Afghan Americans

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For Pashtuns in the United States, see Pashtun American.
Afghan American
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Total population
Regions with significant populations
California, Northern Virginia, New York, Florida
American English, Dari (Afghan Persian), Pashto and other languages of Afghanistan[2]
Predominantly Islam
Minorities of Judaism[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.

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 refugee status 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. In Chicago, the 2000 census counted 556 Afghan natives, approximately half of them within the city.[7]

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.[8] According to the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC, the over-all Afghan population in the United States in 2011 is around 300,000.[9] While 30,000 reside in Northern Virginia, approximately 65,000 Afghans comprise the diaspora community based in the San Francisco Bay Area.[9] Some figures estimate that there may only be about 80,000 Afghan-Americans but the actual number may be 200,000[10] to as high as 300,000.[9] There are also an estimated 10,000 Afghan Americans in Southern California.[1]


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]

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.

Most Afghan Americans are Muslim, the majority of whom follow Sunni Islam. The ethnic Hazaras and Qizilbash are the only ones who follow Shia Islam. A small number of Tajiks follow Ismailism.

There is a community of Afghan Jews in New York City, numbering about 200 families in 2007.[3] In addition, a group of Afghan Americans in the Los Angeles area follow Christianity.[12] 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.[13]

Economic status[edit]

Other than in Northern California, Northern Virginia and New York City, Afghan Americans are generally found residing near other middle class Asian Americans throughout the country. Smaller number may be found living in upper middle class neighborhoods among non-Asian Americans. Because most Afghan Americans were first admitted to the United States lawfully as refugees under 8 U.S.C. § 1157, the government provided assistance and selected their city of residence. Some decided to move to other cities that had Afghan communities but most remained in the cities where they first arrived. They gradually left the welfare system (public assistance) and eventually purchased their own homes. Some found suitable jobs while others decided to build or franchise small businesses.

Afghan immigrants that arrived to the United States before 1979 were well-educated.[4] 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.[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 United States 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 did not seek higher education often entered into owning or franchising small businesses. They mainly got involved in the food industry by operating Afghan cuisine restaurants[14] and American fast food establishments such as Kennedy Fried Chicken. Some of the latest Afghan immigrants can be found as venders in Manhattan where they have replaced Greek Americans in the field.[15]

Smaller number of Afghans have entered the professions of medicine, law and engineering. Others became real estate agents and used car dealers while some found employment with the government.

Notable Afghan Americans[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]

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

Afghan music singers[edit]

Beauty pageant contestants[edit]

Afghan royalty[edit]

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


America's longest war[edit]

Further information: America's longest war
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.[30] 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. ^ a b "Afghan Community: Afghan American Demographics". Allied Media Corp. 
  2. ^ H. X. Lee, Jonathan, ed. (2011). "Afghan Americans". Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 105–123. ISBN 978-0-313-35067-2. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  3. ^ 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 2013-09-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Eigo, Tim. Countries and their Cultures. "Afghan Americans." 2006. July 6, 2007. [1]
  5. ^ a b 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. ^
  8. ^ "Total Ancestry Reported". 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c Afghan Diaspora[dead link]
  10. ^ USA Today, 'Little Kabul' immigrants apprehensive (2001)
  11. ^ Afghan Embassy news letter
  12. ^ "Afghan Christian Fellowship, Los Angeles". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Discover Countries - Afghanistan". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Mazadar offers a homespun homage to Afghanistan’s food culture". The Washington Post. August 6, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. 
  15. ^ The Face Behind the Bagel; Afghan Newcomers Use Coffee Carts to Succeed As Vendors of New York's Rush-Hour Breakfast
  16. ^ "M. Ishaq Nadiri, Faculty of Department of Economics - NYU". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "Nake M. Kamrany". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Nake M. Kamrany, Ph.D., J.D.". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  19. ^ "Rising Muslim American leader in D.C. speaks for his generation". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  20. ^ "Tribeca man returns home to help Afghan widows". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  21. ^ a b "Blue Jays: Pitcher Hinshaw comes from exotic background: DiManno". 21 February 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  22. ^ "Ahmad Hatifie Bio - UC Davis Official Athletic Site". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Mustafa Haidari". IMDb. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "Authors". Fahim speaks. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  25. ^ "Ali Olomi". IMDb. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  26. ^ Aman Mojadidi, Special to CNN (27 January 2013). "An 'Afghan redneck' creates art in a war zone". CNN. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  27. ^ "Omar Akram". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "Omar Akram". The GRAMMYs. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  29. ^ Nicole Gordon. "The PokerNews Profile: Hevad Khan". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  30. ^ "BBC News - AMERICAS - Troubling times for Afghan-Americans". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 

External links[edit]