The Mean Girls of Afghanistan


Two Sundays ago, Afghan-Americans tuned in to see Instagram-famous Afghan girl Durrani Popal. Durrani is an employee of DASH, the infamous clothing store owned by the Kardashian sisters. In the slew of Insta-famous-for-nothing girls, Durrani was given special attention from our community, for the sole fact that she was Afghan, beautiful, and works for the Kardashians. There are only a handful of fashion and makeup Afghan gurus, and with her big beautiful blue eyes and amazing fashion sense, it’s easy to see why Afghan-Americans were eager for her to shed positive light on her ethnic background. We all waited for her to mention her roots. It would be great to have a beautiful Afghan girl working in the fashion and entertainment industry represent us, showing the world that Afghan women do not always need saving, and can achieve non-traditional career roles.


But instead what we saw was no mention of Afghanistan. Rather, we were given every “allusion” that she was Iranian – mentions of Ghormeh Sabzi and Farsi class, her fondness of Iranian men, and an introduction to her Persian Jewish boyfriend. She and her Iranian coworker and roommate Nazy Farnoosh spoke of their close friendship because of their similar backgrounds, but again, there was no distinction made between Nazy being Iranian and Durrani being Afghan. It almost seemed as if Durrani was hiding being Afghan, and trying to pass off as Iranian – a community already introduced to reality TV through shows like Shahs of Sunset, and other notable reality stars.

Naturally, I was pissed. For Afghans, we knew who she was. The names “Durrani” and “Popal” are not Iranian; they are uniquely Afghan/Pashtun names, and quite popular ones at that: The Durrani Empire spanned all of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Iran, and it’s ruler, Ahmad Shah Durrani, is considered the founder of the modern Afghan state. Furthermore, “Popal” from the longer name “Popalzai” is a huge Pashtun tribe of Durrani descent. Therefore both her names scream Afghan, and are very patriotic, to say the least.


To the outsider, of course she can be confused for Iranian: Afghans look Iranian, speak the language and share the religion. Social media conversations mirrored my confusion: Why was she hiding her ethnicity? What’s wrong with being Afghan? Why you tryna blend in with the Iranians so bad? However, Durrani quickly clarified on her Twitter account that she gets confused for Iranian, but is in fact, Afghan.

Interested if other Afghans felt the same way, I posted a Facebook status expressing my impatience and dismay with Afghan girls passing off as Iranians. My issue arises when Afghan girls are benefitting from their exotic looks but making every effort to hide their roots.

But quickly I realized why Durrani may be turning the cheek to our people.

Almost as soon as I posted it, a slew of negative comments followed, attacking her character, love life decisions, clothing choices and even her mannerisms. She was name-called and her intelligence was questioned, and she was scolded for being a “bad” Afghan and Muslim.

Woah. This wasn’t a community I’d be proud of. I was taken aback by how mean some of the comments were:

“We don’t want her to say she’s Afghan”.

“She doesn’t act like a true Afghan”.

Upon visiting her Instagram page, I saw identical comments under her photos, scolding her for her actions on the show and expressing dismay that she did not clearly state her ethnicity. She was repeatedly called a bitch, slut, whore, and every other derogatory phrase under the sun. And these comments came mostly from Afghans.

That’s when it dawned on me: why say you’re Afghan? We’re not a welcoming and loving community anyway! We judge you on everything.

I myself have been on the other side, poked and prodded for my skirts or my makeup or my friends or my mannerisms and even this blog. I began to ask myself: Are we an inclusive community? Why are people measuring “Afghan-ness” and how can we pretend to be good pious Muslims if we’re judging girls left and right? Is there a barometer to being Afghan?

Yes. Because being an Afghan girl is like being in a sorority. Follow the rules, or you can’t sit with us. Either please the big sis, or get kicked out. You can wear short skirts, but not too short. You can date a guy or two, but not a Jew on national TV. You can pursue fashion, but not under Kim K cuz she’s a sex-tape phenom.

I began to understand why Durrani may have tucked her Afghan ID under the Persian rug. I realized that I myself was judging her and felt horrible – how many times have people seen me and thought the same things? When your every move is being monitored under a “ghayrat” microscope, why not just give up? The community won’t accept you – so why accept them?

As a community, (and I am including myself here), we have a huge problem with judging our daughters. There is a tremendous double standard between our boys and girls. And this double standard is seeping into the way our community is being represented in the media. Just the other day, I posted an invite to a pre-screening of “Rock the Kasbah”, a film directed by Bill Murray that takes place in Afghanistan. A number of people expressed their dismay that a Palestinian woman, and not an Afghan, played the lead role. WELL OBVIOUSLY! Since when did an Afghan mom or dad say, “yes bachem, go ahead and enroll in acting classes and wear spaghetti straps and get your headshots taken and fly to Hollywood”. How the eff are you gonna get mad that we don’t have mainstream actors when Durrani Popal can’t even play herself on a reality show?

And this isn’t the first time an Afghan woman has been measured on the Afghan barometer. Aryana Sayeed, an Afghan pop-singer, is constantly getting threats of rape and murder for wearing tight clothing during her performances. Vida Samadzai, Miss Afghanistan 2003, was condemned by the Afghan Supreme Court and called a whore, a slut, a shame to our community for wearing a red bikini in an international pageant.


