“But You Don’t Look Afghan?”

Oh, that skin-crawling, gut-wrenching, piss-off of a statement myself and my countrymen get from time to time. One time, I got, “But you’re not dark.” Ok moron.

Look, I know the media makes us all look the same. I know that from an outsiders standpoint, Afghans are just brown people with brown hair and brown eyes and brown skin.

And there are many Afghans who fit that phenotype. BUT GUESS WHAT. THERE ARE ALSO A LOT WHO DON’T.

This post was inspired by something really stupid that happened last night:

I saw a really ignorant comment on a friends post. She is an ethnic Pashtun and gets mistaken for white, European, Anglo, whatever the hell you wanna call it. Well, she was wearing traditional clothing in the picture and someone who presumptuously thought she is “white” commented, inquiring if she was “culture-appropriating”.

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT. NOT ALL “BROWN PEOPLE” ARE ACTUALLY BROWN. Many, and I mean MANNYYYYY of us come out with “white” features. My mother was born with red hair, my youngest aunt with blonde, and my father with green eyes. And these features are NOT limited to Afghanistan; Iranians, Arabs, Desis, pretty much anywhere in our region, there are MANY people who wouldn’t get a second look from TSA.

“White” looking Afghans are not a phenomenon, they just don’t fit the stupid Western stereotypical phenotype of “those people over there” and so, are gazed at in awe.

Well, get the hell over it. For Gods sake, WE PUT CAUCASIAN ON OUR DOCUMENTS. They exist. And here are some pictures to prove it.

haz2 afghanman_arte kalash_1486002c pahuten redhair

Then there’s those on the other side of the argument. Those who whitewash our histories and constantly put up pictures on their FB and Instagram pages of ONLY Afghans who have red and blonde hair. I have seen countless “Afghan pride” pages on Instagram with photos of people who look nothing like me. Why you tryna fit in so bad? Why can’t we celebrate the diversity of ALL Afghans, no matter their hair or eye color?

But I guess I understand that desire to “prove our whiteness”. Technically speaking, Afghans are Aryans, Caucasians. This fact is really only known to the people from this region, and it still weirds me out that I put “White” on my records. BUT IT IS WHAT IT IS.

My points, summed up:

  1. People need to understand that the media tries to box Middle Eastern and Central Asian Muslims in little stupid categories and looks. They do this to further a racist, policing agenda thats pushed by colonial, military governments. They do this so it is an Us-versus-Them thing; as in, “See! the enemy looks nothing like you!” But SURPRISE! As these pictures show, the “enemy” can look just like you, and ya daddy.
  2. Race is socially-constructed. In high school I used to love reading about the different “stocks” of people and was so about that Aryan life. I used to always love throwing it out there that Afghans were “white”, because it challenged people’s notions of race. But after I did a DNA test and found my ethnic makeup to be tremendously mixed, I got over that shit. I could care less that we’re Caucasian.
  3. However, this does not mean we must abide by the fixed stereotypical phenotype the Western media has imposed on us. If, for educational reasons, we must dig into and prove our “white” past – so be it. If that means some ignorant moron who thinks we all look like Osama will open their eyes to our diversity, then I’m all for plastering photos of blonde Afghans all over social media.
  4. All of this should not be done to put our brown brothers and sisters down. Afghans have all sorts of skin tones – and they’re all beautiful. I tan my skin on purpose for Gods sake. Many Afghans have dark skin too, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Afghans are some of the most phenotypically-diverse people on earth. As the crossroads of empires, along the Silk Road, and as the heart of Asia, of course we’re all gonna look like a United Colors of Benetton ad. When our non-Afghan friends get this, then we’ve made a small stride towards breaking the stereotype. And that’s always good.







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36 Responses to “But You Don’t Look Afghan?”

  1. Hersho Barazi

    Very true with a lot of countries that have high mountain populations…my whole life I was white…it is the funniest thing when people look at me in confusion and even laugh because they thought I cracked a joke when I say…I’m Arabic or Kurdish…
    My family is the prime example of diversity among us…
    I have light brown hair, brown eyes, light skin.
    My brother has black hair, black eyes, so dark that there has been instances of people who walked by him and said “wud up n$&@a?” Or my favorite: group of bloods said “what’s up blood” to him on the Venice board walk…
    Hey guy, he is wearing his red lifeguard shorts because he is on duty…
    My sister has brown hair, bluest eyes iv seen. Fair skin
    Youngest is blonde hair, blue eyes, white….

    4 of us walking looked like we had 4 different mothers…maybe the same uncle or something….

    Yup, but I don’t look Arab….

    • Emilio Estevez

      D-do you not know whether you’re arabic or kurdish?

