Student Spotlight–Amina Nazarei

What my Afghani roots mean to me.


Amina Nazarei

Amina (Left) as a young child with her father, sister, and mother.

Maleah Phetsomphou, Writer

     In 1983, 4-year old Omar Nazarei fled from Afghanistan with his widowed mother and 7 other siblings. After a long trip around the world, Nazarei immigrated to the United States. Nowadays, Nazarei resides in the Norwin area with his two children. One of his daughters, sophomore Norwin High School student  Amina Nazarei, continues to share his journey to the United States and what it means to her. 

     “During my father’s early childhood, there was a lot of danger going on around him,” said Amina Nazarei. “It was the combination of Russian Cold War conflict and constant terrorism.”

     Nazarei’s father originates from Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. Before leaving the country, he lived there for a little under 5 years of his life.

     “People in my father’s town began to be kidnapped and tortured by the Russians due to their resistance to convert to Christianity. My grandfather was one of the victims of the terrorism that occurred in the area. He was kidnapped, and never to be seen again. My father was very young when this happened.”

     As time progressed, the relationship between the Afghanis and Russians continued to deteriorate. The Russians began to target women and children as well.

     “My father’s family was considered royalty, so they were wealthy,” said Nazarei. “One day while playing outside on their large front lawn, my father was shot in the shoulder by a terrorist. My grandfather’s disappearance and my father’s injury prompted my grandmother to decide that it was time to leave. Things were  becoming too dangerous.”

     One night, Nazarei’s grandmother woke up Nazarei’s father and his seven other siblings, ordering them to pack a few bags with their belongings. They would be leaving their home for forever. That night, Nazarei’s grandmother, father, and siblings left Afghanistan. They illegally crossed the border into Pakistan

     “Regardless of the many things they left behind, they were desperate to avoid any more terrorism.”

     After fleeing to Pakistan, Nazarei’s father’s journey to America was not an easy route. Following their journey to Pakistan, they boarded a plane to Germany. After flying to Germany, the Nazareis’ were able to gain access to the United States. In 1984, they settled in New York City.

     Although Nazarei is not a direct immigrant like her father, she is very familiar with Afghani culture.

     “My sister and I fluently speak and understand Dari. We celebrate Ramadan, and we know how to make traditional food.”

     Nazarei and her family display many aspects of Afghani culture in their daily lives. Alongside lunch, dinner, and all other times for eating, they drink tea. Another common food in their household is rice. 

     A lot of Nazarei’s knowledge of Afghani culture comes from her grandmother.

     “My grandmother, who lives in the D.C. area, refuses to adopt any part of American culture. She tries her very best to maintain the culture she grew up in. When you walk into her house, it’s like you’re transported to a different country.”

     On top of having a deep knowledge of Afghani culture, Nazarei equally participates in America’s.

     “Due to my father’s experience with living in both Afghanistan and America, we have both cultures incorporated into our lives.”

      Nazarei’s father, Omar, enjoys living in the United States. He appreciates the opportunities that he was given.

     “My father loves America, and what it has to offer to everyone. He really believes in the ‘American Dream’.”

     Nazarei has learned many valuable lessons from the actions of her family. She tries to demonstrate some of their characteristics in her life.

     “One of the most important things that my family has taught me is perseverance. Do whatever you possibly can to get to the top. When my father came to the United States, all he had was a ten dollar bill. Now through hard work, he has become quite successful.”

     On top of persevering, Nazarei strives to honor her family.

     “My grandmother constantly reminds me to bring honor to our family. She wants me to remember all of the trouble my ancestors had to go through, and how lucky I am today.”

     In the future, Nazarei will continue to carry on her family’s traditions. She recognizes the importance of preserving Afghani culture. Day by day, she strives to someday bring honor to her family. 

     Nazarei hopes that by listening to her family’s story others will be inspired to be grateful for what they have, and always try their best at everything they do. She also wishes that everyone would be a little more open to understanding people’s differences, and embrace who they are.

     “I think our society would be a lot better if we were all kinder and less judgmental.”