Aryana Sayeed, Afghan pop singer who faces constant criticism


Vida Samadzai, faced death threats for wearing a bikini during beauty pageant

The irony of this all is that a lot of those criticizing our sisters are the same people who say they’re nonjudgmental Muslims. A big part of Islam and practicing the religion is being a humble and loving individual, and to worry about your own soul rather than the shortcomings of others. “Pious” Muslims and Muslimahs post Islamic quotes like “No one with the slightest particle of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” (Bukhari) but are the first ones to partake in bashing girls from our community that may not practice the religion as diligently, or as outwardly.

At the same time however, I firmly believe that if you are a person of some importance, and have the ability to sway or influence people’s opinions about our community, then do so. If you were raised as an Afghan and as a Muslim, then it would be fair and commendable that one not bash their background or perpetuate stereotypes about our people. Either gung-ho represent, or don’t at all, cuz we get enough slack in the media. I don’t appreciate people using their platforms to belittle our community and make it seem like we’re all small-minded haters who are all snarky and judgy. Cuz clearly my existence proves we’re not.

My family is an anecdotal piece of evidence that, NO, not all Afghans will “disown” you for dating a Jew (on the contrary, my mom has always encouraged me to do so, “because you’ll be rich” – joking of course). My parents have never told me who I can and cannot marry –  only that they be good people. I literally have in-laws who are Iranian, Armenian, Sri Lankan, Mexican, and white. I could not and still cannot relate to some of the things that Durrani was saying, like she went to “Farsi school” where she would get hit, or that she would get disowned for her relationship with a Jew. In my experience, it is Jews who are more exclusive about marrying within their community than Muslims. My family is not anything like what Durrani described hers to be, and so I felt defensive that they may get painted in such a light. I felt she was selling the same image of Muslims that is constantly sold, and wished more positive light was shed.

But if that was her experience, then I cannot impose mine. End of the day, I am immensely proud of being Afghan, but only because I learned to turn my cheek to psychos who say I’m a whore for wearing a bikini and focused my energy on the multitude of positives in my culture. Just cuz Durrani may not do so, doesn’t mean I get to smack-talk her for it. So be it.

So for all the other Durranis out there, I’m sorry your identity is being compromised because of your choices. I’m sorry you can’t sit with us because you’re not like us. I’m sorry your every move will be scrutinized and criticized and we will push you away because you don’t act the way we want you to. I’m sorry you can’t proudly say you’re Afghan without someone robbing you of your identity because you’re not “Afghan enough” for them. I didn’t know there were levels to this shit. I thought you were just born Afghan, I wasn’t aware there was an interview and hiring process… Last time I checked, no one could choose their ethnic background, besides Rachel Dolezal and we saw how that turned out.

Until the Afghan community learns to love and embrace EACH child as their own, REGARDLESS of their personal choices, we’ll continue to have pretending Persians.

Holy Quran Chapter 49 Surah Hujuraat verse 12:

O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay ye would abhor it…but fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-Returning Most Merciful.

Update: I use Islamic quotes not to support bad behavior, but rather to support people not judging one another as a whole.

Update: I omitted the use of the word “Persian” in this post. Many Afghans are Persian as well. The Persian Empire spanned Iran and Afghanistan, therefore it would be absolutely correct for Afghans to call themselves Persian, but not Iranian. There are Persian Iranians and Persian Afghans. Therefore, I used “Iranian” as a distinction from Afghan.


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72 Responses to The Mean Girls of Afghanistan

  1. Great article! Really good! But what you are explaining I learnt as a teenager and decided to step away from the afghan community. I still tell people I am Afghan, unless it’s an Afghan man because 70% of them look at me in a different way as soon as they know. Then they suddenly become perverts while they’re own daughters are my age. There is always something with our people and the amount of times I’ve heard I’m not afghan enough would surprise you! I even got dumped once because his family thought I was not afghan enough! Why? Because I was moving to London for studies, I was gonna a live by myself and I wore a bikini to the beach and spaghetti straps while I was on Skype with him and his family as I was sitting in my own bedroom. I always said to my parents ‘if afghans can’t accept me as I am, why would I wanna be around them to be constantly judged and criticised?’ That’s the sad truth unfortunately. And I guess you and I are lucky with our families but most girls, especially, live in prison and go through hell. And trust me I have seen these girls with my own eyes!

    Ps. I got a blog too, but it’s fashion :p

    • Sarah

      I find it is the traditional stereotype that Afghan girls have. Afghan girls til this day block and close facebooks right before their engagement in hopes of no one finding out their true colors, but reopen after the engagement event is over. Again it is the masking of afghans and their comments that make girls hide. Yes I do believe afghan girls should not be hiding behind Iranian girls because be proud of who you are and your beauty. Girls that hide on facebook, well there must be more to your behavior.

    • Madinah

      I checked out your blog and loved it! And I’m sorry you went through all of that – I’ve gone through similar things!!! Sending you love!

      • Thank you so so so much!!! :*
        I believe that these things make us stronger and better! It is the perfect example of how not to be! And I love it because when people meet us, they will also have a different perspective on us. And we should empower, support and cheer for our own people when they do well, especially our women! Because our women have suffered enough!

        Love love love to powerful strong beautiful intelligent independent and courageous Afghan women!

