Though born and raised here, Sunayah says she spent much of her childhood feeling “quite disconnected from my heritage and culture,” she describes, and the magazine has been way to reconnect. “Working on Azeema has introduced so much to me, from the people I’ve met to the stories I’ve read. It gives me the opportunity to explore and celebrate my identity, as well as others.” Noor, whose teenage years were spent moving around different countries, says the platform gives her, and her friends and colleagues, a chance to challenge the broad brush stereotypes of MENA women she witnessed internationally. Equally, Evar feels Kurdish people are “continuously politicised and rendered invisible both here in the West and in the Middle East. This has fuelled my observations on representations (or lack of) which has turned into a passion where my objective is to dismantle and destroy said invisibility. Azeema’s existence allows me to do exactly this.”
Over its short few years, the magazine itself has matured from the self-proclaimed “raw” first issue Habibi – whose cover piece titled Borders focused on the then-enforced driving ban for Saudi women – to issue two, themed Huia (Identity), which explored issues of strength, self-love, sexuality and mental health in its community; and issue three, Haraka (Movement), 170 glorious pages of features exploring movements of all types, from small revolutions to widespread surges for freedom. Across writers, creatives and subjects, a huge spectrum of people are encompassed. Some of the team’s favourites include Prod Antzoulis’ fashion shoot featuring stylist and director and model Pam Nasr, shot south of Lebanon, and Malak Kabbani’s shoot of renowned Egyptian belly dancer Dina, accompanied by an insightful interview piece.