      In any case middle easterners are physically diverse the same as europeans.

      Charles Boustany and Darrell Issa are both pure Lebanese-American yet Issa is olive skinned like Danny Trejo while Boustany is pale like Robert Rodriguez.

  2. Elham

    Absolutely True Ms. Madinna.
    Recently I stalked you in IG ( Classyladyofficial ) is my account. I checked some of your posts, and they are awesome. Now while reading your this article it made me smile, because I have the same problem here in our own country. we belong to a Tajik family, and my parents look like Tajiks, but my siblings look like Pashtoons, and I somehow look like Hazara people. So, when people ask me if I am Hazara, and I say NO they think that am avoiding to reveal my nationality. lol even though if I would be Hazara I would proudly reveal it. BTW, these are common problems with rare or probably NO solutions. Thanks for the awesome articles. Would love to read such articles in the future as well.

  3. Sana

    I cannot believe I stumbled onto this blog. Your articles touch on so many of the issues that I have been articulating to my friends and family for years. Will share this blog heavily. This post hit close to home. I’ve definitely felt this within the afghan community in US, when other afghans would say “you don’t look afghan” to me 😉

  4. Hi, read up on some books on your race. You are descendants of the Nordic race mixed with the natives of that area.

    • Black Science Man

      Aryan isn’t necessarily Nordic. The blond gene originated among the Finnic speaking populations of northeastern Europe 10,000 years ago. Blue eyes and green eyes originated among Indo-Europeans along the Black sea around the same time. Linguistic evidence finds that the modern Finnish words for south and slave (orja and orija) are likely derived from ancient conflicts between Finns and the Indo-Europeans, who more than likely referred to themselves with a word which was ancestral to the Vedic/Gathic word “Arya/Aryan”.

      Ancient Proto-Indo-Europeans would have been mostly brown haired, blue eyed people while the Finns were blond haired, brown eyed. Warfare and other interactions between the two would have necessarily spread the genes around during the thousands of years they were neighbors until Aryans discovered chariot technology and the Aryan population exploded in number for whatever reason, resulting in Anatolic-speaking peoples migrating south into the ancient land of Hatti (modern Turkey) as well as the Armenians, while the ancestors of the Indo-Iranian and Tocharian speaking peoples migrated into central Asia and the Germanic-Baltic-Slavic peoples moved into Northern Europe while Celtic, Italic, Balkan/Albanian and Hellenic peoples migrated into southern and Western Europe.

      In any case the Nordic race is typically defined as people who are predominantly blond haired and blue eyed and while the Indo-Europeans were probably mostly blue eyed they were not mostly blond- that was largely restricted to those who settled in Northern Europe. Similar peoples from a similar origin but not the same.

  5. Ilyas

    Im Amazigh (berber) from north Morocco and I have blonde haire and green eyes…. all my family have colored eyes and blonde or brown or black or chesnut hair

  6. Cici

    My ex husband was Palestinian. The first time I visited his family in the Middle East, I was really surprised by the number of blonde haired, green/blue eyed people I met. Even met a few Arabs with red hair and freckles. If these people immigrated to the U.S., looks-wise they would blend right in with “white” Americans. Interesting stuff.

  7. Mariame

    Hi! I am Hazara, I can totally blend it with Chinese people or Coreans (even though they are different) and when I say to people that I am Afghan they tell me “So, you speak Arabic” or “You don’t look like an Afghan at all!” or else “I thought Afghanistan was in Africa/ Middle East”. I am just fed up with people’s ignorance and media!

  8. Kra'koandrious Jackson

    “They do this so it is an Us-versus-Them thing; as in, “See! the enemy looks nothing like you!””

    I think it probably has more to do with the fact that guys like Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were/are all swarthy.

    The media certainly doesn’t shy away from showing Bashar al Assad or Vladimir Putin on television.

    • PhantomThoughts

      W.r.t. Al Assad, he and most Syrians are not Muslim. They are from a sect called Alawis. They may have Muslim sounding names but don’t regard themselves Sunni or Shia.

      You may ask any Syrian.

      That’s why their clothes, festivals and rituals are a 50:50 mix of European and Arab.

    • Ali

      Yes its actually very interesting, the whole “swarthy” thing.

      Look at Saddam Husseins left hand man izzat ibrahim al-douri, might as well be a Scottish paratrooper!

      Vladimir Lenin is also depicted as “swarthy black haired” bloke (I guess to empahsize the whole eastern horde bastard idea) but was in fact red haired.

