Afghan Americans

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Afghan Americans
Total population
120,819 American born Afghan descent (2017)[1]
Estimate 200,000+ (2001)[2]
Regions with significant populations
California, Northern Virginia, New York metropolitan area, Florida, Chicago, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C.
Majority: Dari (Afghan Persian) and Pashto other languages of Afghanistan and American English[3]
Predominantly Islam
minorities of atheism, Christianity,[4] Hinduism, Judaism, and Sikhism[5][6]

Afghan Americans are Americans of Afghan descent or Americans who originated from Afghanistan. Afghan Americans may originate from any of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan.

History and population[edit]

Afghan Americans have a long history of immigrating to the United States, as they have arrived as early as the 1860s.[7][8] This was around the time when Afghanistan–United States relations were being established. Wallace Fard Muhammad, claimed to 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.[9] Between the 1920s and 1940s, hundreds of Afghans immigrated to the United States.[8][10][11] Between 1953 and early 1970, at least 230 lawfully entered the United States, meaning that the U.S. government was aware of their entry.[8] Some of those who entered the United States were students who had 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 (EU), North America, Australia, and elsewhere in the world.

Those who were granted refugee status in the United States began to settle in the New York metropolitan area, California (mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles-Orange County 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 followed by Northern Virginia.[12] Smaller Afghan American communities also exist in the states of Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Washington, D.C.[citation needed] In the city of Chicago, the 2000 census counted 556 Afghans, approximately half of them within the city.[13]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 65,972 Afghan-Americans living in the country in 2006. The American Community Survey (ACS) estimates a total of 94,726 Afghan foreign-born immigrants residing in the United States in 2016, which shows a 30% increase in the last ten years.[14] Congress passed the Afghan Allies Protection Act in 2009, which was motivated by the ongoing War on Terror. This Act stated that Afghans who agreed to work with the U.S. government as translators and interpreters in Afghanistan are eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs) after completing one year of employment. Because these individuals put their lives at risk for the interest of U.S. intelligence, Afghans eligible for SIVs are able to use this as a pathway towards lawful permanent residence for both themselves and their immediate family members.[15] Since 2005, tens of thousands of Afghans have been admitted to the United States under special programs such as the Special Immigrant Visa.[16] From the fiscal year of 2007 to 2015, a total of 19,916 Afghans were issued a Special Immigrant Visa. [17]


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.[8]

Afghan Americans celebrate August 19 as "Afghan Day".[18] 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. Eid and Nowruz remain popular festivals for Afghans. 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.[19]

Ethnicity and religion[edit]

Afghan Americans are composed of the various ethnic groups that exist in Afghanistan, which include Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, and a number of others. In a 2002 analysis, American researchers reported that approximately 65% of Afghan Americans are ethnic Tajiks.[20] For the purpose of the United States Census in 2000, Afghans were racially categorized as being White American;[21] individual Afghan Americans may self identify as being Asian, Middle Eastern, or white.[22]

Most Afghan Americans are Muslims, the majority of whom follow Sunni Islam, with a sizable community of Shia Muslims.

There is a community of Afghan Jews in New York City, numbering about 200 families in 2007.[6] In addition, a group of Afghan Americans in the Los Angeles area follow Christianity.[23] Hussain Andaryas is an Afghan Christian televangelist who belongs to the Hazara ethnic group.

Outside of the Abrahamic faiths, there exists a community of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs, concentrated in New York and Maryland.[5][24]

Economic status[edit]

Afghan immigrants that arrived to the United States before 1979 were well-educated.[8] In contrast, current immigrants have fled Afghanistan after it destabilized during the 1979 Soviet occupation as this group has had trouble coping with learning a new language.[8] 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 United States since their education, often in medicine and engineering, is frequently viewed as outdated.[8] After the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan's education system worsened, causing many migrants in the late 20th century to place less emphasis on educational attainment.[8]

Some of the latest Afghan immigrants can be found as vendors in Manhattan where they have replaced Greek Americans in the field.[25]

Notable people[edit]

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

Politics, academia and literature[edit]

Business and finance[edit]


Media and art[edit]

Afghan music singers[edit]

Beauty pageant contestants[edit]

Afghan royalty[edit]


America's longest war[edit]

