The Diaspora: Afghans Living Abroad
Around 16 million Afghan peoples from Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan have left their homeland through the years settling in new lands like the Oman, UAE, Australia, Europe, the USA, and Canada. Some leave only temporarily to work and send money home to support their families while others settle long term. The Afghani people groups represented in the Gulf countries in the Middle East are primarily from among the Baluch, Hazara and Pashtun. There are over 2 million Afghan peoples living in the Arab Gulf countries. For example, the population in the UAE is around 7 million when counting 1.5 million laborers who are omitted from the census. Around 600,000 Afghans are among those 7 million. There are millions of Afghans living in the US and Canada. There are several hundred followers of Christ among them in the West where they have freedom to choose their faith without being persecuted or killed.
Why did they leave their homelands?
Afghani people groups left their homelands for a variety of reasons, but often to provide for their families. The Baluch, once a nomadic people, lost their traditional nomadic life-style being compelled to settle in villages throughout the deserts and mountains of their Central and South Asian countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran or have left their homeland to search for work in other countries. The military of Gulf Arab states recruited many Baluch men in the 1970s and 1980s. Hazara people often desire to seek a peaceful and safe environment for their families–free from wars and ethnic battles. They also leave to find places to start businesses without being surrounded by the persecution that is prevalent in their home communities. For the Pushtuns, it is usually just the men who come to work for several years with plans to return to their homeland as often as possible.
Where do they live?
While most of the Hazara in Afghanistan live in villages, most living in the Gulf Arab countries live in apartment buildings in or near the center of the city, or in industrial areas. Many of the Hazara and Baluch have their families living with them, but the Pashtun tend to be single or married men, coming and going yearly for work. Many Baluch live along the coastal areas of the Arabian Sea. Most of the 6-8 million Baluch live in the semi-arid Baluchistan province of Pakistan, adjoining southern Afghanistan, and South-eastern Iran. Around 1/4 million of them reside in the U.A.E. and 1/2 million of them live in Oman, some living in concentrated Baluch communities such as the ones in Um Al Quwain and Muscat while others are scattered throughout these countries. Many Hazaras and Pashtuns live in the U.A.E. cities of Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain.
Which languages do they speak?
The primary language of the Hazara is Hazaragi and Dari. Children being raised in the Gulf countries are also learning English, Arabic, Farsi, and sometimes Hindi. The Baluch in the middle east speak Baluchi, Urdu, and Arabic. Baluchi is part of the Indo-Iranic family of languages and is related to Kurdish. The Pashtun speak Pashto and Urdu or Dari (and some of the taxi drivers know some English or Arabic).
What do they believe?
The predominant religion of these people groups is Islam. The Hazara are a minority Shia Muslim, Turko-Mongol people, speaking a Persian language, from the high mountains of Central Afghanistan. The Hazara’s identity as a people is largely defined by their Islamic faith. Most Hazara believe that to be Hazara is to be Muslim – they cannot imagine any other alternative. While 85% of all Muslims, and virtually all the other major people groups of Afghanistan, are Sunni, the Hazaras are predominantly Shia. Only a few of the Afghan Diaspora living in the Gulf profess Christianity and there are no indigenous churches among them. Currently there are only a few people specifically engaging the Afghan Diaspora in the Gulf Arab States.
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