        Your blog is bookmarked so I will keep checking 😉 Keep up the great work x

    • Hey Marina!
      Checked out your blog it was awesome! Madinah you covered such an important issue that is happening in the afghan community amongst young women. I too stepped away from the afghan community. I was constantly being criticized for being into fitness ( a man’s hobby they called it) and not being afghan enough ( I don’t even know what that means lol).

      I recently started a blog as well (I’m new to this blogging thing) I would love your support 🙂

      Sending lots of love your way 🙂

  2. Wana

    Absolutely loved the read!! But I do believe that if she just had the slightest interest in putting afghans in a good light on the show, she wouldn’t have gotten half the flack. Can’t deny that afghans are born to judge, but deep down inside of me something tells me that if she had acknowledge that she was afghan, and had explained her unorthodoxied way of living is unacceptable to afghans instead of hating same way everyone hates on her, afghans wouldn’t be giving her as much heat. She had an opportunity to shed positive light on afghans, yet went the opposite route and got hit 10 times harder. It’s kind of like what you think you attract, you focused your attention on judgmental afghans, you will be surrounded and attracted to judgmental energy to confirm your negative thoughts about them. I hope I made sense haha just writing what I feel at the moment after the read

    • Madinah

      You totally made sense! However we don’t know why she makes certain choices, and let’s face it, our community is very harsh towards women 🙁

    • KN

      Well, one needs to remember that freedom does not mean being or acting like a fooloose! If Afghan boys and girls want to raise their flags they need to showcase something positive. So the community and mostly Afghan children would learn something positive from them.

  3. Same here in the Exile community in Germany and one of the reasons why I never felt comfortable working in projects from Afghans for Afghans. Sadly being an Afghan female seems to be enough to become a topic. Although you are a stranger and they don’t know anything about you, everyone has an opinion about you, discusses your look, private life and the way you were raised. Sometimes even random Afghans on the street stop me to talk and its actually quite nice but then they start to ask me If I am married or If I would date a foreigner, If I have a boyfriend or what my parents are like. These People have to learn that there is not such a thing like Namus and that the female body, life and sexuality is not their business or a public topic at all, but the decision of the individual. And thats why I think and hope you agree, that it is our duty to make everyone shut their mouth when they want to talk in front of us about other girls and discuss if a specific person is a good or bad girl. We must not do the same, but tell everyone “to ra chi gharaz” Gapgoye be-kar

  4. Zahra

    Very well written, I only wish one day we all support each other.

  5. Sarah A.

    Just to let you know you are not slightly better than those judgemental people you are criticising
    You say afghans should stop criticising people they think are doing something wrong! So what you do right now is telling those “conservative” people that they are doing something wrong out of your “modernist” view.
    You represent the view that everyone should wear and do what they want even if it’s like living the lifestyle of a Kardashian cause they act as they like to right?! And it’s morally totally ok to get paid and valued for being naked and showing opening up their life to the public cause this is common entertainment in the western media so everyone who is criticising this behaviour is not democratic right? It doesn’t matter that our values change from day to day true. But doesn’t it matter that our values change in the negative sense! People are being criticised for being overtly open and living a lifestyle without religious values anymore because it won’t allow them to sexualise their body. And it is the upmost improper use of religious quotes I’ve ever seen. Totally out of context you’re trying to give religious people a naseeha although it seems you don’t know the background and limits of thoughts ayats. Muslims feel ashamed of other Muslims showing off their boobs and their Jewish boyfriends on TV for a reason think about it. Why does no one critics a Muslim scientist on TV?

    • Madinah

      Actually, I think you misunderstood. I don’t think we should support harmful behaviors. I just think we shouldn’t make people feel bad for their personal life choices. I also never, ever said in my article that people should get paid for being naked lol. I understand where you’re coming from but my religious quotes are NOT to support a certain lifestyle, only to spread positive and loving messages.

    • Nargis

      Absolutely right…. we are Muslims as well, and there are some limitations in our religion. only being naked or exposing is not freedom and modernism. we should have freedom of thought, freedom of life and abiding the rules of Islam and exposing our body is not what we ‘ve been up to. i really don’t understand the psychic of those women for whom relation meaningless relations (gf/bf) and wearing short and naked clothing is freedom.
      Muslim women enjoys the most comfortable life if she and the surrounding where she lives follow the Islamic rules. some ignorant people mix the man made cultural rules with Islam and defames Islam for their own stupid deeds.

  6. Sahar

    Thank you from the bottom of my Afghan being for this article. You’ve encompassed all the bullshit intricacies of our culture into one awesome article. Sending you lots of love and light 🙂

  7. Mina

    Marina is right the Afghan community is full of judgement especially if you are a women. There are other Afghans on reality TV and fashion that have embraced being Afghan and I haven’t seen an article on them yet????? And you right this which was a great article is passing judgement. Do I know her no…do I watch whatever tv show she was on, nope. Arzo Anwar was on blood sweet and heels in the fashion industry and embraced being Afghan and she was judged! A LOT

  8. Awesta

    Excellent article! Does “Afghan enough” entail real characteristics to be proud of OR rules, stereotypes rooted and created out of fear and ignorance designed to oppress women? No one asks this question.