  9. Russerford Hayze

    I stumbled across your blog because I was searching for some reference to Afghans being known in south/central asia as “the green eyed people” (can’t remember the pashto phrase) due to the fact that Afghans are the people with the second highest frequency of green eyes in the world after British islanders. Is there any credence to this or what?

    • PhantomThoughts

      That’s unfortunately a result of the British Afghanistan wars. Starting from the first in 1819 which the Brits lost badly, the Brits did unspeakable crimes on the locals. It’s typical British mindset. They lost against men. So they fought against unarmed women.

    • thewhitewolf96

      “Afghans are the people with the second highest frequency of green eyes in the world after British islanders.”

      Any source to back this up?

  10. Iman Qasemi

    Very well written. I am Iranian and couldn’t agree with you more. Absolutely nailed it.

    • Fares Iosq

      Actually, afghans aren’t just “people with brown eyes and hair and skin,” lots of them have blonde hair and blue or green eyes. Afghanistan has a lot of eye colours and hair colours, not just brown

  11. TRUTH

    THanks for your informative article. The idiot who wrote the article on Tina Fay casting whit people for her movie ought to read it. The Tajik and Pashtun people of Afghanistan are in fact white or Caucasian, and other ethnicities are a mixture of white and other.

  12. Zahra

    i’m on the same boat but vice versa. I live in a huuuuge brown/muslim community with a LOT of pakistani and afghan people and the most common thing I hear is “you don’t have colored eyes or light hair so there’s NO way you’re afghan” especially bc I don’t speak pashto or dari, i was born and raised here. My parents do, but I don’t, and so allllll I ever hear is “you don’t look afghan” and i even hear “you’re not afghan, stop lying” like lmao I didn’t know you knew where my family was from but ok!

  13. Khatera

    I am Afghan and my entire moms side of the family had Blonde/light brown hair with green and blues eyes and fair/olive skin, I however have black hair and olive skin. Because of our history and deep culture we are extremely diverse.

  14. GulliverFredrich

    I just stumbled upon this blog, and I thought that I would like to clarify some things:

    WHITE PEOPLE, WHITE EUROPEANS ARE THE RESULT OF ALBINOS OF INDIANS/SOUTH ASIANS CROSS-BREEDING WITH BLACK AFRICAN ALBINOS IN DIFFERING %’s in THE DIFFERENT REGIONS OF EUROPE BEFORE THE ADVENT AND EXPANSION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE! Most of Eastern Europe to North-East Europe can be characterized as being filled with mostly Indian/South Asian albinos. Whites carry the four albinism genes in mutated form to be considered full candidates for albinism (SLC24A2, TYR, TYRP1, OCA2).

    The gene that is responsible for the light appearance of most of White Europeans (OCA2), such as light hair and blue/grey eyes and pale skin, stands for oculucutaneous albinism type 2. This type of albinism is responsible for blonde/brown/red hair, blue/grey eyes, and pale skin. And all white Europeans carry this gene in mutated form just like persons with albinism!

    The albinos that White Europeans themselves produce are OCA1 albinos, OCA1 type albinism is the highest and worst type of albinism with the highest reduction of melanin and melanin production in the body; characterized by white/pale hair, blue/grey/red eyes and extremely pale skin.

    Now most people think this THIS IS THE ONLY TYPE OF ALBINISM THAT EXISTS IN THE WORLD, AND ONLY THIS TYPE OF ALBINISM IS TRUE ALBINISM! However, there ARE CURRENTLY FOURTEEN KNOWN TYPES OF ALBINISM! Whites themselves are OCA2-OCA7 albinos mostly, but the albinos that Whites produce are OCA1 albinos!

    R1a, the so called Indo-European gene that was spread to Europe from the Eurasian steppes and associated with the spread of Indo-European languages throughout the Eurasian landmass; ORIGINATED FROM SOUTHERN ASIA/INDIA, BEFORE IT TRAVELED TO EUROPE! And Indian/South Asian albinos LOOK EXACTLY LIKE WHITE EUROPEANS AND CAN PASS AS WHITE EUROPEANS AND HAVE PASSED FOR WHITE EUROPEANS!



    Albino rats/mice/rabbits have a much closer genetic relationship and resemblance to White Europeans physiologically and biologically THEN NON-ALBINO RATS/MICE/RABBITS! This is the real reason why so many modern laboratories HOLD AND CONTINUE TO BREED SO MANY LARGE NUMBERS OF ALBINO MICE/RABBITS/RATS FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND EXPERIMENTATION! It is because like these albino rodents, WHITE EUROPEANS ARE ALBINOS AND NOT A RACE, hence WHY THEY HAVE TO PERFORM THEIR RESEARCH ON THEM, SINCE THEY ARE ALBINOS JUST LIKE WHITE EUROPEANS!

