This paper explores the contemporary identity of people who are defined as Arab in their passports in Afghanistan, and how they feel about it as it encompasses historical, cultural, and socio-political factors. Afghanistan is a country located in the south of Asia, and a nation known for its diverse ethnic makeup from different tribes, ethnicities, and races. There are different majority and minority ethnic groups in Afghanistan, and Arabs are one of the minority ethnic groups in this country. Afghanistan has been home to Arab communities for centuries, and Arabs form a distinct segment of the Afghan society. Moreover, the paper delves into the historical context of Arab people who migrated to Afghanistan. It investigates the different dynamics that influence the identity of Arab community formation, challenges, and opportunities associated with their identity in Afghanistan society.
To understand the contemporary identity of individuals who are defined as Arab in Afghanistan, one needs to engage in nuanced exploration which takes into account various perspectives and experiences within this society. We can reach the complexities and richness of Arab identity formation by delving into their lived experience and social interactions that contribute to a deeper understanding of Afghan society. This paper aims to analyze different primary and secondary sources such as interviews, scholarly articles, and online archives to shed light on the contemporary identity of individuals who are defined as Arab in Afghanistan.
The contemporary identity of people who are defined as Arab on their passports is an important factor in understanding the Arab community in Afghanistan. This literature review aims to find scholarly works and research studies that delve into the multi-faced or multi-ethnic nature of Arab identity and their relevance in their official documentation. This literature review seeks to shed light on the factors that shape Arab identity, its significance, as well as the implications for social integration and cohesion. There are different factors that shape this identity. These include historical and cultural influences on Arab identity, transnational connections and hybrid identities, challenges and opportunities of Arab identity, and the significance of Arab identity to individuals.
Firstly, several studies emphasize the historical and cultural contributions to Arab identity that influence the language, religion, cultural practices, and traditions. Arab language plays a significant role in shaping Arab identity and can be a means to preserve cultural heritage or create a sense of belonging. As Victor Turner notes in the introduction of his book on celebrations, “this book treats the ‘Arabs’ who emigrated to northern Afghanistan in the 19th century after the Russian conquest of Bokhara. Claiming descent from the conquering 8th-century Arab armies, they spoke only Persian and largely differed from other Central Asian pastoralists by a close integration into the Bokharan state” (p. 214).
Secondly, the contemporary Arab identity is characterized by transnational connections and hybrid identities that highlight the diasporic network, migration from one country into another, and globalization in shaping their identities. The mentioned connections maintain ties among individuals and create a sense of collective identity and intersection point for Arab people. They are all Sunni Muslims and obey the Islamic lifestyle of their dressing, acting, and eating. According to Joshua Project, “In addition to their Islamic beliefs, many practice Spiritism, practices that make use of charms and amulets. Such practices are frowned upon by orthodox Sunni Muslims” (paragraph 3).
Moreover, this paper discusses the challenges faced by individuals defined as Arab in their identity cards and the opportunities these people have regarding their identities. Finally, this paper emphasizes the personal importance of Arab identity to individuals in Afghanistan. The significance of Arab identity to an individual is a sense of pride, cultural connection, and maintaining a sense of belonging to a huge community.
The methodology for this paper involves qualitative data collection through observation and interviews of people from Arab tribes in Afghanistan to explore their feelings and their reactions toward this identity. These interviewees are three Arab Afghan citizens. Two of them are from urban areas of Kabul city and one is from a rural area in the north of Afghanistan. This paper adopts a qualitative research design as mentioned above that allows an in-depth understanding of emotions, perceptions, and subjective experiences to explore identity formation. Also, in this paper, participants who were selected for the interview are people who self-identify as Arab in Afghanistan. I chose to go for a purposive sampling asking questions from these participants to better understand the contemporary identity of these people in this country.
People from different age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographical locations were recruited to capture a representation of the Arab community. Unfortunately, due to new rules set by the Taliban concerning women, I could not find females to interview to ask their opinions and feelings regarding Arab identity. The interviews that I conducted with my participants allowed them to share their personal experiences, emotions, feelings, and perceptions related to the opportunities and challenges regarding Arab identity. On the other hand, it is essential to acknowledge some potential limitations during concerning the interviews and finding information to prove my claims. As I selectively chose the qualitative study sample, the findings in this paper are not generalizable to the whole Arab community in Afghanistan. Overall, this paper focused on qualitative research design through observation and interviews with people who self-identify as Arab in Afghanistan.