  9. Pashtana

    i loved article bt u know what not all the durranies are not the same i mean come on m a durrani myself i love Afg more then anything else for me Afg is my imaan (faith) watever this durrani popal said o has done she is really outa place of voilence n all she lives in place with nothing wat durrani here face still we dnt disown being afghan we are born afghan no matter wat happens i dnt need my community to own me i m myself Afghan thts more then enough to make me part of my community as u defended her that she was disowned by the people of Afg its not just in Afg community its common everywhere even Afg president is critisized but they didnt disown their roots calling herself as iranian is awful when u got sur name durrani* she really dont deserve to be defended what she did is horrible disowning your roots who does tht! whomeso ever she loves n what she wears nobodys concern bt when she disowns her identity she is making every durrani tagged with label of being mean being Afghan is something to be proud of then comes any casts how can someone be so naive to disown their roots

  10. Ajmal

    Everything is great and correct however I want to point out one thing are people don’t know or forget that Afghans are Persians too, the word Persian comes from the Empire of Persia l, so there for it doesn’t not belong to Iran or the Iranian people only!! The people that know the history they know this, so if I say I’m Persian that doesn’t necessary mean I’m saying I’m Iranian!

    • Madinah

      You are absolutely right! We are Persians too!

      • Hazel

        That’s not correct. The Persian empire covered many different countries, including parts of modern day Afghanistan, but those other countries do not claim to be Persian. And Persia was the name of Iran before Shah Reza Pahlavi changed it to Iran. If you don’t believe me, look it up; Persia and/or Persian is only in reference to modern day Iran/Iranians. I agree with everything you’ve mentioned but at least be historically correct too 🙂

        • Madinah

          No one’s “claiming” to be Persian; Afghans ARE Persian. But that’s a whole ‘nother debate that I don’t really care to get into right now bc it’s ethnically driven and way too passionate.

          • Hazel

            I’ll make it really simple and not a heated, passionate, & biased debate: Afghans are not Persian. Getting really technical, not all Iranians are Persian, either – Persia is in reference to Pars, a state in Iran which included the city of Shiraz. But since the the name of Iran was Persia fairly recently, it’s obvious that Iranians are the only ones who can be referred to as Persian. I’d like to hear your historical reasoning for the contrary, though. This has always been an interesting topic to me. & Intelligent conversations can be had without personal biases involved 🙂

        • Haji Feroz

          Actually, Hazel, my dear, Afghans are Persian. While the Persian Empire spanned many countries, Afghanistan remained part of the Persian Empire until the 1700s and we are considered Eastern Persian. We speak Farsi (Dari derives from Middle Persian), use the Persian calendar, embrace Zoroastrian traditions and practically have identical cuisines. So, if you want to talk about historical accuracy, then I suggest you also write to every Iranian telling them that they are not all Persian since that specific ethnicity comes from central Iran.

          • Jamal

            Actually no Afghans are not Persian, they are Pashtuns. Although a vast majority of Afghans speak Farsi, that does not mean they are Persian since the Persian empire expanded to Afghanistan as well and Dari was only established as a court language during the late Sassanid Era. Before that, nobody was speaking Farsi. Your logic that Afghans practise the same holidays as Iranians doesn’t make sense since so do Kurds and they do not see themselves as Persian. Technically only Southern Iranians from Fars are the true Persians while North and West Iranians are not.

          • Madinah

            “Before that no one was speaking Farsi”,
            Were you there?

          • Jamal

            My dear, they were speaking Pashto which they still do today. Besides, Iranians don’t see Afghans or Tajiks as Persian so why try so hard to suck up to a people that want nothing to do with you?

          • Jamal

            Also i don’t need to be there to know the obvious, i have studied Afghan history and have books on it too, i know this way more then you do. Our forefathers would roll in their graves if they heard you calling them Persians, the same people our people were trying so hard to gain independence from and such. Not only that but i’ve seen your former comments how you say you are a Pashtana and yet you don’t know that Pashtun and Persian is two different ethnicities with their own languages?

            Anyways, that’s all i wanted to say.

  11. Z. Noory

    It is humiliating that Afghans pretend to be Iranians while Iranians try hard to be recognized and pass as Westerners by turning into Blondies and silly acts.
    Also, the blogger complains about Afghans being Judgmental while she is Judging the community and Afghans herself. Also, Quoting verses of Quran for personal gains is against the teachings of Quran. You have to believe and practice it.
    Well, it is a Jungle out there. Be whatever animal you want to be. But Judging is part of human fabric that makes choices easy and acceptable.

    • Madinah

      Thanks for your comment! I think you misunderstood. I didn’t quote the Qur’an to support bad behavior. I just think we shouldn’t make people feel bad for their decisions. And I am trying not to judge the community, but only to write about my experiences with them and the observations I’m making. I hope that made sense!

  12. “A number of people expressed their dismay that a Palestinian woman, and not an Afghan, played the lead role. WELL OBVIOUSLY! Since when did an Afghan mom or dad say, “yes bachem, go ahead and enroll in acting classes and wear spaghetti straps and get your headshots taken and fly to Hollywood”. How the eff are you gonna get mad that we don’t have mainstream actors when Durrani Popal can’t even play herself on a reality show?”

    My only gripe with this is that there are Afghan-American actresses out there, like Azita Ghanizada, who actually have the talent and resume to merit a shot at taking on that role. It’s undeniable that the overwhelming majority of Afghan parents are not supportive of their children pursuing art/theater majors however it is because of this that the few who do make a name of themselves should be given the opportunity to play the scarce number of Afghan characters that do exist. That little thing notwithstanding, great blog!

