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An Afghan Family's Story

In August 2021 when Kabul fell to the Taliban, my wife and I were able to make it onto a US C-17 cargo  plane with about 600 other people.  We had little more than the clothes we were wearing.  When we finally arrived in the United States, we were sent to a military base in New Jersey for two months. We asked to go to Ipswich because a friend from Afghanistan was already here.  Arriving in town in late October, we stayed at the House of Peace on High Street for six weeks before we found an apartment in a private home here. We were there for about 14 months before we got an apartment on our own, just in time for the arrival of our first child in June 2023.

What was our life like in Afghanistan? We lived in the eastern region, Nangarhar Province– 120 miles east of Kabul. The climate there is more like Texas. We saw snow very rarely where we lived. Like many in my family, I speak Pashto, Dari and Urdu.  However, very few in my family speak English as I do. Because I speak English, I worked with the US Army in Kabul.  One of my uncles also worked as a mechanic on a big US base near Kabul,  Both of us are considered to be traitors by the Taliban.  I was able to get out of Afghanistan but my uncle was not and he had to go into hiding. 

Extended family is very important. I have three brothers and four sisters plus I have six uncles and seven aunts.  Most relatives live in the same province. We would see them regularly. Now that we are in the US, we communicate with them through technology. We can see them and talk to them but it's not the same as being with them.

Weddings are very different in my country. Usually 500 or more people will attend weddings and the festivities frequently last several days. Families come together though men and women will be separated. However the men and women will dance in separate groupings. We set the date of a wedding a month in advance to prepare all the invitations and food for 500 people. The groom’s family is responsible for paying for the food, jewelry, and everything. The bride’s family might buy items for the home.  

First Impressions of Ipswich: On the way from the airport to Ipswich, we thought that we were being taken to a rural village. We came at Halloween time and we were surprised by the decorations which reminded us of horror movies. We have since seen other places including Boston and agree that Ipswich is a nice, quiet place.

Living as a Muslim in the United States:  I have met other Afghans who came here a long time ago. They tell us it is much better than 20 years ago. We have availability of mosques, madrassas (schools for teaching children prayers and recitation of the Quran) and Halal groceries. These are places where we can obtain many of the foods we would find in Afghanistan and meat that is slaughtered according to Muslim custom.

Living in Ipswich: When I tell people I live in Ipswich, they say “I didn’t know there were many refugees in Ipswich.” It is a nice quiet town that has a beautiful beach and nice and kind people.  With the help of  IRP, I got a job at a medical device company soon after I arrived. Now I am working full time in the receiving department of a technology company in Beverly.


My wife really likes her English teacher from IRP who has become a friend. She also has appreciated the opportunity to work in a women’s sewing cooperative with other Afghan women in Newburyport organized by the New American Center.  IRP volunteers drive her to and from the workshop each week. She has been able to sell some of her sewing products at local craft fairs.  We have both appreciated the welcome we received from the people at churches and other people in town and for the support of the Ipswich Refugee Program who helped us with rides, driving lessons,  driving licenses, cars and most important, finding us an apartment of our own. 

Note: This story was excerpted from an interview.  The names of the family are not included to protect family members still in Afghanistan who worked with the US.  Anything posted on social media can be seen by anyone with access to the internet including the Taliban.


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