Freedom from the Forbidden

All things gender and Islam. No bigotry is allowed in this feminist territory. #DeathToPatriarchy

Pashtun Hospitality and Stuff

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been working with Afghan refugees (and non-refugees here and there, too), translating for them for different things. Apparently, there’s a strong Afghan community here, most coming in as refugees. When it comes to Pashtuns, I prefer the ones of Afghanistan to those of Pakistan. In my experience, however limited, the Afghan Pashtuns are more willing to re-adjust to new environments, far more willing to learn and understand; the Pakistani Pashtuns, in my experience, no so much. Spare me the torture of talking about my experience with the Pashtuns my family interacts with. Afghan Pashtuns are also more humble. I say this recognizing that our chances of being related or have some far mutual acquaintances are almost none, whereas a Pashtun from Pakistan … my God, we’re always somehow related. I mean, there’s this family from Peshawar that my family knows … and *somehow* … just somehow, we have mutual friends in Swat. That’s to say, when chances of our knowing each other are high, I’m less  likely to want to interact with them because honestly, every move a girl makes then becomes the subject of people’s conversations with each other. So since these Afghan Pashtuns likely will not have any relatives or friends in common with my family, my family is less likely to hear rumors about me from them! I mean, get this: A friend of mine had been recently engaged and this random Pakistani Pashtun woman tells her, “You better be careful now that I know your mother-in-law! I’ll be reporting to her about you!” We were like, “wtf?!”

And before anyone else jumps to say it, I’ll  do it for you: #notallpashtuns (or whatever hashtag would convey your point). Not all Pashtuns of Pakistan are like that and not all Pashtuns of Afghanistan are like that. But if you think that’s the point here, you’re not in the right place.

Anyway, so the point is that I love working with Pashtuns.

This one family I met for dinner last night, I met them a while ago for a translation task (not one of the refugee ones I work with). They’re from Afghanistan, and the husband had migrated to Swat as a refugee. We were living in the same village for years and didn’t know it! He has fond memories of Swat and the people of Swat, and he swears that he owes so much to Swati people because of how kind and generous they were to him that he is going to bestow all his generosity on ME in return! (Thanks, o’ people of Swat!) Wonderful family. May God bless them and those itty bitty kids (& sn older one) of theirs with much love, happiness, and peace, aameen!

So, yeah. I wuz at this family’s and they wuz good to me. The food, naturally, was totes delish, and they gave me a whole bunch of stuff to take home #blush Including home-made yogurt, one of my favorite kinds of rice (Kabuli palao), lots of cooked vegetables (#blushagain), and some healthy snacks. Look, all I’m saying is … I don’t always get to eat real food, so it felt awesome doing so 😀 God reward them for their generosity!

They were skyping with family in Afghanistan and I joined in. They were so happy 🙂 So was I. Beautiful people! At first, it was just the family’s sister. Then we hung up and some time later, they called back – this time around, the family’s mom wanted to speak with me. It was a pleasure. Was a touching moment because you have these random people who met by chance who speak the same language and understand each other’s cultures and many experiences and who can relate to each other on deep levels because of those experiences. I’m looking forward to a beautiful friendship with them!

They have these white American neighbors who are so loyal to them they all consider each other family members. It warms my heart that they have a community, that they have people who love them and whom they love, that they feel at home in each other’s presence – that they have families who are always there for them and that they, as immigrants, do not feel alone and homesick. Being an immigrant, especially if new, is really painful, and it’s particularly difficult for the older generations. We children adapt to the new environment easily; we may even start accepting it as our own in no time. But it’s not like that for the parents. So I am really, really happy that this one family’s experience as immigrants isn’t as painful as what I’ve seen with other Pashtun immigrants. God bless them.

And speaking of Afghans in this city, I’ve been asked if I could mentor a young Afghan girl whose family has just migrated a couple of weeks ago. When I read about her experience at the new school the first couple of days, my heart screamed for her. Later on, I’ll write about my own experience as an immigrant back in 98-99, the first couple of years of nothing less than hell, but when I read about this little girl’s … I was reminded of my own, and it felt like  I was re-living my own experiences. But if this whole mentorship thing works out and I end up working with this girl I’d be happiest to know and mentor for as long as necessary, I’ll blog about it.

