Alex Leff

Iran is holding a presidential election on Friday. A hard-liner close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is widely predicted to win, with an exceptionally low voter turnout.

The vote comes at a crossroads for the country of about 85 million people. World powers are trying to revive the Iran nuclear deal by bringing Iran and the United States back into compliance. Progress there could reinstate limits on Iran's nuclear program while giving the country access to global markets that its economy needs.

Iranians across a broad spectrum of society are having a tough time right now, and many blame U.S. sanctions.

Hospitals struggle to get medical supplies. Imported goods are hard to come by. Tourism has dried up. And forget about traveling abroad. These are just some of the many concerns Iranian photojournalist Marjan Yazdi hears from her subjects in this portrait series.

Saudi Arabia's state-backed oil giant Aramco saw its profit tumble by 44% last year, as coronavirus pandemic restrictions slashed fuel demand around the globe.

Aramco, the world's largest oil company, reported earnings of $49 billion in 2020, down from $88.2 billion in the year before. CEO Amin Nasser described last year as "one of the most challenging years in history."

Updated March 21, 2021 at 3:47 PM ET

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Afghanistan on Sunday amid uncertainty over how long American forces will stay in the country.

In his first trip to Afghanistan as defense chief, which had not been announced publicly, Austin met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as U.S. diplomat Ross Wilson and Army Gen. Austin Miller, America's top commander in the country.

This past year was like no other. The world suffered deeply from the novel coronavirus and many endured difficult sacrifices. But other news never stopped in 2020.

Tensions escalated with Iran after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general. Britain made an arduous exit from the European Union. China enacted tough new authority over Hong Kong. The racial justice movement in the United States set off solidarity protests in many other countries. And that was just in the first half of the year.

Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET

Pope Francis has called for legislation to protect same-sex couples, according to comments he made in a new documentary that mark a break from Catholic doctrine.

"Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They are children of God and have a right to a family," the pope said in an interview in the documentary Francesco, which premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival. "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."

It was in the early evening of Aug. 4 when two blasts convulsed Beirut. First, onlookers saw a major fire at the Mediterranean port. Then there was an explosion, and then another, shooting seismic waves through Lebanon's capital and a huge mushroom cloud into the sky.

More than 170 people died and thousands were injured. The scale of devastation — to buildings, infrastructure and people's livelihoods — is difficult to capture as residents take stock of the damage.

World events in 2019 certainly kept NPR's international desk busy, whether it was the trade fight with China or Brexit, another Israeli election or massive protests from Hong Kong to Iraq, Chile to Zimbabwe.

Amid the constant whirl of news, the foreign bureaus were also hard at work producing the feature stories that NPR is known for. They made long journeys, dug into data and spent time with farmers living beside glaciers; oppressed minorities; politicians; doctors and researchers; concerned parents; civilian survivors of war; and sometimes fighters, too.

President Trump has signed a bill signaling support for Hong Kong's protests, prompting Beijing to issue a sharp response and summon the U.S. ambassador to China.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 allows the United States to level sanctions on individuals who carry out human rights violations in Hong Kong, which has been rocked by mass protests for more than five months.

Updated on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET

In Iraq and Syria, news of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death has stirred a mix of responses — from joy to disbelief to dread.

Since President Trump announced this weekend that Baghdadi died during a U.S. military operation in Syria, analysts have been grappling with the implications for the militant organization that has now lost its main chief in addition to all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria.

Mongolia is changing. Rivers are dry. Pastureland is giving way to mines. And wintertime smog obscures the famed blue sky. How did Mongolia get here? It's a story of internal migration and economic transformation in an era of climate change.

Explore the visual narrative at

Updated on Feb. 25 at 5:45 p.m. ET

When President Trump spoke in Florida earlier this month, he issued a stern warning about Venezuela: Members of the armed forces who continue to support President Nicolás Maduro "will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out," he said. "You will lose everything."

A heavy barrage of news dominated headlines in 2018, but NPR's international correspondents continued to delve into underreported stories that mattered.

Here is a selection of original reporting from around the world that may have slipped under your radar amid the year's relentless news cycle.

In January, Pope Francis traveled to South America to spread peace and hope. Many cheered him on, but he also wound up causing emotional pain when he dismissed accusations that Chilean clergy had covered up sexual abuse.

In the weeks that followed, the Vatican's leading sex crimes investigator looked into the allegations, and the pope did an about-face: He acknowledged making mistakes.

Now, Francis has been apologizing and listening to some of those he offended most.