Atia Abawi is an American author and television journalist. Previously working for NBC News & CNN as a foreign correspondent. She was based in Kabul, Afghanistan for almost five years. Her first book, the critically acclaimed “The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan” was published by Penguin Random House in September 2014. Abawi is known for her strong support for female empowerment in both her writing and reporting. She is fluent in Dari and is a graduate of Virginia Tech University
Atia Abawi was born in West Germany to Afghan parents who fled Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion and was raised in the United States. After graduating from Virginia Tech, Atia worked as a reporter CTV 76 –a local TV station in Largo, MD, before moving to Atlanta to work for CNN and then NBC News.
At CNN, Abawi started in the Media Operations department before working her way up to producer and then to foreign correspondent. In 2008, she was named CNN’s Afghanistan correspondent and manager of its Kabul bureau. Before Afghanistan she worked on several prominent international stories including the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Afghanistan-Korean hostage situation and Youssif, the young Iraqi boy burned by insurgents in Iraq.
While in Afghanistan, Atia embedded with U.S., NATO and Afghan forces numerous times -including during the major U.S and ISAF military operation in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2010.
Outside of Afghanistan, Atia was part of a CNN team that had to sneak in to Myanmar to cover the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. She also led CNN's coverage from Jerusalem of the Gaza Flotilla attack of 2010 by Israeli forces.
In 2010, NBC News hired Atia as its Afghanistan correspondent and bureau chief. Additionally, she reported from London as part of NBC’s Royal wedding coverage, and was a part of the NBC News special coverage following the US raid that killed Osama Bin Laden- providing analysis and commentary. In 2012, Atia interviewed Afghan President Hamid Karzai - the first interview of the Afghan President for the network in a decade.
After nearly 5-years of living and working in Afghanistan, Atia moved to Jerusalem in January 2013. In that year, she covered President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Israel the military coup in Egypt, and the Kenyan mall siege by Al-Shabab militants among other stories.
Atia Abawi has also written articles for the National Review and The Huffington Post about Islam and Afghanistan. Abawi has also spoken publicly about difficulty female journalists face in war zones and conflict areas.
Based on her experiences in Afghanistan, Penguin Books published Atia's first book "The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan.” The young adults novel follows the forbidden love of two young Afghans, Fatima, a Hazara girl, and Samiullah, a Pashtun boy. Based on people Abawi met while living in Afghanistan, "The Secret Sky" shows both the beauty and the violence in current-day Afghanistan as Fatima and Samiullah fight their families, their cultures and the Taliban to stay together.
"The Secret Sky" has received acclaim for its accurate portrayal of Afghanistan, Islamic fundamentalism and for including diverse characters especially a strong female. The Amelia Bloomer Project included "The Secret Sky" on its 2015 list of books that provide a "glimpse at the diverse experiences of girls and women globally."
"The Secret Sky" was selected by the UK newspaper The Guardian as one of seven young adult novels that show the lives of teens across the world.
Publishers Weekly gave it a prestigious starred review calling it "a suspenseful, enlightening, and hopeful love story.” According to Publishers Weekly, initial feedback of "The Secret Sky" from Afghan-Americans was "positive, yet Abawi felt some trepidation about potentially negative reactions to the novel, which is understandable given that, as a journalist, she has received death threats for writing articles about abused women."
While Kirkus Review said "The Secret Sky" has a “riveting plot, sympathetic characters and straightforward narration studded with vivid, authentic detail: a top choice.”
Bustle listed "The Secret Sky" as one of "10 Young Adult Romance Novels Feminists Will Swoon Over," for its combination of "feminism" and "romance."
In December of 2016, Penguin's Philomel Books announced Abawi's second novel, "A Land of Permanent Goodbyes."
Set in war torn Syria, "A Land of Permanent Goodbyes" centers on “Tareq, a Syrian teenager who, after losing most of his family in an air strike, begins a harrowing journey with his sister to Europe.”
Atia is married to Fox News Foreign Correspondent Conor Powell. They were married on July 7, 2012 in Leesburg, Virginia While at Virginia Tech, Abawi was a member of the Delta Zeta Sorority.