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Roots with South Asian Today: How Ariana Abawe launched an exclusive Afghan magazine

Season 1, Episode 05 with Ariana Abawe

In the fifth episode of Roots with South Asian Today, we speak with Afghan journalist Ariana Abawe, who founded the first print and digital magazine exclusively focused on Afghanistan, Ariana Magazine, in 2020.

We dig deep into Afghan representation and what the magazine's purpose is.


Dilpreet  00:00

You're listening to roots with South Asian today. This podcast is being recorded in Australia, on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded. The first time I came across Ariana magazine was in 2020 and I remember being in awe. I had not yet come across a media outlet with an exclusive lens on Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora. As someone who was born and raised in India my entire life, I know the many cross cultural elements India and Afghanistan share from history to music to food. And so it was a wholesome feeling to discover a magazine where I could learn more about Afghanistan and immerse myself in the many, many cultures it holds. Today, my guest is Ariana Abawe, the founder of Ariana magazine, the first digital and print Afghan magazine. Thank you so much for joining me today, Ariana.

 Ariana  01:08

Thank you so much, Dilpreet, for inviting me onto your platform. And thank you so much for your kind words and support throughout the process as well.

Dilpreet  01:15

So tell me, Ariana, what exactly is Ariana magazine? And what made you launch it?

Ariana  01:21

Well, where should I start? So, I was in university in the second year of my university. I just graduated in July with a journalism degree at this July 2020. And so, the second year of my university, which was 2019. I was contemplating about, of course, throughout my life I've been contemplating about the media's portrayal on Afghanistan has always been negative. There's no positivity as such, for example, any person you ask about Afghanistan, of course, the negative portrayal is always in your head about the Taliban, and heroin or opium or, like the poor people, destruction, all of that. I've always wanted to show the beautiful side of Afghanistan, even through being part of the Brunel Afghan society, I was the president as well in 2019. And I always showcased the culture through events. With my committee, for example, we had a big Nauruz event, which is a new year event and Afghan New Year event. And we had life singers, dances, food, Afghan food to show the culture of Afghanistan. And the main aspect of this was not just to invite Afghans, but to invite non-Afghans and educate them on the Afghan culture. And we had non-Afghans as well participate in the traditional Afghan dance attire, which was really good and really inclusive. And that's why I want to do and ever since 2019, that was the main bit when I really thought about launching a magazine. And I really wanted to launch it then. But I was really busy, of course, going into my final year, the next year, and I was involved in different projects, as well called Salaam London movie is released as well - it’s an Afghan movie. So, I was really involved in different projects. So then in 2020, in August, that's when I released the first issue of Ariana magazine. So, the main aim of Ariana magazine is to showcase the beautiful side of Afghanistan, the food, the culture, the talented people, non-Afghans, as well as Afghans' contribution to Afghanistan. For example, in issue one, I have Captain Edward Zellem, he's an American. He used to be a captain. So, he's an ex Captain from Afghanistan. He used to work there. And he collected Afghan proverbs while he was then translated into many languages, and he published a book and I included him and his work towards Afghanistan. So this magazine is trying to combine different people and bringing them together and showing Afghanistan which you don't see from the history of food, culture, poetry, and much more.

Dilpreet  04:14

That's beautiful. So, you talk about the negative stereotypes of media, which is really true. And how do you think like a positive representation of Afghanistan can push the conversation into a more telling of the representation that's true? How does a positive representation matter?

Ariana  04:31

Of course, with everything a positive representation matters, because you're showing them something that's not typical to typical to what they see, for example, people. And of course, you need to see both sides of things. As a human as a person, you need to always see both sides. And of course, in regards to Afghanistan, as the negative media has always been portrayed about Afghanistan. The positive side is really needed to show the actual representation and for people to realize there's much more to Afghanistan, and to dig deeper and educate themselves to say, "No, I should learn more about this culture these people than just the media's the mass media's portrayal about them". There's much more.

Dilpreet  05:17

Absolutely. And tell me Ariana, how has your personal identity as an Afghan woman shaped your vision for the magazine?

 Ariana 05:24

As an Afghan woman, typically, in Afghanistan, of course, I just graduated in a journalism degree. So, in Afghanistan its seen as a very dangerous place, especially for women. But even more, especially for journalists. So those two combined, really, something different, if I can say so. For me as an Afghan, firstly, and also as a Muslim, and also as a journalist, all three combined is kind of seen as not a taboo, but something different for Afghans. But now that thankfully, is becoming more recognized and more women are going into the media industry. But as an Afghan woman, it's really shaped my view of Ariana magazine and providing a voice for women, as well as everyone, which is my aim, but especially for women so they can speak as well and provide their stories for the magazine, or just so far, I've got so much support, thankfully, I really appreciate it from everyone. From the journey of Ariana magazine, especially women, women have been the main supporters so far, and they've been influenced as well to help out to give contributions and submissions. And so I'm really thankful to be a woman on Afghan representing Ariana magazine, because it's something different, especially in the Afghan industry, because or Afghanistan, because it's typically seen as a male dominated society as other regions or countries are also seen around that area.