Just excited to be speaking Pukhto with people much more frequently than I’m used to!! And to be meeting people with beautiful hearts!

Humanity can be so good when it wants to be. Keep it up!

Categories: Afghans, beauty, friendships, Pashtuns

Tags: ,

20 replies

  1. Good read it. Pashtun culture fascinates me. 😀 . I wish to meet real pashtun people. I wish to study some course dealing with gender or cultural identities,sexual orientations or identities, etc in America.. Oohh ok Ok I should stop… I am writing bakwaas.. 😛 Thats not possible for me. 😀 😀


    • Glad to hear! We do have a beautiful culture – like all other people out there. Lemme know if you’ve any questions about us. I like pretending I know much about us!


  2. ummm… ok please clarify these points.
    :: Are Pathan and Pashtun people same? In India many call themselves Pathans (I know that most of them just pretend to be 😛 )
    :: Pastun people speak ‘farsi’ ?? I mean their native language??
    :: Dari and farsi are same or two diifferent languages??
    :: And please clarify the maslaa if ‘pay’ and ‘fay’. I heard that in farsi (persian) there is no letter equivalent to ‘p’..
    Thank you.


    • Thanks for the questions!
      1. For the first question, on difference between “Pathan” and “Pashtun,” see my About section on this blog. It’s at the top of this page with other tabs.
      2. No. Pashtuns speak Pashto as their native language. But some Pashtuns in Afghanistan speak a dialect of Farsi/Persian called Dari. (Pashtuns are divided through a boundary called the Durand Line between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pashtuns of Pakistan speak Pashto *and Urdu* if educated because Urdu is imposed on all Pakistanis as the national language. The Pashtuns of Afghanistan do Dari instead of Urdu. Needless to say, it’s possible that people from either country may know languages across the border.)
      3. So, yeah – Dari is a form of Farsi.
      4. There’s no Fay/F in spoken Pashto; it exists in written Pashto. I don’t like using F when talking in Pashto. It feels like I’m forcing an unnatural sound into my native tongue – because it is unnatural to the language. Supposedly educated people who want to feel important and educated and think they’re better than the rest use F as if that’s the educated thing to do. Pfff.


    • no wonder why instead of Yousafzai, they spell it Ewsapzai or Isapzai, which to me sounds weird until i get how they can’t use the F….


  3. Thank you for your reply. May Allah reward you.
    I thought Pashto and farsi are same. Thanks for clearing this doubt.
    And can you plz tell me what to call elder sister in pashto like in urdu we call ‘aapa’ ‘aapi’ ‘baaji’ , etc. And can i call you that?? 🙂

    And one more request I visited your blog on Islam and Gender segregation. There were one or two posts regarding sexual orientation and all.
    I want to read more on such issues.
    Do you have more posts?? or can you just parovide the link to such posts?

    Maazrat!! I write very long comments.



    • Call me Orbala. That’s sufficient.
      For more on readings on that topic, see the tab on this blog called Books on Islamic Feminism (general category but includes lots on homosexuality and sexuality in general).

      No need to apologize; I welcome long comments!


  4. The mentorship sounds like a beautiful thing and you are really doing a good thing, so try and not be nervous. I understand you are but try not to be :). The resettling experience of someone seeking refuge is very misunderstood… people who have never experienced this just think ‘oh, you’re safe now so what’s the problem’ and the resettling can be quite traumatic for people actually. PTSD often rears up when you are in a place of safety because it is safe enough to feel the fear, remember the awful things and to grieve. And on top of that; dislocation, loss of status, etc compounds things.
    And that is for adults.. to be a kid is unimaginable to me. I hope you do work with her and you support each other. All the best!


