KGOU

Deborah Amos

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For young Saudis, life is conducted online, on phones and on gaming platforms. Saudi Arabia is a young country. The fastest-growing segment of the population is under 30 years old. In this deeply conservative society, with its strict moral codes of behavior and gender segregation, many young Saudis turn to social media and technology to entertain and express themselves.

For women, especially, it's a social revolution.

The State Department has approved a $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which includes as many as 13,000 precision guided weapons or smart bombs. The sale comes as Human Rights Watch charges that Saudi airstrikes in Yemen "have indiscriminately killed and injured civilians."

It's election season in Saudi Arabia, and for the first time, women can vote and campaign for seats on local municipal councils. More than 900 women have put themselves forward as candidates. The ballot is next week, in a small and limited step towards democracy.

At a political meeting for women in Riyadh, professors, writers and activists gather to talk about the campaign. There are jugs of strong coffee and a snack table. Smartphones are held close.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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As more Syrian refugees board rickety boats on the Turkish coast, the Islamic State is cranking up its propaganda campaign.

The refugee crisis is also becoming a crisis for ISIS, as Syrians reject the group's claim that the so-called caliphate offers a safe haven, and the refugees instead opt for the dangerous journey to Europe.

In recent weeks, ISIS has put out almost a dozen videos with messages that denounce the refugees, threaten them with the horrors of living among "unbelievers" and plead with them to join the caliphate.

Syria doesn't have a history of free and open elections, but in the past few weeks Syrians have been voting with their feet. After four years of brutal civil war, Syrians are registering a sense of hopelessness and are willing to risk dangerous journeys for a chance to start over again in Europe.

As the numbers mount, with Europe overwhelmed, the blame game has begun. Why don't the richest Gulf Arab states — the diplomatic and financial sponsors of Syria's rebel groups — resettle these desperate refugees?

Hiba Ezzideen, a 29-year-old Syrian activist, recently made it to a refugee camp near the German border after a perilous 20-day journey. She had set off alone from southern Turkey, walked for hours, rode in a sealed truck, boarded an overcrowded raft and slept on the streets and in a jail cell.

A college English professor before the war, Ezzideen first joined the protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011 and hoped the popular demonstration could transform her country.

The Middle East has one of the world's fastest growing communities of online video gamers. With a majority of the population younger than 25, demographics drive the market, which was worth an estimated $1.6 billion in 2014. The region's largest market is in Saudi Arabia — where gamers play a lot and spend a lot, say regional game developers.

It's the summer session at the Al Salam School in Reyhanli, a town in southern Turkey, just across the border from Syria. Girls are practicing their shots on the outdoor basketball court. A class of 8-year-olds is busy with English language drills. The computer lab is open.

Many of these Syrian refugees live in desperate conditions, but for a few hours a day there is the familiar world of school.

Syrian medical student Hazem Halabi has become an expert on chlorine as a weapon of war. He made his first investigation in April 2014, after an alleged attack on the village of Kafr Zeta in northern Syria.

Villagers reported waking up before dawn to the buzz of helicopters and an overpowering smell of bleach. A video recorded at a local clinic shows doctors struggling to treat panicked victims struggling for breath.

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When Syrian activists launched an uprising in 2011, their goal was clear: to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad. Now, as the war grinds into a fifth year, with more than 200,000 dead and militant Islamists seizing more ground, their revolt is hardly recognizable.

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A Syrian forensic photographer, who now uses the pseudonym Caesar, documented the death of thousands of detainees in Syria's brutal prison system. He made more than 55,000 high-resolution images before he fled the country, fearing for his safety, in 2013.

He spoke publicly for the first time in July 2014, when he appeared before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, wearing a blue jacket with a hood to protect his identity.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For years, Saudi Arabia seemed immune from the wars and chaos of the Middle East — but not anymore. The sectarian violence raging on its borders hit home in May, when militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State or ISIS launched two suicide attacks on mosques in Saudi's eastern province, targeting the country's minority Shiite population.

The kingdom was shaken by the attacks, which killed two dozen people — and prompted an unusually open debate about homegrown extremism.

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