September 1, 2017



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Why are individuals fleeing from Afghanistan?

Ongoing conflicts, economic instability, and violence within the country.  In 1979, the Soviet Union (now Russia) invaded Afghanistan, causing thousands of citizens to leave their homes and become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).  Now, most new arrivals from Afghanistan come through reunification programs (to join family) or on Special Immigration Visas (SIV) because they helped the U.S. military during war in Afghanistan.  As a result of involvement with the U.S. agencies, individuals become targets and no longer can peacefully live in their homes.

Primary language(s) in Afghanistan

(Statistics from “The World Factbook” on CIA website)

50% Dari (Afghan Persian)

35% Pashto (Official)

11% Turkic languages (Primarily Uzbek and Turkmen)

4% 30 minor languages

Religions in Afghanistan

(Statistics from

99.7% Muslim (Sunni majority and some Shi’a)

<1% Other Religions

Guidelines for Interacting with Afghan Refugees

What are some cultural differences?

  • Muslim Afghan refugees do not eat pork and other meat must be halal to be eaten.  “Halal” means that the meat has been prepared in a special way according to Islam, similar to Jewish Kosher meat.
  • It is common to eat meals while sitting on the floor.
  • Physical contact between genders is avoided.
  • Marriage is required for age eligible adults and divorce is not considered socially acceptable.

What are some resettlement considerations?

  • Families with 8+ members are common.
  • Female relatives usually care for a baby when the mother cannot, so formal daycare in the United States may seem strange and uncomfortable to new arrivals.
  • Caseworkers should suggest local stores that carry halal meat for Muslim refugees (ex. Al-Mustafa Market & Bakery on Sawmill Road).
  • Many Afghanis know English before they arrive in the U.S. due to former work with the U.S.
  • Many of the Afghani refugees are educated and had successful careers back home and may have trouble accepting low-level jobs in the U.S.
  • Caseworkers may have to explain to a husband that allowing his wife to drive will be helpful for the family (ex. taking the kids to school, going shopping, etc).
  • There are more than 350 Afghani individuals in the Columbus, Ohio area right now.

For home visits:

  • Males, even children, typically answer the door and interact with strangers before any women.
  • Access to women may be limited to a certain degree or in different ways.
  • It is customary to take off your shoes when entering a home.
  • Cultural norms surrounding pets are different.  In particular, dogs are considered dirty and are not kept as pets.
  • Physical contact between genders should be avoided (handshakes, hugs, etc.) unless initiated by the individual.
  • Female caseworkers talk to women only (at first).

Common Phrases (Dari)


Welcome: Salam

Hello: Salam; hello

How are you?: Ci hal dari?

Response: Xob, tasakor

Yes: Baleh

No: Ne

Thank you: Tasakor

Also – a video of greetings in Dari.

*This collection of information is neither perfect nor comprehensive.  Each culture is unique and cultural norms are diverse even among individuals from the same culture.  Additionally, the refugees from the following places are diverse, as is easy to see in the guidelines in this report.

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