    • Not nervous, just not impressed with the way some of the folks have been going around requesting my translation services. They're really rude about it. A part of me wants to tell them, "You stinkies, the ONLY reason I'm doing this is for the kids, not for you all!" I can't claim to know what it's like to be a refugee (assuming the kids I'll be mentoring are refugees), but I know what it's like to be a foreigner and feel torn apart and hate the new environment and want to go back home to familiarity and love and community and respected identity …

      I'm meeting the school folks next week, and inshaAllah it'll go well.
      Thanks for the love and support, jaan!


  5. Rural Pashtuns tend to be more hospitable than urban pashtuns and hold the code of Pashtunwali.

    In Afghanistan, alot of Pashtuns in the southern area of the country tend to be rural like…
    Alot of them might be Ghilzais (or Baitanri, the 2nd largest group of Pashtuns, followed by Sarbans)

    I’m pretty sure Pashtuns from FATA may be more similar to Afghan Pashtuns….
    I knew a Mehsud that one said he disliked KPK Pashtuns because they acted obnoxious due to their better status. Maybe part of the reason why they want Pashtunistan and instead stay with Pakistan because they do not want to unite with the poorer Pashtuns in FATA and Afghanistan….

    In KPK, the pashtuns have a better economic standing and tend to adopt an urbanized way of life and therefore seem less hospitable…. I mean, City life was a thing for Persians and Hinkowans (a branch of Punjabis) but Pashtuns moving into cities is a trend…..

    The well of Abdalis vs Ghilzai, an old feud in Afghanistan but i am not sure if this runs through Pakistan as well…. Abdalis ruled thrown from the Ghilzai Hotak and have better economic status, and are more integrated into the Persian-Tajik population. Some forgot Pashto in place of Persian. No different from KPK Pashtuns integrated with other Pakistanis…


    • That may or may not be true – that rural ones tend to be more hospitable than non-rural. I’ve had good and bad experiences with (in)hospitality with both, but it’d make sense that rural ones are better at keeping their cultural norms because they have stronger, more intimate ties to their nativeness than those of us more immersed in contemporary changes/technology,etc.


  6. Assalaam Aleikum!
    Thank you for this post, Orbala.
    Today, I was catching up on reading my local neighbourhood newspaper, after vacationing for two weeks and being away from home. (Several stops, and I visited my granbaby 🙂 )
    There was an article by the local Red Cross chapter asking for volunteers to help with re-settling Afghani refugees – New Zealand has an association with Bamiyan Province, due to the NZDF being stationed there for a while, doing ‘peacekeeping’ duties. One group of young Afghani families have already been re-settled, and another group is about to arrive.
    I had thought I might know too little, have too little in the way of personal resources, to be able to assist in this call-out for locals to help. You have made me see that I have some resilience, some knowledge, and a whole heap of humility and compassion, that could serve well in this instance.
    I will send them an e-mail and see what I can do, you have inspired me 😀


    • OH! I’m so glad to hear that, Anar! ❤ It's been a great experience! The refugee services here has been working on developing ESL classes for the women, and watching those women express enthusiasm and willingness to learn the language and be able to stand on their own feet has been such a heart-warming sight! I only translate and, every once in a blue while, offer some cultural insight into why they do or not do what the refugee services expects and requires them to do (e.g., why the men don't bring their wives to the orientations!). It's really beautiful.

      I know you'll enjoy it a lot! Lemme know how it all goes! 🙂


    • Bamiyan is Persian(Tajik) province in Afghanistan.

      Us Persians of Afghanistan are more like Iranians than nomadic Pashtuns, we’re culturally poles apart, let alone our huge cultural difference with pakis, so orbala can’t give proper advice for us

      btw it is not “Afghani”, we can be called “Afghanistani” or Khurasani(Afghan is only for pashtuns) but we highly prefer to be addressed as Tajiks or just Persians, that is our actual identity.

      Bamiyan people are very civil, they should fit in western society with ease.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That last statement of yours is so unnecessary and so patronizing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love Anti-Pashtun tajiks…. they speak truth that Afghan ONLY means Pashtun and Pathan people….

