KGOU

Deborah Amos

When Houthi rebels stormed Yemen's capital in January, President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi was driven from power and placed under house arrest. He escaped and then fled by sea in March. Now, Hadi and his top ministers are comfortably ensconced in a five-star guest palace in Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh.

While the surrounding may be pleasant, the wait is wearing. Hadi and his aides still dream of a triumphant return home, though optimism is in short supply.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In a country where women are prohibited from driving themselves to work, technology is opening new avenues to the job market in Saudi Arabia.

Thousands of women use Instagram, the popular photo-sharing site, to launch businesses that sell goods and services, from cupcakes to sushi, in the desert kingdom.

At a recent convention of Instagram businesses, hundreds of women set up booths at a private girls school in the capital Riyadh to share success stories.

A hundred years ago this week, the Ottoman Empire began the killings and forced marches of Armenians in what most historians call the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey staunchly denies that label, saying the deaths — estimated by historians at around 1.5 million — were part of widespread ethnic fighting in a civil war.

Regardless of the label used, the result was destruction of virtually every Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire, which collapsed after the war. What was left of the country transitioned into the modern-day Republic of Turkey.

Once a sleepy border town, Reyhanli, Turkey, is now bursting with Syrian refugees, many of them school-age. More than half a million Syrian refugee children are out of school, and the education crisis is fueling an epidemic of early marriage, child labor and bleak futures.

"I just finished the 12th grade and I don't know what to do," says Abdullah Mustapha, a refugee from the Syrian town of Hama.

In fluent English, he talks about his dreams of a college education, but he doesn't speak Turkish well enough to pass the language test required for state universities.

There are golf carts and palm trees and an Olympic-sized pool at the Mohammed Bin Naif Counseling and Care Center, a sprawling complex on the outskirts of Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh.

Once a holiday resort, the walled compound still looks like one — and not a rehabilitation center for convicted terrorists.

In the past year, the country has expanded counter-terrorism laws that make it illegal for Saudis to fight in Syria and Iraq. The kingdom has also expanded the terrorism rehab centers.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Thousands of Sunni Arabs from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, escaped to Erbil at the end of the summer when the militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State first overran the city and imposed a draconian social code.

Among them is a man we'll call the professor — he, his wife and their children fled Mosul in August. He doesn't want his name published because his extended family still lives there under ISIS control.

The graying city mayor agrees to meet a few hours before he heads to the battlefront. He is haggard after living in exile since June, when the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, swept into his city — al-Sharqat, Iraq, a hour's drive north of Tikrit.

Ali Dodah al-Jabouri has a reason to fight: Islamic State militants killed his brother and 18 other relatives. But as part of a prominent Sunni Arab tribe, he is joining an unusual alliance with Iraqi Shiite militias backed and armed by Iran.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Southern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is the crossroads for an extensive smuggling operation of ancient artifacts. Those transactions are held in secret, often in towns along the border.

But high overheard, eyes are watching: satellites scanning heritage sites, sending alarming imagery to Washington, D.C.

From her office in the nation's capital, analyst Susan Wolfinbarger monitors the ransacking of these sites in Syria and Iraq on a large-screen computer.

When it comes to females and sports, Saudi Arabia is starting to change.

Saudi Arabia sent its first female competitors to the Olympics in 2012, after years of sending only men. The public schools, like many institutions, are segregated by gender, and only boys have been allowed to play sports. But girls will now be allowed to take part in their own sports and exercise programs, a move that is opposed by some hard-liners.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a new thing — and I really like it. I wish I was in school so I can have that," says Jowhara al-Theyeb.

Many Americans believe that Saudi Arabia has links to Islamist militants, but the Saudis say they are victims of terrorism, too.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has recruited more than 2,000 young Saudi men, despite government programs to stop them.

Now, the Saudi government shares the fears of the U.S. and Europe: that these violent young men will come home and carry out attacks. There are signs that's already happening. As a result, the Saudis are ramping up training for counterterrorism missions.

The race to protect Syria's heritage from the ravages of war and plunder has brought a new kind of warrior to the front lines.

These cultural rebels are armed with cameras and sandbags. They work in secret, sometimes in disguise, to outwit smugglers. They risk their lives to take on enemies that include the Syrian regime, Islamist militants and professional smugglers who loot for pay, sometimes using bulldozers.

The sign on the door to the office of eTree, an online advertising agency in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, reads: "Girls Only."

The company's founder, Esra Assery, admits it's a little sexist, and we both laugh at the joke in male-dominated Saudi Arabia — the only country that prohibits women from driving a car.

The strategy against the self-declared Islamic State was on display this week: In Saudi Arabia, there were two days of closed-door military meetings, and in Washington, a White House summit on combating extremism.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that training programs for Syrian rebels begins next month. So far, so good, in public.

But privately, the Saudi view is that the air campaign against ISIS, now more than six months old, is not working.

For the sixth time since Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, died in 1953, one of his sons has ascended to the throne, and it took place Friday without a hitch.

When King Abdullah died early Friday at age 90, his half-brother, Salman, was named the new monarch within an hour. There's also a new crown prince, Muqrin, who is the youngest surviving son of Abdulaziz and a relative youngster at 69.

The new King Salman quickly sent a message of stability and continuity. But the death of a Saudi monarch has brought the problems facing the country into sharper focus.

Pages