Dilpreet  06:55

And also the process like working for Ariana magazine, because as someone in a similar field doing South Asian Today, I understand it can be very, very overwhelming. So maybe tell us some of the challenges you faced while you launched.

Ariana  07:10

Typically, there isn't a big challenge that I faced, for example, negativity, if that's the challenge you're talking about, but the main challenge that I faced was being able to get the word out. But thankfully, with the support of Afghans, I've been able to get the word out and still the word is going out there. But not much challenges I have

Dilpreet  07:38

That's really good to hear.

Ariana  07:40

Maybe there is a few challenges, but I don't really see them as a big negative. Or maybe there'll be challenges to come. But you never know. But thankfully, there hasn't been a major difficulty that I have faced, as of yet.

Dilpreet  07:54

That's really good. That's really good to hear. Because, you know, that sounds like a happy story. And I like happy stories, because a lot of the times when women get into journalism, or are talking about political issues, there's this internet, this part of the internet, which is very toxic.

Ariana  08:11

And one point to note, like you mentioned, sorry to cut you off.

Dilpreet  08:14

No, no go on.

Ariana  08:15

The political side. So one thing about my magazine is that it is politically neutral, which lots of people like, and especially because of Afghanistan, which is always politically centered, this magazine is politically neutral. And so that provides a different angle as well. So, it's nothing too political, which people can debate about or get angry about it, or yeah.

Dilpreet  08:39

So, I didn't grow up in the West. I came to Australia in 2017. And I really learned about, you know, diaspora in the West and how brown people function in the West and the politics of brown people in the West and learned about South Asians or, you know, a collective because earlier, we, you know, I was just Indian, to be very honest, or just a brown person. So, so this idea of South Asian spaces was quite new. But one thing I have definitely noticed is that there's a lot of people from Pakistan, or a lot of people from, you know, India or Bangladesh.  But I never really find a lot of Afghan people in the South Asian spaces. Do you also feel that?

Ariana  09:18

Thankfully, I haven't! Another happy story! So, especially because I live in London, so London is really diverse, through Brunel, University of London. That's the university I went to, I was the president in 2019, and then the charity officer in the final year of my university. So, I've always been involved in cultural events and the Afghan society or meeting different people. So, I've always seen that there was a huge community of Afghans in the Brunel University, and especially in London. There's a huge community of Afghans who, I see them in many events, especially Afghan events, but there's other events as well that I see them in between is quite diverse, but I'm sure in different countries, it can be different. It depends on each person's experience. But thankfully, there is a huge community of Afghans in London, and they are present in spaces.

Dilpreet  10:16

That's great to hear. Because I think Australia is still really far behind from other countries, and especially in terms of people of color. It's quite white!

Ariana  10:25


Dilpreet  10:27

People in Australia really cling on to even like a spectacle of representation. And we're like, we got this. But I do know, in like Canada, and UK, you know, there are more spaces, there are more people of color, and there's much more representation as well. So, tell me Ariana, for all of the people, all of our Afghan people who are listening to this podcast, tell them how they can pitch a story to you or how they can get involved.

Ariana  10:55

Yeah, sure. So, my main platform is on Instagram, 'Ariana the journalist', but I also have Facebook as well by the name Ariana magazine, on Tik Tok, as well by Ariana magazine. I mean, my main platform is Instagram. And there I have a section about submissions. But I can also let you guys know. So, you can give submissions from poetry, art, stories, articles, photography, and much more. Regarding Afghanistan, or a slight connection about Afghanistan, and the beautiful side of Afghanistan, for example, the culture, the food, or something in regard to that the submissions are open all year round. So, I select them. And if they are selected, you will be notified by email. So, the submissions can be made via dm or my email, which is And yeah, so submissions are open. Oh, yeah. Right around. There's no deadlines. And yeah.

Dilpreet  11:56

Awesome. And lastly, Ariana, this question I asked all my guests, is, if you had to define representation in a single sentence, what would you say?

Ariana  12:08

One sentence, well representation...speaking on behalf of something that's not being spoken about, and portraying it in a particular way, for example, for me, the representation of Afghanistan is shown through my magazine, and I'm doing it through social media, and giving. So, there's a sort of action as all through my magazine, which I'm providing the representation of Afghanistan through. So, representation can be in many forms as well for speaking up physical forms, like my magazine, writing, and much more. I think representation is quite…it depends. It can go much deeper into what you think. But yeah.

Dilpreet  12:50

No, I do agree with you. It has multiple layers. And there's no really set of rules or guidelines on what representation really is. Right? Thank you so much for joining me, Ariana, and I wish you all the luck. And I hope we see many, many, many, many, many more issues of Ariana magazine. Thank you so much for joining me.

Ariana  13:10

Thank you so much for having me. It's really nice talking to you.

 Dilpreet  13:15

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About the author

Dilpreet is the founder of South Asian Today. More about her can be found here.




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