The contemporary identity of Arabs is a complex and multifaceted topic that discusses the historical, cultural, and multi-ethnic community of people who migrated from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan at the end of the 7th century. This paper aims to analyze how they feel and understand their identities, and does it matter to them to be called Arabs. Arab migration to Afghanistan can be traced to different historical contexts including the arrival of scholars and traders in different periods from the Golden Age to the 19th century. These migrations contributed to the development of Arab communities within the country with their unique traditions and practices. Among these traditions hospitality and modesty are the unique traditions of the Afghan people.
Over time, the Arab community in Afghanistan was influenced by the interactions with Afghan society that boost transnational connections and the process of identity formation. As Bivar (2011) claimed, “All these groups of Arabs had moved into Afghanistan across the Oxus during the 19th century, and again in greater numbers during the 1930s. The total of Arabs in Afghanistan is estimated to be as high as 100,000.” (p. 6). On the other hand, understanding how people defined as Arab feel about their roots is a crucial topic for comprehending their contemporary identity. According to the interviews that I conducted, some believe that it serves as a sense of pride to be called Arab due to the richness of their cultural and traditional heritage though it is essential to acknowledge that the contemporary identity of individuals who are defined as Arab is not without challenges and discrimination. (Ahmad Shoaib Sadat).
The contemporary identity of people who are defined as Arab in their identity cards or passports holds a significant meaning to them as it represents a sense of belonging, cultural heritage, and personal pride. Some of my interviewees believe that they originate from elite Arab families with values and honor, so they love to be called Arab as it is a pride for them. One of my interviewees, Sayeed Jalil Muradi, believed that calling them Arab instead of Afghan creates a sense of belonging and pride to the Arab communities, which is highly appreciated. Most Arabs believe that notions in about ethnicity in their passports refer to cultural heritage and create a sense of belonging that are valuable as they demonstrate their shared ancestral roots. They believe that this serves as a connection to a rich history, traditions, and language that have been passed through generations. Also, for some Arab people, the identity serves as a source of pride that shows they are celebrating their Arab values and traditions that connect them to the larger transnational Arab community in regions such as Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and Asian countries. In other words, Arab people feel pride as the identity facilitates them with a good connection as well as interactions with different Arabs tribes across the world within the country and across borders.
On the other hand, having the identity of Arab in Afghanistan has many challenges to compare with the opportunities it provides. One of my respondents in the interview pointed out that their identity has brought many obstacles in their lives, especially the lack of job opportunities in Afghanistan. While many people are taking pride in having an Arab identity, some navigate complex dual identities in order to balance their Arab heritage with their Afghan national identity cards. The Arab identity is subject to marginalization, discrimination, and creating additional complexities that my interviewees feel bad about. Some believe that labeling them as Arab in their national identity cards or passports leads to some obstacles and challenges like lack of job opportunities or discrimination. Mr. Hashmat claimed that “labeling as Arab would bring lots of challenges like discrimination”. He mentioned, “The disappointing thing is when we are treated as strangers in our own country”. (Sayeed Hamidullah Hashmat). The Arab identity matters to individuals by shaping their sense of belonging, cultural connections, and place in society in Afghanistan.
To conclude, this paper seeked to provide an overall understanding of the contemporary identity of people who defined Arabs in their passports in Afghanistan. Also, this paper explored identity formation, historical background, challenges, and opportunities for Arabs within the Afghan society. The literature reveals that the contemporary identity of people defined as Arab encompasses different historical and social-political factors that hold significant importance to individuals in providing a sense of belonging to a community. However, the existing challenges such as discrimination, marginalization, and language barriers are shaping the experience and perception of individuals who are defined as Arab in Afghanistan. This paper also seeks to contribute to the broader discourse on diversity, multi-ethnicity, and social cohesion within societies. The findings presented in this paper aim to show us the value and richness of culture in a diversified community. Overall, the Global History Lab course has forced me to write about my own tribe, so that I can find out who am I and why the Arab tribe of Afghanistan migrated from Saudi Arabia and how the way these people are threatened nowadays is not acceptable.
Bivar, A. D. H. (2011, March 15). The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan: Pastoral nomadism in transition. by Thomas J. Barfield. pp. XXII, 182. Austin, University of Texas Press, : Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society/article/abs/central-asian-arabs-of-afghanistan-pastoral-nomadism-in-transition-by-thomas-j-barfield-pp-xxii-182-austin-university-of-texas-press-1981-1460/B558BDE6F7D35A3A5DCB67E094EC712A
Joshua Project. Arab, Tajiki in Afghanistan. (n.d.) https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/15202/af
Victor Turner. Celebration: Studies in festivity and ritual. Anthrosource. (n.d.). https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/ae.1984.11.1.02a00220