Alice Fordham

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.

In this role, she reports on Lebanon, Syria and many of the countries throughout the Middle East.

Before joining NPR in 2014, Fordham covered the Middle East for five years, reporting for The Washington Post, the Economist, The Times and other publications. She has worked in wars and political turmoil but also amid beauty, resilience and fun.

In 2011, Fordham was a Stern Fellow at the Washington Post. That same year she won the Next Century Foundation's Breakaway award, in part for an investigation into Iraqi prisons.

Fordham graduated from Cambridge University with a Bachelor of Arts in Classics.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

As the Middle East froths with blood — from Iraq to Syria to the Gaza Strip — a commemorative set of three stamps depicting Syrian President Bashar Assad may not seem hugely relevant.

In Iraq, a Ramadan game called Mheibbis brings even Sunnis and Shiites together in peaceful competition. A ring game traditionally played between neighborhoods during the holy month, Mheibbis has offered men the opportunity to break Baghdad's tension and offer messages of unity and brotherhood — even between rival sects.

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Iraq is looking more and more like a country being divided into three parts. Hard-core Sunni militants have taken much of the west. Well-organized Kurdish soldiers have grabbed the north. And everywhere else, Shiites are mustering sectarian militia. Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in just the last month. NPR's Alice Fordham reports there are a lot of ideas for helping the Iraqis, but the country's newly elected politicians are not exactly rushing to address the situation.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. With Iraq in crisis under the onslaught of Sunni extremists, the country's government is unable to pull together. A meeting of the Iraqi parliament fell apart today, and the issues before the body are critical for the government to function. The parliament was elected back in April, but members still have yet to agree on a speaker, a president and a prime minister. NPR's Alice Fordham is in Baghdad.

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Iraq is looking increasingly like a state partitioned along sectarian lines. Shiites control the south, but Sunni militants are sweeping through the north and west — and they're doing it with help from local Sunni populations.

Interviews with Sunni leaders show how hard it will be to build the kind of trust needed to put the country back together under one functioning authority.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi men brandishing assorted weapons are responding to a call to arms. They invoke the Mahdi, a figure from Shiite Muslim prophecies, as they march in a recent parade in Sadr City, a Shiite suburb of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

"We volunteer to protect our dear country," says Hazem al-Shemmari.

When Sunni militants took over parts of Iraq this month, Shiite religious leaders called for volunteers to fight back.

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There are reports of Iraqi government troops just fleeing, dropping their weapons and shedding their uniforms. The U.S. spent a lot of time and money training Iraqi forces.

Sunni Islamist militants have seized control of the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit and appear to be preparing an assault on Baghdad. Americans fought and died trying to prevent that from happening.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. In Iraq, swaths of the country of fallen to Islamist militants. They took the largest city of Mosul earlier this week. Now they're heading south. Today there are reports the militants have taken the city of Tikrit, an hour's drive from the capital, Baghdad. NPR's Alice Fordham has the latest.

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There are dramatic developments in Iraq where an extremist group, that's taken over large parts of Syria, has stormed into the major Iraqi city of Mosul. Leaders there are saying that this Al Qaeda offshoot, which is called the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, may even be pushing south in the direction of Baghdad. NPR's Alice Fordham joins us now from northern Iraq for more. And tell us, what exactly the situation is there, in Mosul.

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I'm Audie Cornish, and we begin the hour with the threat of a de facto Islamist state stretching across parts of Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi government has now lost control of one of its biggest cities, Mosul, to extremist Sunni militants. The group is known as ISIS, which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been rejected as too extreme, even by some leaders of al-Qaida.

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Syria's highly questionable, and carefully choreographed, election leaves many people concerned about how it may embolden President Bashar al-Assad. NPR's Alice Fordham has been talking with people inside Syria and in neighboring Beirut.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: At the end of the day, Assad will be able to show that there were many Syrians who vote for him because they want to or because he made them. It's a demonstration of power, either way.

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