      I disagree with those other Afghans who are not Pashtun and are ignorant about history…

      His Story, nobody ever talks about Her story


    • No, Afghan doesn’t mean Pashtun only. Afghan means both Pashtun (of Pakistan and Afghanistan) *and* all nationals of Afghanistan, including Tajiks. And the dude’s wrong – no one uses Khorasani for non-Pashtuns of Afghanistan.


    • You just contradicted yourself, either Afghan is just ethnicity or a nationality; if paki pashtun are afghan then we are not.

      Also you are out of touch with reality, I don’t think you have even been to Afghanistan, you like other Paki pashtuns think you know more about my country and my people then you do.

      The reality is that there is a lot of contention around Afghan identity, in Afghanistan, we only refer to Pashtuns as Afghan, and Pashtuns refer to call us Tajiks/Farsiwans, they also address Hazaras,Uzbeks,Turkmens,Nuristanis etc just by their ethnic names, in Afghanistan there is almost no national Afghan identity, this we’ve had so many ethnic civil wars, my leader Ahmed Shah Massoud Baba never called himself Afghan, he was Panjshiri Tajik and proud one, he didn’t die for nothing.

      Please read this about the current affairs of the country

      A Pashtun General in ANA also recently said only Pashtuns are Afghan and that rest of us should go to hell, he insisted we just be called “Afghanistani”, so it’s just us but Pashtuns who insist that Afghan=Pashtun, which I have no problem with because I don’t want to lose my Persian identity, same thing with other minorities who do not want to be erased by Pashtun majority.

      Whenever I meet Pashtun they just say “we’re all Afghan and no other ethnicity exist”, they tell us to forget our history and ethnicity and consider ourselves Afghan only, that is ludicrous imo and will never happen.

      The only solution is name change of Afghanistan which many non-Pashtuns want; the name should be Ariana or Khorasan(our historical name before Afghanistan’s creation by colonialist).

      If name is not changed then only divorce is solution, but I still give chance for more inclusive national identity to be formed.

      “And the dude’s wrong – no one uses Khorasani for non-Pashtuns of Afghanistan.”

      What do you know about me or my people?Khorasani is what Tajiks are called, it is what we are and take pride in it -other minorities like Uzbeks/Turkmens are called Turks, and Hazaras are also considered Persian, so I don’t know what you mean; read about Khorasan, it was country that existed before Afghanistan was even a thing.

      You can believe what you will, but don’t dare tell me I am “wrong” about my identity, who are you?just another outsider interfering in our affairs, which is very typical of porkistanis/pashtuns etc trying to be extra smart.


    • No contradiction there: It’s a fact that all Pashtuns are Afghans (given the history of this term), whether on the Pakistan side or the Afghanistan side of the border. That is, “Afghan” is both an ethnic identity marker and a national one. For Pashtuns of Afghanistan, it’s definitely both; for those of Pakistan, it’s only ethnic. BUT, obviously, all Afghans aren’t ethnically Pashtun because the term Afghan today simply means a national of Afghanistan, and that includes everyone, including Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, and other peoples in the country. Identity isn’t as simple as either being one or the other; this is what makes the whole “Are you Pakistani or Afghan?” question so frustrating and so dumb when asked of Pakistani Pashtuns, especially by Pukhtun nationalists who’ll determine where your loyalties lie based entirely on your answer.

      LOLz @ not dare tell you you’re wrong. I’ll tell anyone they’re wrong when they’re wrong. If you don’t like being told you’re wrong, stop being wrong. You were wrong when you said all non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan use “Khorasani” to identify themselves; that’s false info right there. People in Afghanistan use Afghan to identify themselves, whether they’re Pashtun or Tajiks or Hazara or anyone else.

      A friend of mine had predicted you’d return with some anger issues; I was like naaah, this good Tajik boy wouldn’t do that! Keep up using words like “Porkistan” and your attitude, and you will no longer have the privilege of being heard on my blog.

      Peace, bruh!

      P.S. FYI: So much of the info you’ve provided is false (but I don’t deny the racism and prejudice that you must face as a Tajik; I’ve no right to say that’s not true – and it’s not okay that anyone has to be denied of the right to be called whatever they want and are), but I’m gonna pass on commenting on it. Not worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

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