A U.S. soldier with an Afghan American interpreter in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, a mosque run by Afghan-Americans in New York City donated blood, held a vigil for those who died inside the World Trade Center (WTC) and funded a memorial for NYC fire fighters.[37] Since late 2001, after the start of America's longest war, many Afghan-Americans have worked alongside the United States Armed Forces as interpreters, contractors and journalists. A number of them were wounded or killed while on duty inside Afghanistan.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: Afghan". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  2. ^ Ritter, John (September 19, 2001). "'Little Kabul' immigrants apprehensive". USA Today. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  3. ^ Jonathan H. X. Lee; Kathleen M. Nadeau (2011). Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 105–123. ISBN 978-0-313-35066-5. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  4. ^ "Afghan Christian Fellowship, Los Angeles". Archived from the original on 8 August 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  5. ^ a b Ahmadi, Mohammad. "First Afghan Hindu and Sikh Temple in Maryland a Cultural Bridge". VOA News. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b "U.S.: Afghan Jews Keep Traditions Alive Far From Home". Nikola Krastev. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). June 19, 2007. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  7. ^ "Private Mohammed Kahn: Civil War Soldier". June 23, 2017. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Tim Eigo (2006). "Afghan Americans". Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  9. ^ database, Registration Location: Los Angeles County, California; Roll: 1530899; Draft Board: 17
  10. ^ "In the Matter of K". Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). May 26, 1945. Retrieved 2019-10-12. According to the alien registration figures, there are less than 200 Afghans now living in the United States.
  11. ^ "Khan v. Barber". United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. March 11, 1958. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  12. ^ Matthew B. Stannard (August 21, 2009). "Fremont's Little Kabul eyes election with hope". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  13. ^ Daniel Greene (2004). "Afghans". Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: Afghan". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 14, 2020. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Vic Kovacs (15 December 2017). Life as an Afghan American. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-1-5383-2239-0.
  19. ^ "Embassy Celebrates Independence Day". Afghan Embassy news letter. August 2006. Archived from the original on June 17, 2010.
  20. ^ Robinson, Barbara; Lipson, Julian; Younos, Farid; Mehdi, Mariam (2002). The Afghans : their history and culture. Washington D.C.: Cultural Orientation Resource Center, Center for Applied Linguistics. pp. Chapter 5(B)- The People: The Tajiks and Other Dari-Speaking Groups. OCLC 56081073.
  21. ^ Daniel Perez, Anthony; Hirschman, Charles (March 2008). "The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the US Population: Emerging American Identities". Population and Development Review. 35 (1): 1–51. doi:10.1111/j.1728-4457.2009.00260.x. PMC 2882688. PMID 20539823. The racial codes used in Census 2000 (as well as current American Community Surveys) include “Afghanistani” under white, while the ancestry codes in the same document list “Afghan” under South Asia.
  22. ^ Zeweri, Helena (2011). "Afghan American: Identity". In Jonathan H. X. Lee (ed.). Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. ABC-CLIO. pp. 117–120. ISBN 978-0-313-35066-5. Some of Afghan ancestry might choose Middle Eastern as a way to self-identify, while others might pick Asian based on geographical understand of their ancestral lineage, and still others might pick white (non-Hispanic) because it rings truer to them from a racial classification point of view.
  23. ^ "Afghan Christian Fellowship, Los Angeles". Archived from the original on August 8, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  24. ^ "AFGHANI SIKH AND HINDU COMMUNITY PAY TRIBUTE TO THEIR BRETHREN SLAIN IN AFGHANISTAN". The Indian Panorama Newspaper. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  25. ^ Mirta Ojito (September 18, 1997). "The Face Behind the Bagel - Afghan Newcomers Use Coffee Carts to Succeed As Vendors of New York's Rush-Hour Breakfast". New York Times. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  26. ^ "M. Ishaq Nadiri, Faculty of Department of Economics – NYU". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  27. ^ "Nake M. Kamrany". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  28. ^ "Nake M. Kamrany, Ph.D., J.D." Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  29. ^ "Rising Muslim American leader in D.C. speaks for his generation". Washington Post. November 11, 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  30. ^ a b "Blue Jays: Pitcher Hinshaw comes from exotic background: DiManno". February 21, 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  31. ^ "Ahmad Hatifie Bio – UC Davis Official Athletic Site". Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  32. ^ "Authors". Fahim speaks. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  33. ^ Aman Mojadidi, Special to CNN (January 27, 2013). "An 'Afghan redneck' creates art in a war zone". CNN. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  34. ^ "Omar Akram". Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  35. ^ "Omar Akram". The GRAMMYs. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  36. ^ Nicole Gordon. "The PokerNews Profile: Hevad Khan". Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  37. ^ "BBC News - AMERICAS - Troubling times for Afghan-Americans". Retrieved March 17, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Aslami, Wajma. "The Impact of 9/11 on Afghan-American Leaders." Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship 15.1 (2010): 124+.
  • Baden, John Kenneth. "Through Disconnection and Revival: Afghan American Relations with Afghanistan, 1890-2016." (PhD Diss. Case Western Reserve University, 2018) online.
  • Cvetkovich, Ann. “Can the Diaspora Speak? Afghan Americans and the 9/11 Oral History Archive.” Radical History Review (2011), no. 111 (2011): 90-100.
  • Eigo, Tim. "Afghan Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014), pp. 17-30. online
  • Lipson, Juliene G., and Patricia A. Omidian. “Afghans.” In Refugees in America in the 1990s: A Reference Handbook, edited by David W. Haines. (Greenwood Press, 1996).
  • Thernstrom, Stephan, ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (1980) pp 3-5.

External links[edit]