    • Madinah

      You’re absolutely right. I also heard that many Hollywood directors choose not to cast some Afghan actors because they’re too good-looking; as in they don’t look like poor dirty Afghans the media portrays! Can you believe that? So Stupid. Anyways you’re right and thank you!

      • I was present at the screening of Rock The Kasbah in LA and spoke to Mitch Glazer, who stated that most of the Afghans that auditioned did not have the requisite singing skills required for the role. Another issue was age, the role was for a teenage girl and many of the Afghans who auditioned (and were present at the screening) are in their 30’s and 40’s.

  13. Masoud

    Change is inevitable. Yes, our sociological perspective alters our future . I know we are trying to show off how open minded, intelligent and education we are in here, but in reality we are trying very hard to create an identity or an image so we can justify our actions. Decisions made by those girls, are neither Islamic nor original Afghani. It’s similar to gay right marriage. Doesn’t matter if what they do is within the society’s moral scope but the society must validate it as part of its norm and accept them as a part of its moral scope. I said no to same sex marriage and I will say no to this. However, I love you and respect you as a human being but don’t enforce your sociological perspective on others and alter their social values.

    • Madinah

      I wasn’t trying to enforce my beliefs on anyone. You telling me what to do and what not to do is exactly what I argue strays people away from our community. Thanks for your input.

      • Masoud

        Yes, what separates a person from her/his society is solely based on one’s own actions. You can’t defy the norms and social values and expect to be accepted. You take a risk, you face the consequence. I am not telling you what to do with your life. Be honest, be yourself but don’t force an entire community to understand your abnormal (to them) life and accept it as society’s norm. It’s similar to what the US is doing around the world, promote democracy doesn’t matter how many countries, societies and lives you destroy or alter.

        • Sarah A.

          i totally agree with you Masoud! I hate when people critizice afghan behaviour cause they think to know how to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong better than all those afghans who are judgemental…..everyone should do what they want to do but it is my right to say that iam living certain norms and i want my community and my environment not only to understand my norms but it would be even better for them if they live that way too. I dont do certain things cause i think it will lead to good only for me i think it will enrich everyones life thats why people judge

  14. sulei

    i loved your article. It is not just girls that get judged all the time. We guys are judged the same way unless of course we have a beard or carry a gun and willing to shoot people for ‘ghayrat’. keep writing the next generation may learn and avoid being ‘tradition Afghan’.

  15. Tamana

    Thank you! Great read, I am an outcast of the afghan community, because I push through boundaries that have been created centuries ago! Our culture is beautiful, our people our gorgeous, but our ideology…. As an Afghan American first generation born in the early 1980s I must say life was very hard as a girl. Don’t do this… Look at those kids…. You have to be like this…. My parents gave me freedom, but the community oh the Bay Area community….. We push our women into a box and hope they never break free! I finally did I walk around guns blazing now, and with the support of my amazing parents no afghan can stop me. I appreciate the afghans that bring support and love in one another’s lives. Durrani make your cheddar! ?

  16. It’s not really an Afghan thing. People of all backgrounds are judging,

  17. I accidentally submitted incomplete comment before, let me try again…

    It is not right to attribute a negative human behaviour as an Afghan thing. Being judgmental and critical is not only an Afghan behaviour, it is one of the characteristics of all humans. It happens all over the world to all kinds of people. Look at how people criticise Kardashians for instance. It is not much different if not worse than what we do to our so called famous people.

    While I understand and agree with you that we as people can be a harsh group of critics but if that stops one from owning one’s background and pretending one is not Afghan, then perhaps they are not. Besides, maybe she realises there is nothing Afghan that defines her…. or perhaps she is ashamed of the rest of us… but, it didn’t stop Azita for example to identify herself as an Afghan.

    She is not the only person who tries not to identify as Afghan. There are Afghans of all walks of life who hide their ethnicity for different reasons; career path being at the top of the list. Most of those reasons are probably justified….

    As for online trolls and bullies, well… those are silly, envious people who have nothing better to do and those people are not significant enough to waste time on.

  18. Latifa Aimaq

    I think there is a difference between being judgement and a fair critique. For example, in the article above, a Hadith was used to speak against arrogance and indirectly pair arrogance with a judgmental attitude. Okay; if we are using Islam to justify a point, let’s stick to Islam all the way: Does Islam allow boyfriends? (No.) Does Islam look well upon helping to promote the Kardashian sisters, why by all standards cross all moral bounds? (No.) We can go on and on. In all fairness I would rather this lady does not represent us or Afghaness for that matter. She can represent herself and this life will end one day and we have to answer to Allah SWT anyway. We Afghans have one of the lowest college enrollment rates among other problems that our community faces. I would rather focus on that, than debate whether so and so represents herself as an Afghan or not.

  19. Farid

    Afghan girls are the most beautiful girl around the planet. Due our beautiful culture woman are not to show entire naked body to public inorder to become famous. our culture has respect. Love .

  20. Khan

    Not only Afghan old men are perverts but its all over the Globe, I have seen old White, black, you name it check out Young girls. As long as you know your good, I don’t think will bother you if someone is looking at you because your beauty. ….

