Recommended Reads Of 2019 From NPR's International Correspondents

Dec 31, 2019
Originally published on January 2, 2020 8:08 am

World events in 2019 certainly kept NPR's international desk busy, whether it was the trade fight with China or Brexit, another Israeli election or massive protests from Hong Kong to Iraq, Chile to Zimbabwe.

Amid the constant whirl of news, the foreign bureaus were also hard at work producing the feature stories that NPR is known for. They made long journeys, dug into data and spent time with farmers living beside glaciers; oppressed minorities; politicians; doctors and researchers; concerned parents; civilian survivors of war; and sometimes fighters, too.

As we enter 2020, the far-flung correspondents and contributing journalists looked back at the past year and have recommended some of their favorite online stories.

Deborah Amos

Mounting Syrian War Crime Cases Raise Hopes For Justice Against A Brutal Regime

Omar Alshogre, a Syrian refugee who was tortured as a political prisoner in Syria, now lives in Sweden. He has framed photos of men who he says tortured him that he keeps upside down.
Axel Öberg for NPR

An unprecedented legal battle against the regime is playing out in European courts, where large refugee communities and prosecutors can bring cases even for suspected crimes committed abroad.

Jane Arraf

Freed From ISIS, Yazidi Mothers Face Wrenching Choice: Abandon Kids Or Never Go Home

Ibrahim, 2, in northeastern Syria a few hours after his freed Yazidi mother returned to Iraq without him. Ibrahim's father was an ISIS fighter. Although his mother wanted to take him home, the Yazidis do not allow children of ISIS fathers to live with the community. Iraqi law considers the children Muslim rather than Yazidi.
Jane Arraf / NPR

Women kidnapped by ISIS five years ago are now being freed. But the Yazidi community does not allow children born in captivity to militant fathers to return with them.

Eleanor Beardsley

500 Years After Leonardo Da Vinci's Death, France Celebrates His Life And Work

Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Rocks (left) and La belle Ferronnière, or Portrait of an Unknown Woman, are both part of the Louvre's exhibition.
RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado

A new exhibition at the Louvre includes Leonardo da Vinci's sketches, drawings and 11 paintings. "You can really get into his brain and try to see how he thought," says biographer Serge Bramly.

Daniel Estrin

Here's What Tourists Might See If They Were Allowed To Visit Gaza

Families and friends enjoy their time on a Gaza City beach. Israel allows international aid workers, journalists and diplomats to enter Gaza, but tourists are prohibited.
Khalil Hamra / AP Images for NPR

Gaza has been off-limits to tourists since Hamas took over in 2007 and Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade. NPR follows a tour guide to sites that include a palace, shops, cafes and a bathhouse.

Emily Feng

'Afraid We Will Become The Next Xinjiang': China's Hui Muslims Face Crackdown

Chinese-style tile has replaced the domes and domed minarets of the Hongsibao Mosque in China's Ningxia region. Ningxia is home to a large concentration of Hui Muslims, who have long prided themselves on assimilation but are under increasing scrutiny by Chinese authorities.
Emily Feng / NPR

A government crackdown on China's Muslim minorities has reached the Hui. "The pressure on not just one's religious behavior, but how one lives one's daily life, is unbearable," says a young Hui man.

Lauren Frayer

India's Minorities Are Targeted In Lynchings

"It's like they are trying to erase us — erase all of my people," says Jaibuna, the widow of Pehlu Khan. The 55-year-old Muslim man was beaten to death in 2017 by Hindu men who objected to his transporting cows.
Furkan Latif Khan/NPR

Lynchings of minority groups have surged in India. Most of the victims are Muslims, members of the country's largest religious minority.

Diaa Hadid

Pakistan's Melting Glaciers Cause Alarm

The town of Karimabad, Pakistan, is nestled near the Ultar Glacier. Pollution and global warming are causing the glacier to melt and form unstable lakes that could burst their icy banks at any moment.
Diaa Hadid / NPR

Pollution and global warming are causing glaciers to melt and form unstable lakes in the north of the country. NPR visits a valley where farms were destroyed by glacial floods.

