Peter Kenyon

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Prior to taking this assignment in 2010, Kenyon spent five years in Cairo covering Middle Eastern and North African countries from Syria to Morocco. He was part of NPR's team recognized with two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University awards for outstanding coverage of post-war Iraq.

In addition to regular stints in Iraq, he has followed stories to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco and other countries in the region.

Arriving at NPR in 1995, Kenyon spent six years in Washington, D.C., working in a variety of positions including as a correspondent covering the US Senate during President Bill Clinton's second term and the beginning of the President George W. Bush's administration.

Kenyon came to NPR from the Alaska Public Radio Network. He began his public radio career in the small fishing community of Petersburg, where he met his wife Nevette, a commercial fisherwoman.

The Marmaray Project, Turkey's new underwater rail link between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, is open for business. It's the first of its kind, a modern feat of engineering that realizes the 150-year-old dream of an Ottoman sultan.



It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. The diplomatic push to answer questions about Iran's nuclear program has generated some hope for a peaceful solution. It has also inspired a backlash and negative response in both Iran and the West. On both sides, conservatives who would not normally agree about much seem to agree that nuclear negotiations are a dangerous idea that could produce what they would see as a bad deal.



Tomorrow, nuclear negotiators for Iran and six world powers will meet in Geneva. It's a chance to see whether positive signals from Iran's new president can be translated into real progress at the table. Iran wants punitive sanctions lifted, but it's insisting on its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that with hardliners waiting in the wings, momentum toward an agreement needs to be generated quickly.

The U.S. and its Western allies have not been able to win the nuclear concessions they have sought from Iran. But they have been able to inflict considerable economic pain through sanctions.

But now, Iran's call for a nuclear agreement and an end to sanctions has raised hopes among Iranians that better economic times may be ahead. The Iranian currency has stabilized somewhat since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, although inflation and unemployment remain high.

Potential changes in economic policy from Washington have sent tremors throughout emerging economies. In Turkey, where growth in recent years has put Eurozone economies to shame, the signs are troubling: The Turkish lira has fallen to its lowest value in years and private sector debt is soaring. Economists say continued liquidity and foreign investment remains crucial if Turkey is to avoid a hard landing.

Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the International Olympic Committee will announce the host of the 2020 Summer Games. The committee is choosing from among Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. The contenders all have strong selling points, but each also has serious issues clouding its bid.

Violent Crackdown Hangs Over Turkey's Bid

Syria's state-run media depict President Obama as weak and indecisive after his decision to wait for a congressional vote on the use of force. Officials in Damascus remain defiant, even as the Arab League blamed the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons.

Syria's pro-government Al-Thawra newspaper called it a "historic American retreat," and supporters of President Bashar Assad said they were teaching the world a lesson in strong leadership.



It might have seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago, but today in Egypt, former President Hosni Mubarak was released from prison. Mubarak ruled the country as a police state for almost 30 years, but had been behind bars since the 2011 popular uprising centered in Tahrir Square, Cairo. He's still not a free man, though. Judges have ordered him kept under house arrest.

Each morning as dawn breaks over the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey, a small drama repeats itself: Massive oil tankers and cargo ships slide past tiny fishing boats bobbing on the surface like bathtub toys.

These intrepid fishermen are out in all weather, in all seasons. In the winter, they catch the rich, oily anchovies, bluefish and mackerel. With spring come the turbot and sea bream, and by summer, sea bass and red mullet are being hawked by the fishmongers.

Iran's President-elect Hasan Rowhani has already called for less filtering of the Internet, saying Iran must maintain its principles, but also needs to engage with the wider world.

"We should rectify our relations with the world," Rowhani said in remarks carried by Iran's Press TV. "Gone are the days when a wall could be built around the country.... Today there are no more walls."



We're going to stay in the Middle East, turning out attention now to Syria, where the main opposition coalition has a new leader. During meetings in Istanbul, opposition leaders elected Ahmad al-Jarba, who has close ties to Saudi Arabia. The change comes as civilians in Syria's central city of Homs are facing a fierce government assault. NPR's Peter Kenyon has more.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: After another two-day Syrian Coalition meeting had spilled over into a third day with more to come, spokesman Khaled Saleh had some news.



In Turkey over the weekend, police used water cannons against demonstrators in Taksim Square. The latest confrontation comes at a delicate time. Turkey is waiting a decision on whether it will host the 2020 Olympic Games.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul that Turks are wondering if the government will react with even tighter restrictions on descent, or bend to demands for greater political openness.



Protesters who were camped out in Istanbul's Gezi Park say they won't pack up and go home despite a government offer to avoid bulldozing the park without court approval and a public referendum. Protest organizers say that other demands such as releasing detained protesters have not been met.

Turkey's protests come at a sensitive moment for the country's economy, long considered a regional bright spot.

If there is a jewel in the crown of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decade in power, it's the enviable record of growth that has tripled the average Turk's per capita income and brought in a flood of foreign investment.

