These are the top stories NPR's correspondents around the world recommend from 2021
In a year bookended by coronavirus variants, NPR's far-flung correspondents overcame lockdowns and climbed out from their bureaus to deliver their signature feature storytelling and news coverage.
There was a lot to cover. Even as the pandemic continued, major crises broke out, like the war in Gaza, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and pitched battles in Ethiopia. Displaced people around the world faced incredible hurdles as they searched for safe refuge. Disasters struck, fueled by climate change. Global supply chains rattled. A new U.S. administration tried to reengage with the world.
But off all the breaking news, there was also a summer when some of the pandemic-related restrictions eased up and our correspondents set out to provide a travel series as well as unearthing a slew of other feature stories that brought audiences closer to cultural and social issues around the world.
We asked the network's international journalists and contributing reporters to recommend one of their stories from the year. Here are their selections.
North Korea is trying to purge foreign cultural influences, including South Korean variations on the language that the two countries share. Experts say controlling language is an uphill battle. — Anthony Kuhn
Thousands of Haitian migrants who had lived in South America for years are crossing into Mexico, overwhelming that country's capacity to process them. Many say their ultimate destination is the U.S. — Carrie Kahn
Forty years ago in the Soviet Union, a group of underground musicians opened a venue where they and their friends could perform. The Leningrad Rock Club remains a legend of Russian counterculture. — Charles Maynes
Days of airstrikes left thousands of Gazans homeless and grieving. — Daniel Estrin
The traveler tells the story of his two months held in Syria's notorious prisons and how his family got a Lebanese official to help secure his release. — Deborah Amos
Mothers share their plight to provide the children sustenance. — Diaa Hadid
Colette Maze, now 107, began playing the piano at age 5. She defied the social conventions of her era to embrace music as a profession rather than as a pastime. She has just released her sixth album. — Eleanor Beardsley
To her family in southern China, Feng Daoyou remains a mystery. They remember her as generous and headstrong but they knew little of her life in the U.S. She was among eight people killed on March 16. — Emily Feng
The civil war in Ethiopia has roots that stretch back millennia. A great tragedy is that so many people once peripheral to the fight have been radicalized. — Eyder Peralta
The quintessential British institutions have changed over time and now face threats to their very existence. — Frank Langfitt
Students and faculty with the Afghanistan National Institute of Music flew last week from Doha to Lisbon, where they will start their new lives and reconstitute their celebrated academy in exile. — Hannah Bloch
The U.S. spent billions to support reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan over the past two decades. The results have been mixed. American experts are assessing some of the lessons learned. — Jackie Northam
Rights groups accuse nations of using COVID-19 as an excuse to shut out refugees. Here's one story of migrants who attempted a risky voyage across the Mediterranean, but Malta sent them back to Libya. — Joanna Kakissis
An NPR team follows Omar Vivó as he sets off from Colombia for the U.S., traversing part of the Darién Gap, where the dangers include raging rivers, snakes and criminals who prey on migrants. — John Otis
April 10 marks the 50th anniversary of when U.S. table tennis players first visited China in a diplomatic breakthrough. But today, the political winds have shifted — in both countries. — John Ruwitch
The International Criminal Court's former top prosecutor asked it to investigate suspected crimes against humanity committed during President Duterte's war on drugs. — Julie McCarthy
New state laws make it harder for interfaith couples to marry. The idea is to halt forced marital religious conversions. But they've emboldened extremists to interrupt weddings. — Lauren Frayer
The Biden administration pledges a foreign policy that delivers to middle-class Americans. Linking up to locales across the country — outside D.C. — could help with that, according to a report from the Truman Center. — Michele Kelemen
One man in Turkey has made a following for himself by tracking one of the world's busiest and most scenic waterways, the Bosporus strait. — Peter Kenyon
The country was in crisis, with hospitals at capacity, politicians attacked for lockdowns and a controversial president. — Philip Reeves
For Croatia, the most tourism-dependent country in Europe, opening up quickly is crucial to reviving its pandemic-battered economy. Tourist numbers plummeted last year. — Rob Schmitz
Drought and extreme heat that scientists link to climate change are altering the UNESCO-protected marshlands. Iraq's average annual temperatures are increasing at nearly double the rate of Earth's. — Ruth Sherlock
Overshadowed by nearby Venice, the lesser-known city of Trieste is one of Italy's great destinations and once the stomping ground of great writers like James Joyce. — Sylvia Poggioli
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