for a series of trips set to begin in May.

But Catrambone and his crew don't intend to use the Phoenix for luxury cruises. He and his Italian wife, Regina, invested about $8 million of their own money to buy the ship and hire a crew for an entirely different purpose: to save lives at sea.

One of the self-proclaimed Islamic State's biggest weapons has been its terrifying propaganda. Highly-produced videos of brute violence are its hallmark: a man being burned alive in a cage; Christians being beheaded on a beach in Libya; a child being used to execute a suspected traitor.

But in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, people are responding by laughing rather than cowering.

A Cairo criminal court has sentenced prominent Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years in jail for violating a controversial law that bans unlicensed protests.

Another activist, Ahmed Abdul Rahman, was also sentenced to five years on Monday. Eighteen other people were given three years, and several tried in absentia got 15 years.

As the judge read out his verdict, the courtroom erupted in protest.

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