The ongoing anti-government protests in Turkey are about a lot of things — including a recent law to restrict the advertising and sale of alcohol. The limits aren't any more onerous than those in some other Western countries, but secular Turks see them as another step in a push by the ruling party to impose conservative social values on the population



Iran's Guardian Council does not hesitate to use its power. That's the legislative body that vets political candidates for their commitment to the Islamic Revolution. Perhaps no surprise in the upcoming presidential election, voters are able to choose from a very narrow range of candidates - all of whom support the regime. All the high-profile or independent candidates have been eliminated by the Guardian Council. And this caused some shock - those include a man who has already held the post of president.

Iranians choose a new president next month, and one thing Iran's leaders are intent on avoiding is a repeat of the massive street protests that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election in 2009.

The sponsors of those protests, known as the Green Movement, have been effectively silenced inside Iran, but not online. The heroine of a graphic novel about the violent suppression of dissent in 2009 is now launching a virtual campaign of her own.

Nearly 700 presidential hopefuls have thrown their names into the ring for Iran's June 14 presidential elections. But two last-minute entrants have altered the shape of the already-chaotic race: a former president once dismissed as a has-been and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator.

Today marks the beginning of the pullback of thousands of militant PKK fighters from Turkey back to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. It's an important milestone in a delicate effort to end nearly three decades of bloodshed that have killed an estimated 35,000 people since 1984.

In 1961, desperate to increase its labor force, West Germany signed an employment agreement with Turkey and launched a wave of immigration that continues to have repercussions today.

Now, after years of being treated as second-class citizens in Europe's economic powerhouse, large numbers of Turks — descendants of the first wave of immigrants — are returning to Turkey.

In A Strange Land

At an 11-nation meeting in Turkey this weekend, there was one thing the United States, European and Arab states could agree on: With more than 70,000 killed and millions of people displaced, the Syrian crisis, as Secretary of State John Kerry says, is "horrific."

In response, the Obama administration is doubling its non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, Kerry announced at the meeting.

Though the thought of horse meat in British lasagna or Ikea meatballs may be stomach-churning to some people, in some cultures the practice of eating horse meat is not just acceptable, it's a treat. NPR's Peter Kenyon just returned from the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan and checked out the meat market at the Green Bazaar in Almaty.



This week's news that the International Olympic Committee has decided to drop wrestling from the list of core Olympic sporting events has caused acute pain in Turkey. Wrestling is revered there as an ancestral sport.

In this letter from Istanbul, NPR's Peter Kenyon tells us that Turks plan to take the IOC decision to the mat.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The Turks don't claim either to have invented wrestling or to be the best in the world at it. They do love it though, and closely followed the matches at the London Games last year.

There are growing calls for Syria's leaders to face war crimes charges for the fierce assaults against rebel targets and civilian areas. If that happens, veterans of past war crimes prosecutions say, Syrians will have one big advantage: The widespread gathering of evidence across the country is happening often in real time.

After visiting a Syrian refugee camp in southeastern Turkey recently, Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, reacted sharply to a question that suggested Washington, D.C., has kept quiet about the Syrian regime's attacks.

When Iran's supreme leader got a Facebook page in December, Iranians sat up and blinked.

Some thought it was a fake, finding it hard to believe that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be using a technology that his own government blocks. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman skeptically wondered how many "likes" it would attract.

But some of Khamenei's supporters quickly rallied behind the move, which first came to light in a reference on — you guessed it — the ayatollah's Twitter account.

Suleiman the Magnificent was the longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire, presiding for nearly a half-century at the peak of the empire's power in the 16th century.

During Suleiman's rule from 1520 to 1566, the Ottomans were a political, economic and military powerhouse. Suleiman's forces sacked Belgrade, annexed much of Hungary and advanced across large parts of the Middle East and North Africa.



In Istanbul, Turkey, construction on major public transit projects is underway after years of delay. The problem there wasn't lack of financing but the layer upon layer of ancient artifacts that tend to turn up every time the earthmovers get started. NPR's Peter Kenyon has the story of one dig along the city's southern shore. It's uncovered what experts say is a staggering array of artifacts from pre-Ottoman Constantinople.

In Istanbul, major public transit projects are back under way after years of paralysis. The problem wasn't a lack of financing, but the layer upon layer of ancient artifacts that turned up every time the earthmovers started their work.

The excavation began eight years ago on projects intended to ease Istanbul's notoriously clogged traffic.

The job included building a tunnel under the Bosphorus Strait and linking it to a rail and subway network. When the dig was stopped several years ago, eyes rolled and shoulders shrugged.



Some analysts have suggested that one impetus for the Israeli military strikes in Gaza is the upcoming election season in Israel. With elections set for January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed the political landscape last month by announcing that his Likud Party would run along with a right-wing party led by hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Likud Party leaders complained that they were left in the dark before the prime minister effectively vaulted Lieberman into the No. 2 political position.