Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

International correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin and covers Central Europe for NPR. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

She was previously based in Cairo and covered the Arab World for NPR from the Middle East to North Africa. Nelson returns to Egypt on occasion to cover the tumultuous transition to democracy there.

In 2006, Nelson opened the NPR Kabul Bureau. During the following three and a half years, she gave listeners in an in-depth sense of life inside Afghanistan, from the increase in suicide among women in a country that treats them as second class citizens to the growing interference of Iran and Pakistan in Afghan affairs. For her coverage of Afghanistan, she won a Peabody Award, Overseas Press Club Award and the Gracie in 2010. She received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award from Colby College in 2011 for her coverage in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Nelson spent 20 years as newspaper reporter, including as Knight Ridder's Middle East Bureau Chief. While at the Los Angeles Times, she was sent on extended assignment to Iran and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She spent three years an editor and reporter for Newsday and was part of the team that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for covering the crash of TWA Flight 800.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Nelson speaks Farsi, Dari and German.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: The country that has opened its arms to so many of the migrants flowing into Europe is becoming noticeably less welcoming. Germany packed onto a plane last week Afghans it judged to be economic migrants and sent them back to Kabul. Germany's Parliament has also passed new laws making deportation easier. And one thing that didn't help, the German government admitted it did not know the whereabouts of 130,000 of...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr9SsshX2EA Like many European countries, Germany wants to send more asylum seekers back home. The German parliament passed several laws on Thursday that make it easier to deport migrants. The day before, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government sent a charter plane filled with Afghan migrants back to Kabul. Many asylum seekers say they've gotten the message — and aren't waiting to be shown the door. They're going home voluntarily, rather than being forced back. On...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: British Prime Minister David Cameron says a deal he made last night with other European leaders in Brussels will protect the U.K. from being taken over by Europe's ever-closer union. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, the British leader still has to persuade his cabinet, the parliament and British voters that the new agreement is enough reason for them to stay in the EU. SORAYA SARHADDI...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: European leaders have reached a deal to help keep Britain in the 28-member European Union. The agreement follows a series of meetings between British Prime Minister David Cameron and other European leaders. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has been monitoring the summit from Berlin and joins us now. And Soraya, first, tell us about this deal. SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, it's interesting because I think it's...

Donald Trump wrote in his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, that his grandfather came from Sweden. These days, the Republican presidential hopeful and real estate mogul embraces different paternal roots. The teetotaler's grandfather actually comes from a medieval wine-making village called Kallstadt, in the southwestern German state of Rhineland Palatinate. Like many Americans of German descent, the Trumps apparently stopped referring to their German heritage during the World Wars. Trump brags...

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Are refugees still welcome in Denmark? Many Danes say yes, despite a new, controversial law requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from asylum seekers arriving in the Nordic country. There's widespread criticism in Denmark of the new law, even as many Danes are nervous about the rising number of asylum seekers. The pretty Baltic port town of Sonderborg is one of many Danish communities sending mixed signals to asylum seekers these days. It hosts scores of migrants at an asylum...

Denmark is expected to adopt a law on Tuesday requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from some asylum seekers as they enter the country.
The seizures, which would go toward defraying the cost of refugee care, are being widely criticized as a violation of human rights. In Elsinore, the eastern Danish city where Shakespeare's Hamlet is set, asylum seekers at a Red Cross center learn rudimentary Danish as they wait to hear whether they will be allowed to stay in Denmark. But...

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: We're heading to Europe now where the welcome for asylum seekers is wearing thin. More than a million people sought refuge in the European Union last year, and people continue to try to make their way from the Middle East and Africa. Many in the 28-nation bloc are taking steps to try to keep more people from coming. In Denmark, a controversial bill calling on police to confiscate cash and valuables...

At Johanna-Eck School in Berlin, the mission to educate and integrate migrants is taken seriously. The student body is a jumble of nationalities and ethnicities highlighting Germany's evolving identity. Schoolyard conversations are held in more than a half-dozen languages, and greetings from all of them are painted on the school building's steps. "They should feel welcome in our schools, so we take time to talk to the students and their parents or guardians," says Silke Donath, a teacher and...

The moment on top of an Afghan mountain peak was one of bittersweet triumph for 20-year-old Shopirai Otmonkhel and her friend Zahra Karimi Nooristani, 18. The budding mountaineers from Kabul beamed with pride as they held up the Afghan flag after climbing to heights no Afghan woman had ever reached. Nooristani — a shy athlete who earlier this year would blush and mumble when asked a question — spoke eloquently about how she'd discovered women can learn to do or be anything, whether it's...

The Paris attacks are sparking fears in Europe that the Islamic State is hiding its operatives among the tens of thousands of refugees pouring into the European Union each month. In Berlin, those fears are also troubling Syrian refugees, who worry they may be kicked out of Europe. Samar Alalaly, for one, rejects those concerns. The 30-year-old Syrian mother of three, who arrived in Germany six weeks ago, says they don't make sense. "We ran away from war," she says. "We didn't come to make war...

