• Afghan Refugees from Afghanistan are arriving mainly through the Special Immigrant Visa program. This grants those who have aided or worked with the American military the opportunity to be resettled in the United States. The SIV program was to be closed in 2015, but it has been extended to include 3,000 more visas.
Culture and Religion
• Population estimates in 2014 neared 32 million people.
• The country has a rich mix of ethnicities divided into four main tribes: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, and Uzbek. Smaller tribes include Aimak, Turkmen, Baloch and others.
• Islam is the major religion in Afghanistan, with the majority of the population Sunni Muslim, followed by Shi’a Muslim.
• The official languages of Afghanistan are Dari (Afghan Persian/Farsi) and Pashto. Turkic languages (Uzbek and Turkmen) are also spoken as well as several other minor languages. Bilingualism is very common in the country.
• Family is of the utmost importance to Afghans, and the roles of men and women are very traditional. Women manage the home while men work to provide for their families.
• Marriages are typically arranged, and factors such as tribe, status, and wealth play into the arrangement.
Adjusting to Life in America
• Americans may not realize that deeply religious Muslims pray five times a day, and because of this, our Afghan refugees may continue this practice once in America.
• For some Aghans weekends are recognized as Thursday and Friday so they may be used to businesses being closed on those days.
• Afghans celebrate Ramadan, which is their holy month. It usually falls sometime between June and August. They fast from dawn to dust and are permitted to work no more than six hours a day. They fast from food, drink, smoking, and gum.
• Hospitality is an essential part of Afghan culture, and Americans may be surprised at the treatment they receive when in an Afghan’s home. When invited in, expect tea and snacks, most times the best of what the family has. Your cup will be continually refilled. If invited for dinner, know that leaving some food on the plate signals your host that you have finished eating; a clean plate is an invitation for more food!
• Afghans will not be accustomed to the more revealing dress of Americans as they dress very modestly. Women wear the hijab, or head covering, when in public or around men.
• Afghans will operate on “Arab time” once they arrive. The punctuality of Western life is not what they are used to so they may be late according to Western time. They are also not accustomed to the Western style of planning social events for future dates and times as they are used to more spontaneous get togethers.