Afghan Restaurateurs Provide Hope to Refugees Fleeing the Taliban


Hamasa Ebadi, 27, and her parents, Hamida, 58, and Atiq, 60, opened the tiny restaurant in the fall of 2020, inside a former bubble-tea shop. And Assad Akbari, the former longtime general manager and chef at the Helmand, has announced plans to open his own Afghan restaurant this year, on the same street.

Ms. Ebadi said she came to the United States in 2010 for high school. “I wanted to continue my education, and under the Taliban, women simply weren’t allowed to,” she said. Today, Ms. Ebadi commutes between Baltimore and Dallas, where she works as a neuroscience researcher.

The Taliban’s return to power, and its continued subjugation of women, prompted one restaurateur, Omar Masroor, to take symbolic action. Last September, Mr. Masroor, 47, stepped away from the operations of his family’s restaurants — Bistro Aracosia in Washington, and Aracosia McLean and Afghan Bistro in Northern Virginia — and promoted two of his daughters, Taliha, 23, and Iman, 22, to management positions.

Today, the sisters, together with their mother, Sofia, 46, who oversees the restaurants’ food, largely run the operation — roles that would be denied to them in Afghanistan, where the Taliban grants women little freedom outside the home. The family is planning to open a fourth restaurant, Afghania, in Georgetown, and is training the youngest daughter, Zainab, 21, to be a manager as well.

“We feel horrible for the situation for women in Afghanistan,” Sofia said. “For my daughters to know that we’re confident, to know that we believe in them, it gives them that little push to be confident in themselves.”

Mr. Noori, the Richmond restaurateur, trained as a chef in Kabul. After his arrival in Virginia, he worked a number of different low-paying jobs, including driving for a ride service.