Afghan American

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For Pashtuns in the United States, see Pashtun diaspora.
Afghan American
George and Laura Bush with Khaled Hosseini in 2007 detail2.JPG
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Total population
Regions with significant populations
California, Northern Virginia, New York, Florida
American English, Dari, Pashto and other languages of Afghanistan
Predominantly Islam
Minorities of Sikhism[2] and Hinduism[3]

Afghan Americans are Americans of Afghan heritage or Americans who originated from Afghanistan. Their ethnic origin may come from any of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan. This list excludes Pashtuns that were not associated with Afghanistan at the time of their origin as well as muslim communities of Pashtun ancestry.

History and population[edit]

Afghan Americans have a long history of immigrating to the United States, as they may have arrived as early as the 1920s.[4] Due to the political borders at that time period, some of these Afghan immigrants may have been ethnic Pashtuns from British India (present-day Pakistan and India) or Afghanistan.[4] Wallace Fard Muhammad, credited for being the founder of the Nation of Islam, may have been from Afghanistan. A World War I draft registration card for Wallie Dodd Fard from 1917 indicated he was living in Los Angeles, California, as an unmarried restaurant owner, and reported that he was born in Shinka, Afghanistan in 1893.[5] During the 1930s and 1940s, well-educated Afghans entered America.[4] Between 1953 and early 1970, at least 230 migrated into the United States.[4] Some of those who entered the US were students who won scholarships to study in American universities. After the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, around five million Afghan citizens were displaced, being forced to immigrate or seek refuge in other countries. These Afghan refugees mostly settled in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, and from there many made it to the European Union, North America, Australia, and elsewhere in the world.

Those who were granted asylum in the United States began to settle in California (mainly the Los Angeles-Orange County area and San Francisco Bay Area) and in the Northeastern United States, where large Muslim community centers keep them closely bonded. Fremont, California, is home to the largest population of Afghan Americans in the U.S.[6] Smaller Afghan American communities also exist in the states of Texas, Illinois, Florida, Washington and elsewhere.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there were approximately 65,972 Afghan-Americans living in the country in 2006. By 2011, this number grew to 89,040.[7] According to the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC, the over-all Afghan population in the United States in 2011 is around 300,000.[8] While 30,000 reside in Northern Virginia, approximately 65,000 Afghans comprise the diaspora community based in the San Francisco Bay Area.[8] Some figures estimate that there may only be about 80,000 Afghan-Americans but the actual number may be 200,000[9] to as high as 300,000.[8] Nevertheless, such higher figures may be an exaggeration, as a recent census of 2001 found approximately 9,000 of Afghan ancestry living in New York metro area, considerably lower than the 20,000 regularly cited.[10]

Afghan Americans are composed of the various ethnicities that exist in Afghanistan, reflecting the ethnolinguistic mosaic of their homeland in the U.S. Namely, they draw from Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Baloch, Aimak, Nuristani communities as well as other ethnic backgrounds.


Further information: Culture of Afghanistan

Like all other immigrants living in the United States, Afghan Americans have gradually adopted the American way of life but some still value their traditional culture. They watch Afghan television stations, listen to Afghan music, and eat traditional Afghan food at home. They also value their oral tradition of story telling. The stories they usually tell are about Nasreddin, Afghan history, myths and religion.[4]

Afghan Americans celebrate August 19 as "Afghan Day". It is a commemoration of the Afghan Independence Day, which relates to August 1919, the date when Afghanistan became globally recognized after the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919 was signed. Small festivals are held in cities that have Afghan communities, usually at the parks where black, red and green colored Afghan flags are spotted around cars.[11]


Most Afghan Americans are Muslim, the majority of whom follow Sunni Islam.

Afghan adherents of Shia Islam include the Hazara people of Afghanistan, who have traditionally been associated with Shia Islam, and Afghans of Qizilbash background, who are also traditionally known to be Shiites. A small number of Tajiks follow Ismailism, as well as mainstream Twelver Shiism.

There is a community of Afghan Jews in New York City, numbering about 200 families in 2007.[12] In addition, a group of Afghan Americans in the Los Angeles area follow Christianity.[13] Hussain Andaryas is an Afghan Christian televangelist who belongs to the Hazara ethnic group.