Carrie Kahn

Photo Of Mother Pleading With Mexican Soldier Draws Attention To Migrant Patrol

Guatemalan migrant Lety Pérez embraces her son, Anthony, while pleading with a Mexican National Guard member to let them cross into the United States near Juárez, Mexico, on July 22.
Jose Luis Gonzalez / Reuters

In what a former Mexican official called the "pic du jour," a Mexican National Guard member stands in the way of a Guatemalan woman and her son who are trying to reach the U.S. border.

Joanna Kakissis

Outlets Strive For Independence In Hungary, Where Most Media Back The Government

Journalists Ervin Guth (left) and Ferenc Nimmerfroh work out of a small office in downtown Pecs, a city in southern Hungary. They and colleague Attila Babos started the independent news site Szabad Pecs (Free Pecs) after the local newspaper where they worked was purchased by a pro-government media company.
Joanna Kakissis / NPR

A handful of news websites are struggling to change the narrative from the dominating, pro-government media conglomerate one analyst calls a "centralized propaganda machine."

Michele Kelemen

Diplomat Kurt Volker Caught Up In Whirlwind Of Impeachment Inquiry

Ambassador Kurt Volker (left), former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 19 during a public impeachment hearing into President Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents.
Susan Walsh / AP

On paper, Kurt Volker's job in the Trump administration was to support Ukraine and help end a war started by Russia in the east of the former Soviet Republic. Volker is now caught up in a political battle at home over President Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Peter Kenyon

Turks Examine Their Muslim Devotion After Poll Says Faith Could Be Waning

People enjoy a sunny afternoon at Eminonu Square in Istanbul on Jan. 29, 2019.
Bulent Kilic / AFP via Getty Images

Despite a rise in religious doctrine from the government, a survey shows a dip in the portion of people identifying as religious, compared with a poll in 2008.

Lucian Kim

'The Rot Starts From The Top': Russians Protest Over Problems Big And Small

Residents of Pereslavl-Zalessky gathered for a protest against planned garbage dumps in July.
Lucian Kim / NPR

As Russian President Vladimir Putin approaches his 20th year in power, anger over bread-and-butter issues is sparking demonstrations across the country.

Anthony Kuhn

Ahead Of 2020 Summer Olympics, A Building Boom In Kyoto Is Yielding Ancient Artifacts

Archaeologist Koji Iesaki holds a carved roof ornament excavated at the former site of the Jyokyo-ji temple in Kyoto, Japan. Iesaki and other archaeologists have their hands full as a pre-Olympic building boom has helped reveal centuries-old artifacts from the city's long history.
Anthony Kuhn/NPR

Archaeologists are rushing to uncover, document and preserve centuries-old objects as new hotels and office buildings go up in the ancient former capital of Japan.

Frank Langfitt

'He's A Flawed Character And They Do Not Care': The Rise Of U.K.'s Boris Johnson

Then-candidate for leadership of the Conservative Party Boris Johnson spoke at Carlisle Racecourse on June 29 in Carlisle, England.
Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

Boris Johnson is a larger-than-life British politician who likes to project the image of a bumbling, fun-loving man of the people. His many supporters in find him charismatic and politically incorrect. Critics, however, see him as unprincipled, offensive and driven wholly by ambition.

Julie McCarthy

The Philippines' Marawi City Remains Wrecked Nearly 2 Years After ISIS War

The skeletal remains of a mosque stand amid overgrown shrubs. Authorities say 25 mosques were destroyed in the district most affected by the five months of fighting between government forces and ISIS militants in Marawi.
Julie McCarthy / NPR

The city has a rich heritage of buildings and mosques. Today, the battle scars are as prominent as ever and residents displaced by the conflict complain about the sluggish reconstruction.