  21. AA

    Dear Madinah,
    Thank you so much for the wonderfully written article. You have eloquently expressed many of the important struggles of Afghan women, especially those experienced by the diaspora of Afghan women in the West. As an Afghan-American (AA) man, I am sorry that you and a mutitud of others have had negative experiences with/from Afghan men. It should not be this way.
    Also, I would like to highlight two points that many either do not realize or do not ask.
    First, I think you, unfortunately like many others, paint all Afghan men with the same brush. In your article and in some of the comments ALL Afghan men are portayed as the same closed minded conservative religious zealots who opress Afghan women. Fortunately, there are some respectful and open minded AA men who embrace Western freedoms and values for all, to include Afghan women. Like you, I have been fortunate enough to be raised by Afghan parents who treat all of their children as equals. Never have I ever judged any Afghan woman with the so called Afghan double standard. I grew up in the absence of a double standard. My sister has enjoyed the same freedoms and values as me without the slightest reservation. I also have several wonderful AA female friends who make their personal choices. I love and respect them like anyone else. So, i ask you and other commenter here please use caution with the brush.

    Second, I am a first generation refugee. I left Afghanistan for the US in 2002 when I was 20 years old. I am no longer just Afghan; I am a proud AA. The US is my country now and I have embraced its great values and culture without any hesitation. I am now married to a smart and gorgeous white American woman 😉 When in Rome, be like Romans. Unfortunately based on my experience, this point is lost among many AAs. Many have lived in this country for decades, but have failed to assimilate. The issue is that they are holding on to a Utopian idea of Afghanness without having a good understanding of what it means. Many Afghans in the West have a nastalgic idea of life in Kabul in the 60s and think that the entire Afghanistan was like that. They are wrong. Kabul was not Afghanistan. Also, their measure of Afghanness is flawed. Nowadays, many use the words Afghan and Muslim interchangeably. Not every Afghan is Muslim. There are Hindu, Christian and Jewish Afghans, too. These are inherently different words with completely different meanings. To use Muslim and Afghan interchangeably is utterly wrong. Plus, one can be a good Afghan, but not a good Muslim, or can be a good Muslim, but a terrible Afghan. If there is any question about the difference between the two, I will be happy to elaborate.
    Thank you for a thought provoking article.

    • Madinah

      Thank you so much for this comment! The end really resonated with me. I agree that being Muslim and Afghan is far too often viewed as being intrinsically tied – when it’s really not! They’re two separate things. Also, it may seem that I am generalizing Afghan men – but that is not my intention, and I am so happy to read that you are in a happy marriage and a progressive thinker yourself. Thank you once again!

  22. As an Afghan-American fitness & fashion model, I have experienced loads of harassment from my own Afghans..but it has never deterred me from disclosing my roots. I’m Afghan and I seriously find it disgusting for anyone to hide their roots. It’s who we are… Our identity. If some narrow-minded, extremists want to pass judgement towards any Afghan for not following “cultural norms,” then oh well. I don’t pay my bills with their opinions & talk is cheap so babble away honey. It doesn’t affect me!

  23. Crystal

    Brilliant article.

  24. Excellent article! Thank you so very much for writing this and for shedding light on this issue that is quite prevalent in our culture as Pashtuns/Afghans. It irks me when people — fellow Pukhtaana — tell me that I am not “Pashtun enough” because I, too, happen to like wearing western clothes. And it irks me even more that I have to constantly pretend I am something that I not when I am among my people. I mean I understand the whole, “When in Rome” thing, but that’s more so applicable when you’re visiting your hometown, more so your home village, where it would be inevitably inappropriate and perhaps even disrespectful to dress a certain way. But, in the west, things are and should be different. We deserve to be ourselves. It is our right! We are given freedoms and liberties that are otherwise denied to us, because patriarchy unfortunately dictates to us what HE thinks is right for us. But, no, patriarchy is wrong. Very wrong. It has no business telling us women what it thinks is right or wrong for us. We women can make our own decisions and decide for *ourselves* what we feel is right or moral.

    I honestly don’t blame Ms. Popal for trying to pretend to be something she is not, especially since she’s in the media. Pashtuns, especially our men, don’t look very favorably at women who work in the media. They’re allergic to it. It’s that whole “nang” ow “namoos” thing that suddenly comes into play, kinda like, “Zamunga Khazo ta ba sook na goree! Pakaar deh che paata ey saatu!” (translation: No one should ever dare look at our women! We should hide them!”) It’s incredibly hypocritical, because these are the same men who will then go around and steal pictures of random Pashtun girls online, and make sexy YouTube videos out of them, or post them to derogatory Facebook pages so that other men can see them, comment on their looks, and objectify them. It’s beyond despicable and frankly I am sick and tired of this hypocritical double standard. The problem isn’t women like Durrani Popal, the problem is our community; our peoples’ disgusting attitude towards women like Popal. And this isn’t just limited to men. Women do it too. They judge, hate on, backlash, and insult such women as well, just because they’ve been brainwashed and sucked into the despicable patriarchal mindset. Change begins at home. But WHEN we’ll ever see that change, I don’t know.

    Thank you again for sharing your views with us, my dear. I absolutely LOVE your blog and will surely be bookmarking it and linking it to my own blog.

    Khushaala wossey, gulay!

