Afghan interpreter Janis Shinwari onced saved an American soldier’s life in a firefight and faces death threats from the Taliban due to his service to the U.S. military.
Shinwari, like most Iraqi and Afghan interpreters, was promised a Special Immigrant Visa after serving one year in his translation duties. Two weeks ago, he finally got approved — only to have his new visas for him and his family later revoked with no explanation.
An Op-Ed at The Guardian written by U.S. Army soldier Matt Zeller explains:
I spent the next few days calling the US embassy in Kabul and State Department to no avail. After total silence, they finally told me that his visa was revoked for reasons they could not legally address. I investigated further and had my worst suspicions confirmed: in the two weeks since the State Department issued his visa, an anonymous “informant” contacted the US government and claimed all sorts of things about Janis. The informant’s bogus claims eventually reached an analyst at the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) in Washington DC who promptly put a security hold on Janis’ visa, prompting the State Department to revoke it all together.
It’s fairly common for the Taliban to read the US news. I can’t help but think that they learned of our successful efforts to secure Janis his visa via the extensive coverage our efforts generated. They used to call our base in Afghanistan and claim all sorts of lies about our interpreters in an attempt to get us to fire them. The Taliban are almost certainly the source of the anonymous tip and now they have more time to hunt him and his family down and kill them.
Unfortunately, the story of Shinwari is not unique. Just last month, former Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a recipient of the Medal of Honour, penned an opinion piece in the Washington Free Beacon about his own interpreter Fazel, who couldn’t get his visa approved despite being recommended by just about everyone in the chain of command, including the top U.S. commander.
“For four years, he has avoided assassination,” Meyer wrote of Fazel, who he also credited with saving American lives. “But eventually his luck will run out. He risked everything to bring back four trapped Americans, and we have turned our back on him.”
After considerable media pressure, he was finally granted his visa and came to the the U.S. this month.
“Thousands of people are now threatened on a daily basis by people with very long memories,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on the House floor on Thursday. Blumenauer has been trying to get Congress to act on the issue, as the authorization for immigrant visas for Iraqis who helped the U.S. expires in four days.
“If they had wanted to harm us, they had countless opportunities to lead people down the wrong path — to attack, assault, mislead — but, by all accounts, thousands of these people performed critical tasks faithfully, if not flawlessly,” he said.
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