Jane Arraf | KERA News

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.

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There's a light rain falling in the hills around Masoud Barzani's palace north of Irbil. Last week, Barzani stepped down as president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq, a position he's held for 12 years. But the building, with its soaring staircases and footsteps of staff echoing through vast marble hallways, is still distinctly presidential.

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Mustafa Ahmed Abed has a few words of English left from his time as a young child in the United States. These days, he doesn't have anyone to practice them with, so he repeats words to himself over and over as he walks home from school in Fallujah. With one leg, the journey on crutches takes him an hour.

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Iraqi Kurdish leaders plan to hold a controversial independence referendum on Monday. Kurds are expected to overwhelmingly vote in favor of separating from Iraq. The United States and other allies have warned them not to go ahead.

Here's what to know:

Who and where are the Kurds?

An estimated 30 million Kurds live in territory overlapping northern Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. They are the fourth-biggest ethnic group in the region after Arabs, Persians and Turks.

Nine months after Iraqi forces drove ISIS from eastern Mosul, the east side's main street has come back to life. Wedding convoys decorated with ribbons and flowers honk their horns. Female drivers pull up in front of pastry shops and stalls piled high with fresh fruit.

Young men cruise by with car stereos tuned to upbeat music instead of ISIS radio and lectures on Islam. Signs advertise new pool halls and shisha lounges.

In a sea of loss, Bashar Abdul Jabar is just one among many.

The small man in a shirt several sizes too big is standing in the parking lot of the Iraqi civil defense forces base in Mosul, hoping to retrieve the body of his son. To his right is a young man whose entire family — 11 people — was killed. To his left, a man who lost 18 relatives.

Nearby, a 4-year-old boy who lost his mother and three brothers clings silently to his father's leg.

On Egypt's Mediterranean coast, August should be prime tourist season. But the seaside restaurants in Alexandria are almost empty. Worries over security are keeping a lot of foreign tourists away. But there's a much bigger worry looming: that hotter weather and a disappearing shoreline could make Egypt's prospects even worse.

Scientists generally agree that human-made climate change – the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from things like cars and factories – is making the sea level higher and its waters warmer.

Malala Yousafzai walks hand-in-hand with her father down a dirt road in northern Iraq. The youngest Nobel laureate has just turned 20. But in some ways, she is still the teenager from Pakistan propelled onto a world stage after being shot for advocating the right of girls to go to school.

Manal Idrees looks out the car window in shock at the streets of her neighborhood in the oldest part of Mosul, reduced to chunks of concrete and tangled metal.

She fled when ISIS moved in three years ago. Although she has seen images of the destruction after Iraqi forces retook Mosul two weeks ago, experiencing it in person is staggering.

"It's ruined — all ruined," she says as we drive by streets where not a single building is left standing. "Mosul is gone. Iraq is gone."

And then she starts to sob for the son she lost: "All the beautiful young men are gone."

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