issue 1. Disorient

Cover art by Paloma Martinez-Miranda

Cover art by Paloma Martinez-Miranda


editor's note

Where did you last see your face? Now, especially, the representation of marginalized groups in media is in crisis. Shepard Fairey’s famous portrait of Munira Ahmed, a hijabi woman draped in the American flag, for one, has become a monolithic depiction of an already essentialized people. But not all Muslim or Middle Eastern women wear hijabs, of course. And not all Middle Easterners and North Africans are Muslims or Arabs. We are Coptic, Tuareg, Kurdish, Yazidi, Syriac, Christian, Turkish, Sufi, Maghrebi, Armenian, Zoroastrian, Persian, Aramean, Druze, Berber, Jewish, atheist, and so much more. 

Back home, geopolitical shifts circle back to uncertainty. What will become of Yemen? Will the Syrian conflict ever end? How will Iraq be rebuilt? Will Saudi Arabia and Iran finally butt heads? What of Turkish expansionism, or Egyptian and Tunisian political Salafism? Facing unstable futures, dynasties and their opportunists take up space before we have time to organize. The rate of change renders many of us complacent, unwilling to look into the eye of the storm. 

To reduce complexity, humans create categories. It’s what we do to make our experiences seem more stable. It’s how our leaders legitimize their ambitions. Yet we know that current labels are profoundly ineffective. Sunni versus Shiite, Islamic versus secular, fries inside versus outside your shawarma... On the ground, these categories naturally start to break down.

Our Summer issue, DISORIENT, encourages the expression of regional identities on their own terms. The region isn’t an indistinguishable morass of warring tribes, Islam, oil-rich sheikhs, and sword-wielding militants on horseback—it’s Egyptian working class pop music, Yemeni conflict mediating poets, wry academics, Muslim feminists, and radical artists. Regional art isn’t just geometric patterns—it’s street signs signaling sadness, hijabis draped in the jungle, women without hijabs, Iranian fashionistas, Ottoman icons and Jack Daniels, burnt matches.

For Khabar Keslan, to DISORIENT is to actively break categories down—to try our best to capture the infinity of experience in the region. It’s an act of harnessing instability’s power, an acceptance that the quest for understanding is never over. Discomfort and confusion, rather than obstacles, are sources of wisdom. DISORIENT is the antidote to the crisis of representation—when individuals, in all of their incoherence, can represent themselves.

DISORIENT is a movement, a long tradition to which this issue pays homage. Current publications such as Ajam Media Collective, Bidoun, Mada Masr, Mashallah News, Muftah, MyKali, Raseef 22, and Reorient: we thank you, for we can only exist because of the work you’ve done.

Now, please, sit back, relax, and make yourself uncomfortable. 


Almost Home

By Amir H. Fallah

"It's Crowded and there is no mercy!" 

By Mariam Elba 

Sadness St. 

By Mohamed Khalid


By Farrah Fray & Ahmed Drebika

Rotating chair

By Sultan Al Rahami

Poetic Justice?

By Rachel Furlow

Dear Deerah

By Shoug Sagur

Tehran Streetstyle

By Hoda Katebi 


By Hamza Bilbeisi 


By Dilan Arslan 

Legends and Heroes

By Zaina El Said

In search of a passport

By Ceem Haidar

A Foreign Child to the Market

By Marwa Fichera

Tales from Life

By Ayham Jabr

A Love letter to Mosul

By Yousif Kalian


By Rama Duwaji


By Sara Aladayleh

When We Wonder

By Fatima Alsuwaidi

Dual Transcendence

By Yasmine Rukia

My Most Precious

By Bayan Abdullateef

Unseeing Eye 

By Nour Hifaoui Fakhoury

Mish Min El Marikh

By Rawand Issa

Only Art Will Save Us

By Omar Alhashani & Dayna Ash


By Sofia Elian

No One Will Read This

By Zachary J. Foster