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.

Germans are serious about their beer. Serious enough for the European country's main brewers association to urge the United Nations to recognize that fact.

The brewers association wants a five-century-old law governing how German beer is made to become part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It would join the Argentinian tango, Iranian carpet weaving and French gastronomy, among other famous traditions, that are considered unique and worth protecting.

Weeks of post-election political limbo have ended in Germany. The country's main center-left party has voted to join the coalition government of Angela Merkel. The move clears the way for her to start her third term as chancellor.

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German voters are expected to elect Chancellor Angela Merkel to a third term on Sunday. Now, if she wins, Merkel, who is a former physicist, will be on the path to becoming Europe's longest-serving female head of government. The prospect of another four years of Merkel unsettles many Europeans outside Germany. But she is respected at home. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson sent us this profile from Berlin of the woman the German media call Mutti, or mommy of the nation.

Tensions are running high in Egypt, as supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continue their protests. But they aren't the only ones.

Barely two weeks after Morsi was toppled in early July, a new protest movement emerged on the scene in Cairo.

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This is a week when Egypt is divided on what democracy means. In what amounted to a second uprising, millions of Egyptians poured into the streets to demand that their democratically elected president step down. When he balked, the army ousted Mohamed Morsi, which led his supporters to say it is a dark day for democracy there. Today, thousands of Morsi supporters are out protesting that military coup, in demonstrations that have reportedly turned violent.

German officials say they've uncovered a radical Islamist plot to use remote-controlled model airplanes packed with explosives to carry out terrorist attacks in Germany.

Police carried out nine predawn raids in southern and eastern Germany as well as Belgium in search of evidence of what prosecutors allege was a plan for a "serious, state-threatening act of violence." There were no arrests.

German police say they have arrested a 57-year-old trucker whom they accuse of carrying out 762 shootings on European highways over the past five years.

"We found the famous needle in a hay stack," said Joerg Ziercke, chief commissioner of the German Federal Criminal Police. "A dangerous criminal who on several thousands of kilometers of highway in Germany, France, Belgium and Austria would reach for a gun whenever, wherever to shoot at other vehicles and endanger people's lives. It's unprecedented in Germany criminal history."

Revelations of widespread U.S. spying on foreign Internet communications put a damper on President Obama's first state visit to Berlin. The German chancellor and other officials there say they want to know more about what the National Security Agency is looking at.

Yet the backlash has been more muted than expected. One reason is that the German government is doing similar surveillance.

The Baltic city of Tallinn hardly looks modern with its blend of medieval towers and Soviet-era architecture. Smoke-spewing buses and noisy streetcars look as if they have been plucked from the past.

Even so, the Estonian capital is one of the world's most technologically advanced cities. The birthplace of Skype has repeatedly been cited for its digital accomplishments. Last week, Tallinn once again made the short list of the world's most intelligent cities as selected by the Intelligent Community Forum.

Germany is preparing for its most important terrorism trial in decades.

Ten people — eight of them of Turkish descent, one of Greek extraction and one a German policewoman, were gunned down between 2000 and 2007. For years, German authorities failed to see a link between the crimes, even though the same gun was used in all of the shootings. They also rejected any link to right-wing extremism.

At a trade fair in Hanover, Germany, on Monday, three women protesters got quite close to Russian President Vladimir Putin before stripping off their blouses and shouting expletives at the Russian leader.

Putin, who was joined at the fair by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, later sarcastically thanked the women for calling the news media's attention to the gathering.

"As to this action, I liked it," Putin said, according to a German translator. The Russian leader added that the protesters were "pretty girls" and said he couldn't hear what they were screaming.

In Berlin's Jewish Museum, a new exhibit called "The Whole Truth" asks visitors uncomfortable and even absurd questions about Jews. One of the curators, Michal Friedlander, says it is intentionally provocative.

"The point is to get people talking about how they perceive Jews, particularly in Germany today," she says.

But some German Jews accuse the museum of going too far.

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Protected by scores of German police officers, workers removed sections of a key remnant of the Berlin Wall before dawn Wednesday despite earlier protests demanding the concrete artifact of the Cold War be preserved.

The removal came as a shock to residents, just as it did on Aug. 13, 1961, when communists first built the barrier that divided Berlin during the Cold War.

Tour guide Rolf Strobel, 52, was among the scores of people who came to gape at the holes in what had been the longest remaining stretch of the wall — about eight-tenths of a mile.

A small herd of European bison will soon be released in Germany's most densely populated state, the first time in nearly three centuries that these bison — known as wisents — will roam freely in Western Europe.

The project is the brainchild of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. He owns more than 30,000 acres, much of it covered in Norwegian spruce and beech trees in North Rhine-Westphalia.

For the 78-year-old logging magnate, the planned April release of the bull, five cows and two calves will fulfill a decade-old dream.

For centuries, Germany has been synonymous with beer. Tourists flock from around the world to take part in the country's many beer festivals, including the famous Oktoberfest.

