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From Kabul to the Fishbowl: CNN’s Atia Abawi On Afghanistan

atia abawi.jpg Yesterday, CNN announced the launch of “Afghanistan Crossroads,” a new blog on CNN.com that will serve viewers a mixture of on-the-ground reports, photos and video from Afghanistan.

To mark the occasion, FishbowlDC interviewed CNN’s Atia Abawi. Stationed in Kabul as an international correspondent, the Virginia Tech alum and graduate of Annandale High School (NoVa) has seen more in her five years with CNN than most of us will see in a lifetime. Thanks to a very long distance phone call, we got a chance to chat with Abawi about her job, life in Afghanistan and the media’s influence on the conflict in the Middle East. Here’s what she had to say…

What made you pursue international journalism? Even though a teacher in high school told me that I would “never make it,” I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. Growing up, my family and I watched every news show on television — we’d even flip the channels back and forth to watch two newscasts that aired at the same time. I’ve always been especially fascinated by international news but felt like I needed to talk to the people and experience the stories firsthand.

Your family must worry about your safety. How do they feel about your job? They worry about me, of course…but my parents have always been very supportive. I try to call my mother once a day so she knows that I’m safe.

Is it more difficult to do your job as a woman? No, exactly the opposite. Being a female has worked to my advantage because the men are not intimidated and the women will talk to me. But it also helps that I speak the language. As the Afghan people grow more agitated with Westerners, they have become hesitant to speak to the media — especially through interpreters for fear that their words will be misconstrued.

What is something the media can’t easily capture about life in Afghanistan? There are two major wars going on — they are distinctly different wars and lifestyles. In Iraq, it’s like time stopped in 2003. The Iraqi people are friendly and remain hopeful but in Afghanistan, it’s like time stopped in 1979. After three decades of war, the Afghan people are very sad. It’s rare to see a smiling face here.

Have you witnessed a change of attitude in Afghanistan since President Obama took office? There was a renewed sense of hope in March of this year but marred by the deadliest summer in history the history of this war and the Afghan presidential election, that is quickly fading. Additionally, the Taliban are playing a good game of propaganda while preaching from village to village. The Afghan people are skeptical but don’t who to trust.

What is one thing you’d like to share with other members of the media? On the ground, one thing is clear — when the media turns its attention to Afghanistan, the situation begins to improve. Afghanistan would be different now had much of the media not gone away in 2004.

For more from Atia, follow @atiaabawi on Twitter, on Facebook and watch for her updates on CNN.com’s new “Afghanistan Crossroads” blog.

Abawi on social media and a video of her in action after the jump.


I noticed that you referenced Twitter and Facebook during your live shot on CNN today. What role does social media play on your coverage? Twitter and Facebook are fabulous because I can easily interact with my viewers. I receive regular response from viewers in South America, Asia and Europe. It’s wonderful to know that people are out there watching and want to interact. It makes me want to work harder.

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