The Khaleejesque team continually ponders with the barrage of research, commercial trends, and click bait articles that have called ‘time of death’ on our respective field of publishing. With our collected knowledge, network, and experience in what is seemingly a “dying field,” we set to formulate our own research more focused on the MENA publishing scene on a global scale—namely, niche and independent publishing platforms, whether print or online, founded and staffed by young Arabs and Muslims from around the world. 

As a platform that strives to amplify the voices of creatives and activists alike, we are dedicated to sharing our findings on a burgeoning field amongst creatives of the MENA region and beyond. As traditional publishing houses increasingly diminish, these independent platforms are paving the way for a new movement—heralding a cultural paradigm shift towards an egalitarian voice in publishing far from the constraints of traditional print and online media.

As a result, we’ve published a MENA Indie Zines and Platforms feature which can be accessed here.

In addition we’ve reached out to individual Zines who have shared with us their intricate workings and their missions and visions for their platform.  

These are collective answers from the team at AZEEMA. 

  • About the Platform:

Independent publishing is so important—it gives you the freedom to publish what you want to see and read, which is so special. I think we can all agree that we wished we had a publication like AZEEMA growing up, so it holds a special meaning to each of us in different ways. 

The magazine has not only brought us together as a team, but it has allowed us to connect with people, not just in the UK, but all over the world. It’s an incredible feeling, especially when we receive messages of support from womxn who are just so happy that we even exist. The support we have received over the last few years has been overwhelming!

Azeema content

Success for us is finally being able to get our community involved, and giving back to them through programs like our Foundation, FM x AZEEMA DJ sessions, and our first Eid party, which was a special event for us. It was all about bringing the community together and celebrating in our own way. We also held a life-drawing class and panel discussion at the V&A museum which was an amazing experience and such an honour. We’d love to continue doing events like these in the future. 

Time (or lack of it) and finance are probably the biggest struggles and obstacles for us. We all work day jobs to sustain ourselves — living in London is expensive! So we currently can’t afford to work on the magazine full-time. This means that we have to fit everything in around the full-time jobs and freelance work. It takes a lot of energy but we’re so passionate about AZEEMA that we’re happy to dedicate our spare time to it.  

  • Content: what is your publication concerned with and what kind of content does it feature?

AZEEMA is an annual print magazine, platform, and growing community exploring womxn within the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, diasporas, and beyond. We represent empowerment, strength, resistance, and culture.

In our issues you will find striking visuals and photographic stories. Voices and work of incredible, inspiring womxn — representation for the underrepresented, bold conversations of empowerment and strength, and topics that challenge stereotypes of WOC, particularly MENASA womxn. A unique mix of culture, fashion, and authenticity.

Our first 3 issues have given voice to the likes of Yumna Al-Arashi, Wafia, Ruqsana Begum, Nadia Tehran, Balqis Al Rashed, Simran Randhawa, Nadine Artois (Pxssy Palace), BBZ London, Asma Elbadawi, DJ Sama and more… 

We promote self-love, self-expression, and acceptance. We are an inclusive space, with no borders.

Azeema content
  • The team behind the platform: 

Our core team is made up of:
Jameela Elfaki – Founder and EIC/Art Director
Sunayah Arshad – Deputy Editor, Social Media Manager + Producer
Noor Alabdulbaqi – Senior Editor + Features
Evar Hussayni – Culture Editor

The wider team also includes UK-based Ella Lucia and Shayma Bakht, Canada-based Ayat Al-Muhaisen and Hong Kong-based Yassmine Benalla. 

We currently all work full time jobs and voluntarily work on AZEEMA in the spare time that we have. 

All four of us write for the magazine and edit each piece that goes in. We take written submissions for both the print magazine and our website. It’s amazing to share different perspectives and voices. We produce all our shoots in-house. The majority of images are shot by Jameela or commissioned out and the art direction is carefully considered across our print magazine and online platforms.

All four of us write for the magazine and edit each piece that goes in. We take written submissions for both the print magazine and our website. It’s amazing to share different perspectives and voices.

Azeema content
  • Work Space:

Aside from Jameela and Sunayah who live together, everyone is based in different locations, so we tend to work remotely most of the time, but we do regularly meet to discuss projects and to hang out. We would love to have our own office one day!

Images courtesy of AZEEMA.

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