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.

Ahmed Alaa describes raising a rainbow flag at a crowded concert in Cairo last September as "the best moment" of his life. In photos from the event, he looks ecstatic as he waves the flag in the spotlights of the outdoor stage hosting the Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou' Leila.

He posted the photos on Facebook, and others did too. The next morning, he woke up to death threats.

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

A Saudi-led coalition backing pro-government troops in Yemen has launched an assault on the country's main port city of Hodeidah in what threatens to become the fiercest battle of a three-year war against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

The United Arab Emirates state news agency said early Wednesday that large numbers of forces had reached the outskirts of the city. The UAE is a key partner with Saudi Arabia, which is backed by the United States.

The United Nations has withdrawn its international aid workers from the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, amid intense negotiations to avert a devastating attack by pro-government forces backed by the United Arab Emirates.

A senior United Nations official warns a prolonged siege of the Red Sea port could put hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk.

Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said all international staff had been pulled out of Hodeidah Monday to the capital Sanaa and elsewhere.

A young woman in a traditional long black cloak and a pink prison shirt holds a baby as she stands before a judge.

Then a toddler, becoming agitated in the hallway, is led into the wooden dock to join her mother. The little girl is perhaps 2 years old. She clutches the folds of her mother's black abaya with a chubby hand, as she peers out through the wooden bars.

The biggest protests in years in Jordan brought down the country's prime minister and his cabinet Monday.

After four nights of anti-government protests in Amman and other cities, Jordan's King Abdullah II summoned Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki to the palace, where Mulki tendered his resignation.

Two weeks after parliamentary elections delivered a surprise win for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's divided political leaders are scrambling to put together the pieces of a coalition government.

Sadr's Sa'iroun political bloc won 54 seats in Iraq's 329-member parliament – more than any other political grouping, but far from the majority needed to govern. Under Iraqi rules, the biggest coalition of any kind registered in parliament will form the government.

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Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the biggest winner in parliamentary elections, limiting the chances for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to form another government and setting the country on an uncharted course.

Iraqi election results are showing a surprising setback for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, with a political list backed by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr making a stronger showing.

Election officials Sunday night released results for ten of Iraq's 19 provinces, accounting for more than half the vote. Sadr's political list Sa'iroun (Moving Forward) was either leading or in second place in almost all of them.

Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

Iraqis voted Saturday in the first parliamentary elections since defeating ISIS.

Iraqi officials had worried that security concerns would keep voters from the polls. But as polling centers closed, it was apparent that many voters stayed away from apathy rather than fear.

With more than 90 percent of the votes in, Iraq's election commission announced voter turnout of 44.5 percent. The figure is down sharply from 60 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the last elections in 2014.

In Baghdad's Qishla square, where the British crowned Iraq's first king almost a century ago, a young paramilitary fighter in a camouflage tent shows off a tabletop model of Iraq's recent battles against ISIS.

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Before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gen. Najm al-Jabouri would stand at the border crossing with Turkey and look longingly across the gate.

"As an officer, I had a dream to travel outside of Iraq," he says, sitting in a garden in Saddam Hussein's former palace complex in Mosul. "Sometimes I would go to Ibrahim Khalil gate just to see outside Iraq — to see whether the ground outside Iraq was different from inside Iraq."

In 2003, as U.S. forces entered Baghdad, Muqtada al-Sadr was a young Shiite Muslim cleric, little known to the American troops who toppled Saddam Hussein and ushered in a tumultuous new Iraq.

As liberation turned into occupation, Sadr, the son of a revered grand ayatollah killed for opposing Saddam, compiled a militia that presented such a serious challenge to American forces, the U.S. vowed to kill or capture him.

A couple of years later, his Mahdi Army was embroiled in Iraq's bitter sectarian war.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is set to coast to a sweeping victory in Egypt's third presidential elections since the 2011 revolution. For many Egyptians going to the polls starting Monday, it will be a vote of support for Sisi's hard-line rule five years after he led a military coup toppling the country's first democratically elected leader.

Egypt has a presidential election starting Monday, but the winner is almost certain already: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. And tight restrictions limit discussion of other options.

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Ziad Abdul Qader came back to his house in the Iraqi city of Mosul recently to find a pile of charred human bones in the courtyard. He'd seen the bodies of the two ISIS fighters when he came to check on the house months ago and hurriedly left. When he returned in mid-February, they had been set on fire.

"A group was going around burning bodies because they were worried about disease," he says.

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Before she went to New York last fall to speak to thousands of people, Najla Hussin had never been more than a few hundred miles from her village in northern Iraq.

Hussin, 20, is from Sinjar in northern Iraq, where ISIS swept in four years ago to kill and enslave members of the ancient Yazidi religious minority.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for girls' education, met Hussin and other young Yazidi women during a trip last summer to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. She invited Hussin to speak on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

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Abdullah Shrim's phone almost never stops ringing. Most of the calls and messages are from other Yazidis asking for help to find their relatives. Others are from people threatening to kill him.

Shrim, a gregarious man with a ready smile, so far has rescued 338 members of the Yazidi religious group held captive by ISIS — almost all of them from Syria. It's a long way from his background as a beekeeper and businessman.

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Farah Khaled stands in front of the scorched and twisted steel beams of the destroyed Mosul University library. Red and green ribbons stand out against the blackened metal — remnants of a book drive Khaled and other students organized.

"Their aim was to destroy our culture," Khaled, 22, says about ISIS. "To destroy every ancient thing, every beautiful thing."

But they didn't destroy Khaled, who is irrepressible.

Hammoudi laughs and gurgles as a cooing caregiver picks him up from a crib. It's clear from the attention he is getting that he's the darling of the orphanage.

The 7-month-old baby is dressed in a white jumpsuit. One sleeve hangs empty where he is missing an arm.

Sukaina Ali Younis, the founder of this Mosul, Iraq, orphanage, describes what happened to him as one of the "biggest crimes of ISIS."

"ISIS left him on the ground as bait to lure Iraqi soldiers," she says. "Three soldiers went to rescue the child and a sniper shot and killed them all."

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At the main cemetery on the west side of Mosul, Iraq, kids play among the makeshift headstones sticking out of freshly dug mounds of red earth.

Some of the markers are broken slabs of concrete painted with the names of the neighborhoods where the bodies were found. "Boy and girl" reads one from the Zinjali district. In other places, a single headstone gives no indication of the multiple bodies buried underneath.

But the gravediggers remember everything.

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Iraq is celebrating the defeat of ISIS. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi over the weekend declared December 10 the country's newest national holiday. He presided over a huge military parade in Baghdad with troops and tanks.

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