An Afghan American refers to an American with heritage or origins in Afghanistan.
History and population
Afghan Americans have a long history of immigrating to the United States, as they may have arrived as early as the 1920s. Due to the political borders at that time period, some of these immigrants may have been Pashtuns
from British India
) or Afghanistan. During the 1930s and 1940s, well-educated Afghans entered America. Between 1953 and early 1970, 230 migrated into the US. Some of those who entered the United States were often students who won scholarships to study in American universities. After the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
, many people from Afghanistan decided to leave their country to immigrate or seek refuge in other countries. These Afghan refugees
settled in Pakistan, Iran
, the European Union
, North America
, and else where in the world.
Those who made it to the United States began to settle in the New York, California and Washington-Virginia areas, where large Muslim community centers keep them closely bonded. Smaller Afghan American communities can also be found in the States of Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington and elsewhere. Some figures estimate that there are approximately 80,000 Afghan Americans in the United States but the actual number may be 200,000. Nevertheless, such higher figures appear to be an exaggeration, as a recent census found approximately 9,000 of Afghan ancestry living in New York metro area, considerably lower than the 20,000 regularly cited.
Despite major cultural differences between the two nations, Afghans living in the United States are proud to call themselves Americans and are considered patriotic. Many Afghan women in the United States wear similar clothes as Iranian Americans
and Turkish Americans
, and are allowed to work or study in colleges.
Some migrants from Afghanistan have attempted to not assimilate into American culture as they have valued their traditional culture even after several generations. Afghan Americans value their oral tradition of story telling. The stories they tell are about Nasreddin, history, myths and religion.
The overwhelming majority of Afghan Americans are Muslim
and practice Sunni Islam
. Others practice the Shia
sect, and have their own separate Shia mosques
. There is a small community of Afghan Jews
in New York City
, numbering about 200 families many of whom speak neither Pashto
nor Dari Persian
, with even some emphasizing that they "weren't really Afghans by definition" but that they "just lived over there."
While the early immigrants were well-educated, the subsequent waves of migrants have not been as educated. The first immigrants came to the US by choice and were well-educated. In contrast, current immigrants have fled Afghanistan after it destabilized during the Soviet occupation as this group has had trouble coping with learning a new language. Those who have pursued their education in America in the middle 20th century and traveled back to Afghanistan, faced trouble attaining employment when returning back to the US since their education, often in medicine and engineering, is frequently viewed as outdated. After the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan's education system worsened, causing many migrants in the late 20th century to place less emphasize on educational attainment. A sizable number of Afghan Americans who do not seek higher education often enter into the food industry business, mainly in running restaurants and fast food
establishments such as Kennedy Fried Chicken
, or vending coffee
in New York City
where they have replaced Greek Americans
in the field.
, a mosque run by Afghan-Americans in Flushing
, New York donated blood, held a vigil for World Trade Center deceased and funded a memorial for the fire fighters.
Since late 2001, after the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a number of Afghan-Americans were hired to work for the U.S. government as translators.
Victims of hate crime
Despite that the September 11 hijackers were not from Afghanistan, Afghan Americans have increasingly faced discrimination in the United States, notably after the events of September 11
. For instance, a few weeks after September 11, an individual went on a shooting rampage
, where he shot at a home owned by an Afghan American. Additionally, vandals defaced an Afghan restaurant with red liquid intended to appear as blood. Moreover, the Afghan Mission to the UN
received a letter that contained quotes from Osama Bin Laden
along with a dried pig's ear.
In more recent acts, Alia Ansari, a mother of six children, was shot dead in California on October 20, 2006, an incident which the victim's family and local leaders deemed a hate crime. While wearing Islamic garb, namely, the hijab, Ansari was gunned down in front of her children. The incident eventually led to local politicians to call November 13 "wear-the-hijab-day".
Other Afghan Americans, like U.S. Air Force veteran Mustafa Aziz, have faced long delays in obtaining their US citizenship. The ACLU consequently filed a lawsuit and accused government officials of improperly delaying background checks and allowing applications to linger indefinitely. In 2006, the ACLU claimed victory as Aziz ultimately received his citizenship.
Notable and famous individuals