    Oh and btw, modern White Europeans are actually not indigenous or native to Europe, they are actually recent invaders and migrants and immigrants and transplants to Europe. The so called White Indo-European homeland was in the steppes of Siberia and Central Asia before White Indo-Europeans mass migrated to Europe. For the vast majority of the BC and AD period, White Indo-Europeans were illiterate barbaric backwards brutish horse nomads, who never created their own civilization, never created their own basic alphabet or a written script (it was forbidden in Ancient Indo-European societies to practice literacy in any form or to practice mass literacy in general), never discovered or came upon practicing formal farming or agriculture, did not build any sophisticated megalithic structures or cities or towns, never had any sophisticated architecture or engineering, did not come upon sophisticated iron working and metallurgy etc etc..

    They were the Huns and Mongols of the BC and AD period; infact White Indo-Europeans were the first to create nomadic horse based steppe confederations on the Eurasian steppes and the first to utilize and domesticate the Eurasian horse, and use chariot/wagon technology in an aggressive militaristic manner. Infact the Hunnic and Mongolian empires were a direct replica and carbon copy, and were based on the original horse based steppe confederations that White Indo-Europeans had created on the Eurasian steppes BEFORE ANYONE ELSE THERE! Whites were pretty much the Huns and Mongols of the BC and AD period!

    • Ali

      You’re so full of BS

      SLC24A2 = Brain Injury and Achromatopsia
      TYR = Everyone has it, its a enzyme (tyrosinase) regulates the amount of melanin produced by the cells
      TYRP1 = tyrosinase-related protein
      OCA2 = Everyone has it, however a mutation of it is one of the causes of albinism.

      A hint is that all human “races” share these however the difference is in the alleles frequency – unlike the different races of dogs or cats. That is one of many reasons we don’t use the term race in biology.

      We don’t always use albino mice, the most commonly used is the black C57Bl6.

      As for why we use the albino mice (BALB/c);
      “BALB/c mice are particularly well known for the production of plasmacytomas following injection with mineral oil, forming the basis for the production of monoclonal antibodies… Mammary tumor incidence is normally low, but infection with mammary tumor virus by fostering to MMTV+ C3H mice dramatically increases tumor number and age of onset. BALB/c mice develop other cancers later in life including reticular neoplasms, primary lung tumors, and renal tumors. Rare spontaneous myoepitheliomas arising from myoepithelial cells of various exocrine glands have been observed in both BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ substrains.”

      And once and for all – White people do not have “Albinism” -Albinism is the state of which one has zero production of melanin, its very rare and occurs within all “races”.

    • Charles Paxton Martin

      It is a pity that Gulliver has never heard of the Scythians, who inhabited the western and central Eurasian steppes from about the 9th century BC until about the 1st century BC. Scythia was the Greek term for the grasslands north and east of the Black Sea. The Scythian languages belonged to the Eastern branch of the Iranian languages.Scythian art especially gold objects is distinctive and very beautiful. The best-known account of the Scythians is in Book IV of the Histories of Herodotus. They were probably the first peoples to use horses on a large scale. Wikipedia says that they were predominently blue-eyed and red-haired. I wonder who Gulliver imagines were the people inhabiting Western Europe at that time. Neanderthals, possibly? By the way, I visited Afghanistan on an overland trip to India in 1970, and thought that the Afghans were by far my favorite people in the world. I cried when the Russians took over.

  15. Sahra

    Hey what are your opinions on the ethnic divide in Afghanistan? Do you think there should be such a thing or do you think we should just accept and recognize eachother as Afghans and nothing more, nothing less?

  16. Ali

    “Brown people” is a construct that refers to the Asiatic-European mixtures of peoples in South America, it was used to gather the different racial hierarchies under one banner mestizo and indio mainly – after the overthrow of the Spanish crown. With no concept build on human evolution or DNA – simply the color of their skin.


    – Its the other way around, “white” is just a pick-and-choose term for some people in the Caucasoid group (in contrast to Negroid, Mongoloid, Australoid).

    For some reason white has now been slimmed down to the Alpin, nordic look with blond hair and blue eyes. This is problematic since the original “white people” who entered Europe looked like todays kurds or Armenians.

    If a french woman gets a child with a african then the features of that child looks more african, the same for asians – however not in the case of Arabs, Armenians, Kurd, Iranians etc – there the chance of red, blond, brown hair or blue/green eyes is quite possible – why? Because fundamentally its the same race.

    There is no “brown people” – if we where to say brown people because of skin color instead of actual race, then we would have an whole aray of different shades; olive, tan, reddish, pink, light instead of “white people” etc.

