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.

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When I meet the captured ISIS fighter, he doesn't look much like the bombastic murderers in the propaganda videos.

Ahmed Darwish, 29, is slight, hunched and shuffling in orange plastic sandals, wincing in pain as he walks into a police station in Rumeilan, northern Syria, escorted by the Kurdish fighters who captured him running away after a battle. His arms are bandaged and head is wounded: he was struck in a coalition airstrike in support of the anti-ISIS forces.

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

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

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

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

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

On a sky-blue Sunday morning in the little town of Tell Tamer in northeastern Syria, sunlight pours through olive trees, dappling the path to a church that has for almost a century been the center of an Assyrian Christian community.

But inside the Church of Our Lady, the sound of sobbing mixes with the ancient Aramaic chants. Photographs of three people are on display at the front, propped up on white cloths embroidered with roses, next to silver crosses and golden bells; the mass is in their memory.

Blink, and you'd miss the little airstrip surrounded by farmland and tiny, mud-built villages in northeastern Syria.

There are no checkpoints outside it. Nothing to stop people driving past — just two Syrian Kurdish guards out front, smoking cigarettes. The strip itself is just visible behind berms that earth movers are bolstering.

On the street outside the northeastern Syrian town of Shadadi, Adnan Sleiman, a tall, thin man with a gray beard, is happily smoking a cigarette.

"I'm 60 years old and I feel like I'm 20," he says.

ISIS once put Sleiman in prison for possession of cigarettes. Now he's selling a tower of packs by the side of the road.

There are still ISIS signs spray-painted on the metal shopfronts in this small town, which American-backed forces retook from ISIS about two weeks ago. A poster urges modest dress for women. A sign stands outside a bookshop that only sold Qurans.

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At a rehabilitation center in Turkey, just over the border from Syria, Bassam Farouh raises and lowers leg weights, wincing and holding onto a rail.

The gray-haired Farouh is a Syrian rebel fighter who battled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army for years, until he was wounded in a Russian airstrike on his hometown across the border two months ago.

"It wasn't a war at first, it was a revolution against the system," he says. "We were trying to take a stance against the system and that led us here."

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Transcript

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A whistle shrills, and a dozen boys tear across a gray schoolyard. Some are in sneakers, others have bare feet slapping the concrete. "This is a physical education class," announces Metin Yildiz, the director of education at Elbeyli refugee camp in southern Turkey.

About 24,000 Syrians have been living in this government-run camp for three years, costing the Turkish government $3 million a month, and our guides are keen to show us Turkish classes, a kindergarten, a computer lab, an art display.

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Transcript

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