    • Madinah

      Salamona khooray, you are absolutely correct. There is a HUGE problem in the community with this issue, and women definitely perpetuate it. Our sisters need to do a better job at raising men who will treat women with the same dignity they treat themselves. I really enjoyed reading your comment, esp bc you’re a fellow Pakhtana and its always so refreshing to see my sisters who feel the same way I do. Thank you!!!! <3

    • I couldn’t agree more! Im not pashtun myself and growing up in Holland I didn’t know any pashtuns, but here in London Ive seen all kinds of Afghans and I completely agree with you!

  25. Susan

    I can sort of relate. I am not Afghan myself, but I married a Pashtun and have 2 daughters so even though my husband is more liberal religiously there is that ghayra thing going on.It is a very fine line to walk indeed. The Latina in me wants my daughters to enjoy dancing, make up, and what not. But then I hear what is said about “luch” girls and I hesistate. I myself was talked about for being a hijabi who danced at an ALL female family party My compromise comes with Islam. Being a convert I was able to separate culture from religion. I guess that is my guide. I teach my kids not judge people because we are responsible for our own actions and not others. We can never guarantee who is righteous. I will say this…as Muslims we are taught if we sin we shouldn’t flaunt it or be proud of it because then those sins because something we will have to be held accountable for. Maybe that is where some people are coming from.But picking a person apart is wrong. The Prophet had the best of manners. Thank you for this article.

  26. Manny Rahimi

    To say you were spot on with your article is an understatement. I am proud to be afghan but unfortunately I tend to avoid hanging out with them because the moment you turn your back, their mouths open. Mind you I’m a guy so I can only imagine how difficult it is for an afghan girl. I have always been free spirited and accept what people think of me whether they say I’m a disgrace or someone to look up to for “breaking in” our community. I’m blessed to have the parents that adjusted to the way of life and it’s great to be able to go out with my parents and sister and order a round of margaritas without concern for what some “proper” afghan has to say about it. I will never admit to being Persian, I do, however see what you are saying about the “pressure” of claiming to be afghan and being scolded for it but then again, everyone handles it differently. At that point I say to each their own. Afghans are afghan at the end of the day but growing up in Orange County, I’ve seen thug wannabes, prestigiously dressed afghans that carry themselves above all others, white washed afghans (I’m pretty sure I fall under that category) and then your reserved afghans that make you feel like you’re in the motherland. I’ve learned to be and let be. Great article!!

    • Hey Manny!
      I am so proud to be able to hear a perspective from an open-minded Afghan guy, since you guys are quite rare. Typically, Afghan guys will shun Afghan girls for even having platonic guy friends, so to be able to hear that you are successfully assimilated and non-judgmental is really a breath of fresh air!

      Thank you.

  27. As a proud afghan I can say it’ Mostly true what she said but for being dishonest that is shame.
    I’m an atheist afghan I know our people are very judgemental but I’m proud to be an afghan , I don’t care at all what others say or think of me but I must be honest with myself and people around me

  28. Well written article. By the way, while you state that you understand your Afghan Ghayrat and Culture, do your In-Laws include Afghans as well or just non-Afghans? According to you, you “literally have in-laws who are Iranian, Armenian, Sri Lankan, Mexican, and white.”

  29. figtree

    This is hilarious. To think that something like this matters in the face of valuable rights. …Personally, I think it’s more important to remember the women dying to make a difference in Afghanistan and America rather than the ones “dying” to get famous. ….Women like Shahla Atta not this lady. Write articles about things that matter on a global level and not crap like this that can cause loss of brain cells from just reading it. I’ve wasted 10 mins of my life that I could have spent on BBC or Vice learning something. Thanks for that!

    • Madinah

      I don’t think anyone forced you to come here, but you’re welcome for wasting 10mn of your time! And you clearly haven’t read the rest of my blog to see I do write about global issues. No one is “forgetting” anyone dying honey. Pretty low of you to assume that about me.

  30. Tamii

    It is a great article, but I must say that at the end of the day all people can judge, all people can be jealous and all people can be negative no matter where they come from. Its just that everyone thinks its only people with the same roots as them, but thats not always the case. I for example have had Chinese friends who were always in competition with eachother about the weirdest things. They used to say to me ‘omg Tamanna, you should be happy you are not Chinese’ and I was like: thats funny cause most Afghans think that their own people are judgy too. I noticed the same with some Bosnian and Dutch friends too. I think its all human nature to judje etc., but because we are from a war- torn country with lots of traditions etc. we will need more time to get used to the fact that Afghans abroad have more freedom and can decide for themselves what they want to do with their lives. I dont mean that everyone should find everything people do ok, but to bring someone down with words as slut or whore is just not acceptable.

    Conclusion: its not just an Afghan problem, but a human problem to judge etc. and if we give it some time judgments like the ones she mentioned kam meshan. Afghans will be more open minded as time passes, just like they were back in the days.