Few Western countries are as conservative about home ownership as Germany, where less than half the country's citizens own property.

German banks have tough lending rules. Would-be buyers are usually asked to provide hefty down payments to secure mortgages, meaning few Germans even think about buying a home until they are settled and financially secure.

But the European debt crisis appears to be changing the traditions around home ownership. The resulting surge in homebuying, some officials warn, is driving prices too high and threatens the nation's economy.

In Egypt, voters appear to have approved the controversial draft referendum on a proposed constitution in the first stage of the referendum held across half of the country yesterday.

The outcome is unofficial at this point as the government has said it will not announce official results until the referendum concludes in the rest of Egypt next Saturday. The vote is being held in two stages because a boycott by many judges who were supposed to supervise the elections. Those boycotting say they reject the constitution because it doesn't have a national consensus.

Update at 2:54 p.m. ET: Voting Hours Extended:

Voter turnout on the first day of a referendum on Egypt's controversial draft constitution was so high in Cairo and nine other governorates that election officials decided to extend poll hours from 7 until 11 p.m. local time.

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Protests in Egypt rage on, despite President Mohammed Morsi's offer in a televised speech last night to meet with his opponents. Demonstrators filled Cairo's streets again today. The opposition in Egypt is confident and they're displaying a newfound unity, something Egypt hasn't seen since the early days of the revolution that ousted Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, many question whether this unity will last beyond the ongoing political crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

More than half a dozen politicians in Germany are caught up in an embarrassing cheating scandal that last year cost the German defense minister his job.

The country's education minister is also implicated. She, like the other politicians, is accused of plagiarizing while earning a doctorate degree.

Their accusers are private citizens who use the Internet to coordinate their hunt for cheaters.

One of Germany's more famous cybersleuths is an American professor named Debora Weber-Wulff.

Germany, the economic engine of Europe, has been a key player in bailing out the Continent's most troubled economies.

Yet there are places in the former West Germany — like Oberhausen — that are struggling with their own debt problems, even as they pay hefty sums to revitalize former East German cities with transfers known as "Solidarity Pact" payments.

Borrowing To Stay Afloat — And Pay Out

The western Afghan city of Herat has become a thriving hub for the money exchange business, a consequence of geography and politics. Money-changers throng the currency market carrying thick stacks of Iranian currency, much of it brought in by the hundreds of thousands of Afghan workers who earn their living in Iran.

While the stacks of crisp 100,000 rial notes that money-changers bring to the market might look like a small fortune, the 10 million rials in each of these stacks is worth less than $400, because the Iranian currency recently lost more than half of its value.

There may be international sanctions against Iran, but not in Afghanistan's border provinces with the Islamic Republic where trade and money-laundering are thriving. Every day, millions in Iranian currency are brought in by taxis ferrying passengers. The Iranian money is exchanged for dollars, which are then shipped back to Iran. American officials recently ordered the Afghan banks to crack down on this phenomenon and it appears to be having some effect.

When the U.S. military handed over the detention center at Bagram Air Field to Afghan authorities this week, it symbolized an American role that is winding down — and the uncomfortable relationship between the two countries.

The prison, where Taliban and terrorism suspects are housed, has been a sore point for Afghans for years.

At the ceremony, an announcer read the names of Bagram prisoners who the Afghans said were wrongly detained and were now being freed.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. The largest U.S. prison in Afghanistan - containing over 3,000 inmates - was handed over to Afghan control this morning. But the transfer was not without controversy. Several dozen prisoners, including some foreign terrorist suspects, were kept in American custody.

For years, Kandahar province has been a key focus of NATO's efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. The volatile region is the birthplace of the Taliban, and its capital is the country's second-largest city.

American troops have begun leaving this area by the thousands and are handing security responsibilities over to Afghan forces. Afghan officials claim things are getting better.

But many residents don't trust Western forces or their own government's claims, and they are now turning to a third party for help.

A Dangerous City

Almost daily, Taliban assassins target Afghan government officials and community elders with ambushes or bombings. The United Nations says such killings are up more than 50 percent compared to the same period last year.

On Monday, the target was the powerful police chief in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. A suicide bomber struck the convoy of Gen. Abdul Raziq, who survived the attack and is at a U.S. military hospital recuperating from burns and other injuries.

In the past two weeks, seven Afghans in uniform have opened fire on Western forces. The most recent incidents occurred Friday. First, a newly recruited policeman in western Afghanistan turned his gun on U.S. military trainers, killing two and wounding a third. A short time later in southern Kandahar province, an Afghan soldier shot and wounded two foreign troops.

In the middle of southern Egypt's windy desert, wheat fields stretch as far as the eye can see on a 24,000-acre farm. It's part of a grandiose project called Toshka that was dreamed up 15 years ago by the government of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's authoritarian leader who ruled the country for three decades before being ousted last year.

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