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.

In a remote mountain village high above Turkey's Black Sea coast, there are villagers who still communicate across valleys by whistling. Not just whistling as in a non-verbal, "Hey, you!" But actually using what they call their "bird language," Turkish words expressed as a series of piercing whistles.

The village is Kuskoy, and it's inhabited by farmers who raise tea, corn, beets and other crops, and also keep livestock. The landscape is unusual by Turkish standards, and the residents are also considered a bit eccentric by other Turks.

As refugees stream into Europe, here's something to consider: The burden being shouldered by Turkey alone dwarfs the numbers currently trying to get to Europe.

Turkey has 2 million Syrians and Iraqis and has spent $7.6 billion caring for them. But here's the catch — the refugees are not allowed to seek asylum in Turkey.

The Greek island of Lesbos has been transformed from a dream vacation spot to a haven of a different sort — for Syrians and Iraqis, a place free from the horrors of war back home. From here, those who've survived the crossing from Turkey can try to press further on to countries in central and northern Europe.

The obstacles ahead don't seem nearly as difficult as the ones they left behind. Many are carrying jagged memories of the savage violence they escaped. Their greatest hope is that their children will be spared what they went through.

International sympathy for Syrians, Iraqis and other migrants traveling toward Europe at great cost has not stilled a persistent debate: Are these refugees fleeing persecution, as the asylum laws say? Or are they economic migrants seeking a better life in a developed country? And if they make it to Turkey or Jordan or Lebanon, as some 4 million Syrians have to date, why don't they stay there?

A visit to both ends of the short, treacherous voyage from Turkey across the Aegean Sea to Greece provides some clues.

In Turkey, Waiting To Risk Everything

To a visitor, it seems like a curious bit of territory for the Turkish military and the Kurds to be fighting over: steep rocky hills covered in brown windblown grass divided by patches of green forestland.

But if you get off the main road, and follow a gravel track into the hills, a makeshift camp emerges. This is where Kurdish activists have put themselves in the line of fire between the Turkish army and the youth faction of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or the PKK.