  31. Haji Feroz

    Reading all the comments posted has been quite entertaining. People need to understand and come to realize that the Afghanistan they or their parents grew up in will never exsist again! No one cares what family name you have, what tribe you came from, what city you grew up in or what high school you attended. Stop living in your nostalgic ways! If Durrani wants to label herself as Persian, more power to her. Who are we to come and say, “unah, khudah Afghan naguft!” It’s actually more embarrassing to read these comments from individuals who think they know better than anyone else. I’m sure half or all of them have at some point or time identified themselves as “PERSIAN.” Let’s face it, Iranians have their lives in order. The comments made here by Afghans is the exact reason why Afghanistan, the Afghan people and its culture will never progress. The only way to change tradition is to educate. While modernity doesn’t mean you have to walk in swimsuits, it also doesn’t mean that you have to cover your freaking hair and pretend to be pious when you hold more secrets under your hijab than Sarah Lee from Kansas. The hypocrisy in our community is unfounded. It’s time to unite, forget the BS and all the Islamic rhetoric that holds us back and start defending ourselves and reclaiming what is rightly ours, the Durrand Line! Marg bar Pakistan!

  32. deena

    really loved this blog, everything is so true, its mostly the extremist pashtun afghans that are judgemental and always judge me. i speak farsi and im fed up of pashtun afghans lowering my self esteem due to their love for islam, they think they can judge someone and make starements about who is afghan or who isnt and it really bothers me, because im from a civilised family and were much more modern, they dont accept me being ‘afghan’ because i dont live their lifestyle, im secular, im simple and i just really dont act like a typical old tradition afghan girl

    • Madinah

      I’m Pashtun and my family never does this 🙁 I’m so sorry you have to go through that! It’s honestly not a love of Islam in my opinion, it’s just a misunderstanding of the religion and an extreme need to regulate everyone’s lives! Afghans think they know what’s best for everyone lol.

  33. Mariam

    First, awesome blog name! Burqas and Beer sums up our peeps perfectly. Second, I agree with your conclusion as well as the journey it took for you to reach it because as a removed (by choice) yet patriotic-to-my-family-roots Afghan-American, I love the Afghan culture my family instilled in me but hate the reality that my family does not represent the majority. I’ve come to realize the culture and religion my parents taught me is unique to a minority because it is based on a sense of empowerment particularly for my sister and I who were surrounded by strong minded and educated go-getters who taught us to focus on pursuing a life of meaning and achievement through persistence and perseverance. I cannot recall a time when any of us was judged by some archaic religious rule set by chauvinists. Therefore, when I hear that people like this girl do not openly talk about their Afghan roots, I can understand because doing so means inviting the wrath of sexists and chauvinists who immediately resort to calling her a whore, slut etc. What’s really shocking and sad is the number of brainwashed females who do this to other females. In some ways, they are the worst. From my experience, it’s best to find your circle and stay away from the crazies. They will never appreciate what you are doing to further our people, they will never support your work and they will just cause you a headache. I own a CyberSecurity company along with some partners for the past 6 years and sadly, I don’t openly talk about my company or its success because the minute our peeps hear about it, I’m badgered about hiring their cousin’s cousin’s brother-in-law who knows “IT”, WHAT??? Or because we do work with the Fed Gov, they used to think I was a spy but of course since 9/11, all Afghans “know about contracting” so they assume we do “translating” in Afghanistan and offer up their kaka who knows “Good English”. In conclusion, while I would love to see the perspective of our people change in the general media, unfortunately, people like us represent the minority and what you see in the media is the barbaric majority. 🙁

    • Abdul Wali Hayat

      Interesting article thanks for spending time and writing this piece. I am originally Ghlijay Pashtun (Kochai tribe) which comes under Ahmadzai branch. Ghalijay is the second brother of Durani as you may all aware that Pashtun divided into two main categories Durani and Ghaljay. I would like to state very brief that who ever hiding their identity no matter who they are and where they are and what roles and position they holding are not completely independent or complete human being ….period.

  34. Nabeel khan

    If the lady being discussed here is a Muslim woman, is it wrong to judge her based on the Quran? Afghans are judgmental yes,but only because a muslim community is a fraternity and if a part of that fraternity through their choice of lifestyle or clothing goes against the norm of that community, should their not be judgement and punishment? Women are an integral part of a muslim society and when a muslim woman has a relationship with a non mahram man outside her community, does she still expect her people to respect her? If this lady is judged against the Quran will she not be guilty ?

  35. Sahra

    I enjoyed this post but I think it contributes to why Afghans “tuck our identity under the Persian rug” as it makes the mistake of claiming why we can be confused for Iranians and that the only reason we hide it is because Afghans are judgey and mean. Sure we may look similar to Iranians, however that is where the similarities end. We do not share the same religion (Afghans tend to be devout, pious Sunni Muslims while most Persians – and by that term I unequivocally mean Iranian as does everyone else in the world and especially in Southern California where her show is based, are usually atheist or Shia. Dari may be referred to as Farsi, however the two languages are not mutually intelligible. And lastly, have you met Persian women? They are equally and absolutely as judgey and gossipy, so to say she hid her identity as though she would be accepted by Persians is incorrect in my view. Persians came to the US with wealth and have set up lavish lifestyles in some of the most expensive zip codes, usually drive fancy cars and overall their cultural is more Westernized and therefore they assimilate better into American society. Afghans fled as refugees, mostly poor, and while I think Afghan women are more beautiful, it’s the Persians that are associated with exotic beauty. She hid her identity to benefit from those stereotypes instead of bachaa bazi and poverty and tradition. Instead of trying to argue why 7 afghans can technically call themselves Persian accurately by some vague, obscure definition, we need to address the true reasons of why afghans parade around the Persian identity. Sorry for late reply, looking for second season.

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