Faces & Stories of Diaspora

Capital District Afghan Families

Di • as • po • ra  — the dispersion of any people from their original homeland

I began traveling to Afghanistan early in 2003 where I fell in love with the Afghan people as they shared their lives with me and graciously offered me hospitality. In the next three years I have had the honor and privilege to meet and work with some of the over 3,000 Afghans who have settled in the capital district area.  These individuals came to this area as refugees because of persecution during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and later due to the continued unrest and internal factional fighting.  The stories of escape and survival — leaving family, friends and everything they love and know for an unknown outcome and finally reestablishing their lives in a new unfamiliar county — have seldom been publicly told.  The stories of people represented in this sample are the beginnings of a project to document the experiences of Afghans who have come to the United States under extreme circumstances and who now consider America a second home.

AJ — 1983 at age 6: “My father was in jail right before we left. As the Russian government took over militarily they put people in jail who had positions in the government. We fortunately had enough money to bribe the people from jail to get him out. Then we got on the first goat truck to escape to Pakistan.”

Alaha — “Because of what happened to my daughter I did not want to leave where my daughter was buried.” Four sons and a daughter left Afghanistan over the mountains to Pakistan. “I was left in Afghanistan with only one son …. If Afghanistan were safe I would go back.”

Hafiza — When she was a little girl she was dressed up as a boy to help her father in a convenience store. There were no sons so she was made to help. In 1945 her father died and she had a big party at age eleven and they made her a girl.  “As a human being, I am happy here, the way they are treating me. The government is helping me. I have Medicaid. I have my house, my family my grand children. We are safe here. I am happy because my children are happy here. The United States is a second country for me. I always pray for them. I miss my home so much, no one can take its place.”

Fahim — 1980 “After Soviet Union attack Afghanistan, I was very young [18years old]. I was a freedom fighter until the time I was caught …. we were in one jail for 4 days and nights with all kinds of torture …. The coup happened. I got out …. I find out by my teachers, they were looking for me again so I left Afghanistan, I went to Iran to Pakistan to India. I was in first group to apply as refugee to United States. We wait eleven months to be accepted. July 14, 1981 I came to Albany ….”

Please note this is an ongoing project. If you know of an Afghan family or are from Afghanistan and would like to participate in this on going project please contact Connie.

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