Jackie Northam

In A Remote Arctic Outpost, Norway Keeps Watch On Russia's Military Buildup

Norwegian Pvt. Ivan Sjoetun sits in the border post where Russian land can be seen out the window. The post is in the far northeast corner of Norway and offers a commanding view of this starkly beautiful area some 250 miles above the Arctic Circle.
Claire Harbage / NPR

Russia is upgrading its military capabilities with new fighter jets and navy vessels, and its submarines are pushing farther into the North Atlantic. Norwegian military officials say Russia is also carrying out cruise missile tests and live-fire military exercises. That is forcing its neighbor, Norway, and other NATO members to rethink their military strategy in the region.

John Otis

'Lives Are At Risk': Venezuelan Charities Struggle Under Shortages And Intimidation

Gustavo Rincón (left), president of the Maracaibo-based medical charity Samaritan Foundation, visits a patient at a leper colony.
John Otis for NPR

Local aid groups play a growing role amid Venezuela's unprecedented humanitarian crisis marked by widespread malnutrition and deaths from preventable diseases.

Eyder Peralta

Reporter's Notebook: Africa Holds Lessons For Venezuela

Smoke billows from aid trucks set on fire on the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge between Colombia and Venezuela on Feb. 23.
Edinson Estupiñán / AFP via Getty Images

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Eyder Peralta usually reports in Africa for NPR. After reporting in Venezuela this year, he describes parallels he saw with popular movements facing government repression.

Sylvia Poggioli

Italian Holocaust Survivor Faces Threats After Calling For Investigation Into Hate

Liliana Segre waves at the end of a meeting with students in Milan, Italy, in 2018. For decades, Segre, 89, was reluctant to discuss her time in the Auschwitz concentration camp. But in the 1990s, she began speaking to schoolchildren throughout Italy about the Holocaust.
Luca Bruno / AP

A Holocaust survivor was put under police escort following threats. "This is a real crisis for all of us, of all the system, of all the democracy," says the head of Rome's Jewish community. "That means that she must be protected from the hate as it was in the past."

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Robert Mugabe, Veteran President Of Zimbabwe, Dead At 95

In this Oct. 31, 2009, photo, Zimbabwe's then-President Robert Mugabe attended the burial of a prominent member of his party in Harare.
Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP

Robert Mugabe led the nation formerly known as Rhodesia from its independence from Britain in 1980 until 2017. He was once seen as a hero, but his leadership grew increasingly authoritarian.

Philip Reeves

Venezuela's Maduro Faces Mounting Pressure To Quit, Yet He Persists

Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro sings the national anthem during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 23.
Natacha Pisarenko / AP

The U.S. has hit Venezuela's oil sector and government associates with sanctions and has rallied behind opposition leader Juan Guaidó, yet President Nicolás Maduro endures.

Ruth Sherlock

Trinidadian Mom Reunites With Kids Taken By Their Father To ISIS

Mahmud, 11, Ayyub, 7, and their mother, Felicia Perkins-Ferreira, walk toward the boat that will take them out of Syria, across the river to Iraq, so they can start their journey home to Trinidad.
Ruth Sherlock / NPR

After four years in Syria, two brothers returned home to Trinidad this week, following an extraordinary intervention by their mother, a renowned human rights lawyer, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

Rob Schmitz

'The Economy Is Slipping': China's Slowdown Hits Former Boomtown

A passenger vessel traveling down the Yangtze River stops at a dock in downtown Chongqing, China.
Rob Schmitz / NPR

Hechuan, a city of more than a million people just outside the metropolis of Chongqing in southwest-central China, was booming. Automobile factories employed thousands of people who churned out SUVs. Now assembly lines have shut down, workers have left and Hechuan's streets, shops and many residents' pocketbooks are empty.

Michael Sullivan

He's Vietnamese. She's From North Korea. They Had To Wait 3 Decades To Marry

Pham Ngoc Canh, from Vietnam, met his North Korean wife, Ri Yong Hui, in 1971. They finally were able to marry in 2002 and now live in Hanoi.
Nguyen Huy Kham / Reuters

"I knew I should stop loving him," says Ri Yong Hui. "But I couldn't." She met Pham Ngoc Canh in 1971, when he was in North Korea on an internship. After years of separation, they married in 2002.

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