  17. dronzer

    Most Afghans look like southern Italians, Spanish people or Southern Greek. That is golden brown skin and dark brown hair. The eye color varies, usually light brown or hazel but with some blue/green and dark brown eyes.

    Then less of these Afghans look like Indians/Pakistanis, but not that much different from Golden brown afghans. Who know’s? Even many Indian/Pakistanis have wheatish skin, but a few Afghans have made insults about Pakistanis for their skin color. It has happened. You hear things like “black punjabi”.

    There are a few Afghans and Pakistanis that look Northern European but you find them usually near the Afghan/Pakistani Border (the durand line). Lot’s of them you find will be redheads, blondes, light colered eyes, pale skinned and can easily pass off as swedish, german or north russian. Nurestan also borders the durand line. You also find them among Pamir mountain people.

    The aimaq/Hazara and turkmen/uzbecks look partially east asian.

  18. ThePhotobug

    Dear Sister Madinah
    It’s true for other south or central asian countries too. I mean people coming and saying you don’t look like a Bong or you look Chinese when you’re not is weird. It was strange when people tried to start a conversation with me in Bangla. I had no clue about the language and I remember the disappointed looks on their faces. At most, I could manage Urdu, Hindi or Punjabi but coming from an ethnically and liguistically diverse country, I just don’t get why people make assumptions about our ethnicity merely on the basis of how we look. What is the need of trying to fit people into stereotypes? Why not just let them be.

  19. Atrocious Westerner Rising - kind of.

    What are getting worked up about!? Quit cursing “Westerners”. I am a western european and it so happens, that I ask people about their ethnic background on a regular basis. And that I was surprised to find there are dark haired Fins, red headed Kashmiris (spell??), black eyed, raven haired Germans, naturally blonde Spanish, a stunning north Norwegian, who lookes like Wood Elf out of Tolkien, tiny, strong swiss and so on. I also find, that Immigrants and their decendants sometimes don’t understand stuff that I take for granted – so I try to inform them. Like, what it is like for a catholic when the new pope calls himself “Francis”. Or why many middle aged Germans are sceptic of the people who lived on the other side of the wall during the cold war..
    There is nothing to curse about, we don’t know everything about your genetics – how should we? Inform the sceptic in a relaxed manner, or in a fun manner, or a friendly one. Remember, that even in the same country you will often be on strange ground, when you enter a different region, or another town – or even just your neighbours home, and yes, we all have to ask and explain a lot to one another.
    Especially when we don’t live in small villages, where everybody has the same background and knows everybody else inside out.. more or less.

  20. Atrocious Westerner Into The Breach - once more..

    p.S. I don’t know about Afghans, but Pakistanis themselves are sometimes sceptic, when I tell them my genetical dad, whom I never met, was from their country. I am way too light it seems. So the southerners (?) think I ought to be darker. Then I tell them where he was supposedly from and they remember, that “oh,yes, the people there are very light, yeah,okay!” Come one – should I curse them now!? Or call them racist?

  21. Samira

    Hi, It’s funny how there are regions in Afghanistan where ‘ black eyes’ are seen as the most attractive within female seen as locals are used to seeing girl with coloured eyes, the total opposite to western countries. As an Afghan i’ve been mistaken for Malaysian or chinese even arabic even though my dad has green eyes and blonde hair, hazara problemms 😉

  22. Sergius

    I suggest you to try https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/

    The Genographic Project. I did and I was surprised with the results.

    I was surprised to learn that even though I am a descendant of Northern Italians and Portuguese, I carry 3% of the genetics of the Persian Gulf region.

  23. Don’t know why but I got a comment once by someone telling me I “look Bosnian”. When I mentioned this later to someone else that said I should have responded “so you mean I look like a human.” I also had a comment from someone when I told them my great great grandmother was French Canadian and they said “while you can’t be you don’t have a French last name”. Do people not realize that just because your last name isn’t the same as an ancestor doesn’t mean your not related?

  24. Dank

    I have met some Idiots who think Afghans and Iranians are Arabs just because they are majority Muslim and the alphabet looks similar, One of my friends even reckons Israelis are Arabs because their home lands are near each other, people are stupid.

  25. Gaijin

    Enough with the terms white, black, brown, the theory that lighter skinned people are from albinos, which is untrure. The reason you see people’s of all skin eye and hair colors in the Middle East and other places is because there have always been people of varying physical looks and the Middle East and other areas have seen peoples migrate, mix, empires rise and fall. Quit the ignorant practice of trying to define a country, a region, people’s of a location by a color adjective! We are humans, we are varied and beautiful, within our cultures. Peace.

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