Chancellor Angela Merkel says Islam is an integral part of modern-day Germany. But that hasn't kept thousands of Muslim asylum seekers from giving up their faith to become Christians in recent years. The reasons they convert are complicated. Take Daoud Rahimi, for instance. The 20-year-old Afghan, who arrived in Germany a few months ago, was one of dozens of asylum seekers attending a recent baptism class at the evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church in a Berlin suburb. Like other Afghans...

Germany and Poland may not share a common language or currency, but they do share an open border. Both are among the 26 European nations in what's known as the Schengen Area, and getting from one to the other is as simple as crossing a bridge over the Oder River by car or on foot. No one has asked to see passports at this border crossing, 60 miles east of Berlin, since Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Nor does anyone check to see whether travelers are obeying custom rules. But the...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: The International Organization for Migration says the number of refugees and migrants arriving on Greek islands is going up. Last week alone, there were about 7,000 people. European leaders are hoping to lower these numbers by moving quickly to deport people who don't qualify for asylum. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, that deportation policy is a work in progress. SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: European leaders who've been deeply divided over what to do about migrants pouring over their borders are a little less so tonight. For the second night in a row, they've approved plans aimed at gaining control over the massive influx. After the meeting, EU president Donald Tusk welcomed the breakthrough. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) DONALD TUSK: It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: European leaders are deeply divided over what to do about migrants and refugees who're pouring over their borders, and they're meeting in Brussels tonight to talk about it. Some are unhappy about yesterday's vote to relocate 120,000 refugees who are already in Greece and Italy to other EU states, including some countries that don't want any asylum-seekers at all. EU president Donald Tusk said he's fed...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: The European Union has agreed to relocate 120,000 more refugees, spreading them across its member countries. Four Eastern European states vehemently oppose the move. Refugee advocates give the agreement a qualified welcome. They say an even more ambitious plan is needed to deal with more than 400,000 people who've arrived on European shores so far this year. From Brussels, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson...

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ARUN RATH, HOST: Secretary of State John Kerry announced today that in the next two years, the U.S. will increase the number of refugees it will accept annually to 100,000. That will be 30,000 more than what the U.S. takes in now, but it represents only a fraction of the number of asylum seekers European nations are dealing with, especially Germany, where Kerry unveiled his plan. (SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE) SECRETARY...

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Among the steady stream of asylum-seekers pouring into Germany every week, there are scores of children traveling on their own. Over Labor Day weekend, 195 of them arrived in Munich, including 17-year-old Syrians Malaz and Wissam. NPR is identifying them only by their first names because they are minors dealing with difficult personal and legal situations. Of the two boys, Malaz is the more outgoing. The hazel-eyed teen grabs Wissam's arm and with a big smile, says: "We are friends!" Theirs...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: Almost a quarter-century after it was buried to protect it from vandals, the head of Berlin's infamous Lenin statue was dug up today and hauled to its new home. The four-ton granite sculpture will be part of a new exhibit called "Unveiled." It features German history told through lost or forgotten monuments. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson was on hand for the delivery. (SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) SORAYA SARHADDI...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: The President of the European Commission is urging EU countries to show compassion for the asylum-seekers crossing their borders. He's also calling for a quota system to relocate 160,000 of the new arrivals within the 28-member block. His passionate pleas come with threats to impose penalties on countries that don't comply. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin. SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: There were tense meetings of European leaders in Brussels today. And they showed just how divided the European Union is over the fate of the asylum-seekers. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that Hungary's prime minister was not well-received. SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Prime Minister Viktor Orban told reporters in Brussels he plans to send Hungarian soldiers to the southern border with Serbia...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: As we've heard, most of the asylum-seekers want to go to Germany, where they believe job prospects are good and government benefits are generous. In fact, Germany has agreed to take in a big share of the newcomers. Thousands stream in every day. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Berlin reporting on the German response to the crisis. And Soraya, how many asylum claims is the German government willing...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Here's an old way of thinking. Young people from prosperous families study abroad at some point. Young people from less prosperous families have no chance. It's pricey to travel overseas. DAVID GREENE, HOST: That reality is shifting in some ways. A university education in the United States is now so expensive that some students can save money by enrolling overseas. One popular destination is Germany,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Like many European countries, Hungary is trying to work out how best to cope with the skyrocketing number of refugees and asylum-seekers. For now, the government there think the solution is to keep desperate migrants from entering Hungary at all. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from a new border fence being put up by Hungarian soldiers which so far has not slowed the arrivals. LARRY NELSON: Mayor...

Germany may be Europe's economic giant, but Berlin remains the lone major European capital without a proper airport. The mismanaged, roughly $6 billion project to build one became a national laughing stock that has dragged on for years. Ground was broken on the airport in 2006 and the opening was delayed just shortly before the planned date in 2012. The airport's managers are now pledging that Germany's third-largest airport will open on the outskirts of Berlin before the end of 2017. Until...

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