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Afghan American
Z Khalilzad.jpgLina Rozbih in 2008.jpg
George and Laura Bush with Khaled Hosseini in 2007 detail2.JPGAli Ahmad Jalali.jpg
Zalmay Khalilzad • Lina Rozbih
Khaled HosseiniAli Ahmad Jalali
Total population
Regions with significant populations
West Coast, Northeast, South

American English, Persian (Dari), Pashto, Uzbek, and other languages in Afghanistan


Predominately Muslim

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.[2] Due to the political borders at that time period, some of these immigrants may have been Pashtuns from British India (present-day Pakistan) or Afghanistan.[2] During the 1930s and 1940s, well-educated Afghans entered America.[2] Between 1953 and early 1970, 230 migrated into the US.[2] Some of those who entered the United States were 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, Australia, and else where in the world.

Those who made it to 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.[3] Smaller Afghan American communities also exist in the states of Texas, Illinois, Florida, Washington and elsewhere.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 65,972 Afghan-Americans living in the country. According to the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC, the over-all Afghan population in the United States is around 300,000.[4] While 30,000 reside in Northern Virginia, approximately 65,000 Afghans comprise the diaspora community based in the San Francisco Bay Area.[4] Some figures estimate that there may only be about 80,000 Afghan-Americans but the actual number may be 200,000[5] to as high as 300,000.[4] Nevertheless, such higher figures may be an exaggeration, as a recent census from early 2000s found approximately 9,000 of Afghan ancestry living in New York metro area, considerably lower than the 20,000 regularly cited.[6] Although, the 300,000 figure is a commonly accepted number. Flushing, Queens has a substantial amount of Afghan Americans.


Although the majority of Afghans have assimilated into the American way of life, 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.[2]

Religious background

The overwhelming majority of Afghan Americans are Muslim, which includes both Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. There is a small community of Afghan Jews in New York City, numbering about 200 families[7] 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." [7]

Economic status

While the early immigrants were well-educated, the subsequent waves of migrants have not been as educated.[2] The first immigrants came to the US by choice and were well-educated.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2] After the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan's education system worsened, causing many migrants in the late 20th century to place less emphasize on educational attainment.[2]

In almost every Afghan American household someone is attending or has graduated college. 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 Fried Chicken.[8] The newcomers to America can be sometimes found vending coffee and bagels in Manhattan where they have replaced Greek Americans in the field.[9]

Notable Afghan Americans

Khaled Hosseini at the White House in 2007, with Bush and Laura Bush.
Vida Zaher-Khadem and Baktash Zaher-Khadem worked on the movie FireDancer.
Farhad Darya recording a song.

Politics and academia

Business and finance


Media and art


Beauty Queens from Afghanistan


After 9/11, 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.[10] Since late 2001, after the U.S. war in Afghanistan, large numbers of Afghan-Americans work for the U.S. government as translators and others. Many of them lost their lives in the war, the same way US soldiers have.

Victims of hate crimes

Despite that the September 11, 2001 hijackers were unrelated to Afghanistan, Afghan-Americans have increasingly faced discrimination in the United States after that events of that year. For instance, a few weeks after September 11, Nathan Chandler Powell murdered Afghan-American filmmaker Jawed Wassel.[11] Powell attacked Wassel with a cue stick and then stabbed him with a kitchen knife, beheading him and placing Wassel's head inside a freezer.[12] Powell was later caught with Wassel's mutilated body in his van, while trying to dispose of evidence en route to Beth Page Park in Long Island, New York.[13] Powell later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years.[14][15]

Also around the same time, an individual went on a shooting rampage in Mesa, Arizona, where he shot at a home owned by an Afghan-American.[16] Additionally, vandals defaced an Afghan restaurant with red liquid intended to appear as blood.[17] Moreover, the Afghan Mission to the UN received a letter that contained quotes from Osama Bin Laden along with a dried pig's ear.[17]

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.[18][19] 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".[20]

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.[21] In 2006, the ACLU claimed victory as Aziz ultimately received his citizenship.[22]

See also


  1. ^ "S0201. Selected Population Profile in the United States; Population Group: Afghan (600)". 2006 American Community Survey. United States Census Bureau.;ACS_2006_EST_G00_S0201PR:501;ACS_2006_EST_G00_S0201T:501;ACS_2006_EST_G00_S0201TPR:501&-qr_name=ACS_2006_EST_G00_S0201&-qr_name=ACS_2006_EST_G00_S0201PR&-qr_name=ACS_2006_EST_G00_S0201T&-qr_name=ACS_2006_EST_G00_S0201TPR&-ds_name=ACS_2006_EST_G00_&-TABLE_NAMEX=&-ci_type=A&-redoLog=true&-charIterations=463&-geo_id=01000US&-format=&-_lang=en. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Eigo, Tim. Countries and their Cultures. "Afghan Americans." 2006. July 6, 2007. [1]
  3. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, Fremont's Little Kabul eyes election with hope, August 21, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Afghan Diaspora
  5. ^ USA Today, 'Little Kabul' immigrants apprehensive (2001)
  6. ^ New York Afghans Divided
  7. ^ a b U.S.: Afghan Jews Keep Traditions Alive Far From Home
  8. ^ The New York Times - KFC v. KFC
  9. ^ The Face Behind the Bagel ; Afghan Newcomers Use Coffee Carts to Succeed As Vendors of New York's Rush-Hour Breakfast
  10. ^ BBC. Troubling Times for Afghan Americans. 2001. July 6, 2007
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ New York Daily News, Gory Killing Of Afghan Filmmaker, October 7, 2001.
  13. ^ New America Media, Afghan American Filmmaker Leaves Eloquent Legacy, February 11, 2003.
  14. ^ New York Supreme Court, 2003-07645 People v Powell, Nathan (PDF) October 7, 2008.
  15. ^ An American Trying to Recall His Early Roots in Afghanistan
  16. ^ Human Rights News. "Stop Hate Crimes Now." 2001. July 21, 2007
  17. ^ 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. [3]
  18. ^ NBC 11 News. "Assaults On Bay Area Muslims On Rise." 2007. July 21, 2007. [4]
  19. ^ San Francisco Chronicle. 2007. July 21, 2007
  20. ^ Lisa Fernandez. 100 turn out in Fremont for "Wear a Hijab/Turban Day" Oakland Tribune, November 13, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
  21. ^ Lawyers and Settlements. "US Governments." 2007. July 21, 2007
  22. ^ American Civil Liberties Union. "ACLU/SC Wins Citizenship for Seven." 2006. July 21, 2007. [5]

External links


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