Deborah Amos

BERLIN and KOBLENZ, Germany — Hassan Mahmoud believed his testimony about the death of his youngest brother in a Damascus prison would help bring to justice a onetime senior member of Syria's secret police. But even though the trial is thousands of miles from Syria, in Germany, he knew his testimony carried risks.

Before he was scheduled to take the stand in October 2020, in the courtroom in the western German city of Koblenz, he feared especially for another brother, Waseem, who still lived in Syria.

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Like most Americans, I learned to ride a bike as a kid. I still remember the glee after learning how to ride a bike on a subdivision road where I grew up in Florida. I had cracked the mysteries of balance, and now I had the giddy pleasure of my newfound freedom.

But girls around the world don't always get to experience the joy of a first bike ride. In some countries, conservative societies frown upon women and girls who ride bikes – it's not considered dignified or appropriate — and gives a girl too much independence.

JERUSALEM — The bulldozer and more than a dozen Israeli police cars arrived unannounced at around 8:30 a.m. on June 29 to demolish Nidal al-Rajabi's butcher shop in al-Bustan. Residents poured into the streets of this Palestinian area of the Silwan neighborhood, south of east Jerusalem's Old City, as soon as word spread that the unwelcome Israeli team had come.

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Is a Jewish nationalist with a loyal following, a member of Israel's parliament, inciting violence between Jews and Arabs? Here's NPR's Deborah Amos from Jerusalem.

Updated July 7, 2021 at 10:01 AM ET

JISR AL-ZARQA, Israel — Entering this coastal village, smooth asphalt gives way to a part-dirt road. Drivers struggle to steer along the bumps and around the pedestrians in cramped streets. Many buildings are unfinished and crumbling.

Overnight, tensions between Israel and Hamas erupted into violence, posing a potential threat to the brief period of peace reached between the two just weeks ago.

Israeli jets struck two targets early Wednesday in Gaza. In a tweet, which included a video of the attack, the Israel Defense Forces said its "fighter jets struck Hamas military compounds last night, which were used as meeting sites for Hamas terror operatives. Hamas will bear the consequences for its actions."

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People who have been eager to remove Benjamin Netanyahu as the leader of Israel had their moment yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CELEBRATING)

When President Biden announced this week that his administration would raise the cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 for this fiscal year, refugee advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief. The number is far above the historically low limit of 15,000 refugees set by the Trump administration.

Composer and classical pianist Malek Jandali was raised in Homs, Syria, where he was visiting his family in 2011. During that trip, Jandali was first electrified by street protests challenging the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, both in his hometown and across the country. He composed a simple song in reaction to it, called "I Am My Homeland."

A German court has rendered its first verdict in a historic trial of two former Syrian military officials implicated in crimes against humanity after almost a decade of war in Syria.

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Sam Goodwin's first day in captivity was one of his worst. "This was the point where I was incredibly terrified," he recalls about his ordeal. "I felt like I had committed suicide but I was still alive."

A few hours earlier, on May 25, 2019, Goodwin was detained at a Syrian army checkpoint in the northeast part of the country. "A truck pulled up and two armed men jumped out and told me to get inside. I did not have a choice," Goodwin says.

The loneliest part of coming to America is the first few months, says Mustafa Nuur, who came as a refugee from Somalia in 2014.

Now, the coronavirus makes it so much harder for newcomers, he says. Despite the pandemic, the U.S. admitted 21,533 refugees in 2020, some arriving as late as September, according to refugee resettlement agencies citing official numbers.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reassert America's commitment to refugees after the Trump White House's slashing of the resettlement program, part of the current president's anti-immigration drive.

In 2016, President Barack Obama aimed to admit 110,000 refugees. President Trump lowered the cap on refugee admissions every year of his presidency. For fiscal year 2021, he set the cap at 15,000, the lowest on record.

After a five-week hunger strike, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran's best-known human rights lawyer, faces a grave health crisis in Qarchak prison, a notoriously harsh facility south of Tehran.

For more than two decades, Sotoudeh, 57, fought for some of Iran's most sensitive causes — the rights of women, children on death row, endangered minorities. She has won international acclaim, but her defiance has come at a heavy personal price: She is serving a 38-year prison sentence for "national security" crimes, after defending women who protested Iran's compulsory head-covering law.

For the Aldabaans, a Syrian refugee family, the path to the American Dream has begun with mortgage on a house in suburban Connecticut — one with a grassy backyard and room for bikes and birds.

Adeebah and Ibrahim, parents of five school-aged children, work while their kids — who now speak English — attend school. The oldest two, Naji, 19, and Ammal, 18, are seniors in high school and making plans for college.

Their travels to this reality, though, have not been easy ones.

It is remembered as one of the great atrocities of El Salvador's 12-year civil war. In 1989, a Salvadoran military battalion raided a private Jesuit university before dawn and executed six priests, their cook and her teenage daughter.

One of those killed, university rector Ignacio Ellacuría, had promoted dialogue between the U.S.-backed right-wing government and leftist guerrillas in the country's civil war. He and four of the other slain priests were Spanish citizens.

A divided United Nations Security Council approved a resolution on Saturday to allow just one border crossing — instead of the current two — to remain open for U.N. aid convoys into Syria, dealing another blow to a humanitarian assistance program for millions of displaced people.

The outcome alarmed aid groups struggling to help those trapped and in danger in the nine-year civil war.

Editor's note: This story contains a graphic description of an alleged sexual assault.

It was a chilling description of torture in an infamous Syrian prison: "There were screams, they weren't normal," Syrian witness Feras Fayyad said in court. "I was very afraid."

Fayyad, 35, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, was the first witness to testify in a trial in Germany against a Syrian intelligence officer whom he alleges nearly killed him in a Damascus detention center in 2011.

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An unprecedented trial begins in Germany on Thursday. A former high-ranking Syrian intelligence officer, charged with crimes against humanity, will face Syrian torture survivors in a courtroom in the western German city of Koblenz.

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A "talking" dog, a wiry 13-year-old Schnauzer, has become a pandemic hero since the canine made her first appearance on Facebook last week. She's very funny.

Pluto and her human, Nancie Wight, have been churning out viral videos with advice on hair trims, how to do without toilet paper, how to find snacks and how to stay cheery at home.

The dog looks straight into the camera and her mouth seems to move (with the help of a video program) and a high voice appears to come out of it.

Canada is conducting a massive airlift, bringing thousands home at no cost in cooperation with Canada's commercial airlines. As domestic routes are cut back, repatriation flights are increasing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a live broadcast on Monday.

Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted that the U.S. "will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic."

In Lebanon, cyberspace is the new battle ground between protesters and the security services that have increased measures to curb dissent, intimidating and arresting government critics for online speech.

Since October, Lebanese citizens have gathered to protest around the country, uniting across party and sectarian lines against an entrenched political oligarchy that protesters say has made fortunes mostly from government funds at the expense of the country.

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Like many Lebanese, Jesuit priest Gabriel Khairallah has been on the front lines of anti-government protests for more than three months.

"I mean, what am I doing on the front? I am against corruption and seeking social justice, and the same for the doctors," he says.

He's done much more than protest on the streets — in recent weeks, he also opened a low-cost medical clinic in the annex of Beirut's St. Joseph Church.

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