There is also an unknown minority of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.[14]

Economic status[edit]

While the early immigrants were well-educated, the subsequent waves of migrants have not been as educated.[4] The first immigrants came to the US by choice and were well-educated.[4] 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.[4] Those who have pursued their education in America in the middle 20th century and traveled back to Afghanistan, faced trouble attaining employment when returning to the US since their education, often in medicine and engineering, is frequently viewed as outdated.[4] After the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan's education system worsened, causing many migrants in the late 20th century to place less emphasis on educational attainment.[4]

A sizable number of Afghan Americans who do not seek higher education often enter into food industry, mainly in running Afghan cuisine restaurants and fast food establishments such as Kennedy Chicken.[15] The newcomers to America can be sometimes found vending coffee and bagels in Manhattan where they have replaced Greek Americans in the field.[16]

Notable Afghan Americans[edit]

Khaled Hosseini at the White House in 2007, with Bush and Laura Bush.


  • Alex Hinshaw- Afghan American Baseball Pitcher [17]
  • Jeff Bronkey- Former baseball player who is born to an Afghan father and American mother [18]
  • Ahmad Hatifi- Afghan American soccer player who plays for the national Afghan Soccer Team [19]

Politics and academia[edit]

Business and finance[edit]


Media and art[edit]

Vida Zaher-Khadem and Baktash Zaher-Khadem worked on the movie FireDancer.

Afghan music singers[edit]

Beauty pageant contestants[edit]

Afghan royalty[edit]

  • Crown Prince Ahmad Shah Khan - Former Crown Prince of Afghanistan and current pretender to the throne


Relations and other information[edit]

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, a mosque run by Afghan-Americans in New York City donated blood held a vigil for World Trade Center deceased and funded a memorial for the fire fighters.[32] Since late 2001, after the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, some Afghan-Americans began working for the U.S. government as interpreters. A number of them were killed in action or by stepping on improvised explosive devices that were planted by enemy forces.

In late September 2001 an individual went on a shooting rampage in Mesa, Arizona, where he shot at a home owned by an Afghan-American.[33] Additionally, vandals defaced an Afghan restaurant with red liquid intended to appear as blood.[34] Moreover, the Afghan Mission to the UN received a letter that contained quotes from Osama Bin Laden along with a dried pig's ear.[34]

In October 2006, Alia Ansari, a mother of six children, was shot dead in Fremont, California, an incident which the victim's family and local leaders deemed a hate crime.[35][36] While wearing her 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".[37]

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.[38] In 2006, the ACLU claimed victory as Aziz ultimately received his citizenship.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Afghan Community: Afghan American Demographics". Allied Media Corp. 
  2. ^ "Discover Countries - Afghanistan". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Discover Countries - Afghanistan". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Eigo, Tim. Countries and their Cultures. "Afghan Americans." 2006. July 6, 2007. [1]
  5. ^ database, Registration Location: Los Angeles County, California; Roll: 1530899; Draft Board: 17
  6. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, Fremont's Little Kabul eyes election with hope, August 21, 2009.
  7. ^ "Total Ancestry Reported". 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c Afghan Diaspora
  9. ^ USA Today, 'Little Kabul' immigrants apprehensive (2001)
  10. ^ New York Afghans Divided
  11. ^ Afghan Embassy news letter
  12. ^ "U.S.: Afghan Jews Keep Traditions Alive Far From Home". Nikola Krastev. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). June 19, 2007. Retrieved 2013-09-07. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Discover Countries - Afghanistan". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  15. ^ The New York Times - KFC v. KFC
  16. ^ The Face Behind the Bagel ; Afghan Newcomers Use Coffee Carts to Succeed As Vendors of New York's Rush-Hour Breakfast
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  24. ^ database, Registration Location: Los Angeles County, California; Roll: 1530899; Draft Board: 17
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  32. ^ BBC. Troubling Times for Afghan Americans. 2001. July 6, 2007
  33. ^ Human Rights News. "Stop Hate Crimes Now." 2001. July 21, 2007
  34. ^ a b Stewart, Anne. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Massachusetts. "Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans." 2003. July 21, 2007. [2]
  35. ^ NBC 11 News. "Assaults On Bay Area Muslims On Rise." 2007. July 21, 2007. [3]
  36. ^ San Francisco Chronicle. 2007. July 21, 2007
  37. ^ Lisa Fernandez. 100 turn out in Fremont for "Wear a Hijab/Turban Day" Oakland Tribune, November 13, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
  38. ^ Lawyers and Settlements. "US Governments." 2007. July 21, 2007
  39. ^ American Civil Liberties Union. "ACLU/SC Wins Citizenship for Seven." 2006. July 21, 2007. [4]

External links[edit]