Karen Belz
November 14, 2013 11:00 am

Imagine if you went out on a limb to help out a friend that others didn’t like too much. Then imagine that afterward, that unpopular friend cut you off when you needed help, and said that you’d be fine getting help from your original friends – who are pissed off that you strayed from the group all together. Amplify that situation by a billion, and you can see why this story is pretty upsetting.

A growing number of Afghan interpreters who worked alongside American troops are being denied U.S. visas allotted by Congress, since the Congress doesn’t feel as if the interpreters’ lives are truly in danger due to Taliban retribution. These interpreters were a huge help to us, and based on their willingness to help our country, their lives are in severe jeopardy based on Taliban members who became aware of their international aid. “If I can’t go to the States, my life is over,” said an interpreter named Muhammad. “I swear to God, one day the Taliban will catch me.”

A while back, Muhammad was asked to mediate between U.S. soldiers and locals after an American convoy ran over an Afghan child, which lead to the child’s death. This situation had the ability to escalate quickly, and he put his life on the line to take on the job. Since he believed that he was spotted by a Taliban member during his assignments, he noted it on his application for his visa. All applicants are required to establish that they have experienced, or are currently experiencing, an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of employment by or on behalf of the U.S. government – but according to the U.S., Muhammad’s experience didn’t qualify.

In order to try and help us, interpreters disguised their identities by adopting a fake name, and some even wore masks and used other forms of costume. Even by trying to live a phony life, the Taliban can often still identify those who joined forces with us – especially if the interpreter originated from a very small town.

Another interpreter who goes by the name of Naseri was also denied a visa, despite the fact that he survived three attacks by improvised bombs on the military units he accompanied. Also? His family was threatened by the Taliban, who tracked down his address and threatened to kill them. If that’s not the definition of “serious threat”, I’m not sure what is.

Afghan interpreter Ehsan Mashal had his house raided a few months ago, and narrowly escaped Taliban fighters by jumping over the wall to the home next door. The fighters threatened to cut off Mashal’s head as punishment for helping American soldiers.

One interpreter already lost his life based on his participation. A U.S. Marine interpreter named Mustafa was kidnapped and killed outside Kabul in August, several days after he completed his visa interview. Who knows how many more will lose their lives, or lose their family, before this gets straightened out. How does this failure to accommodate those who helped us reflect on our country on a global level?

Personally, I’m failing to understand why we can’t acknowledge the good that these brave men have done for us, and allow them the ability to live the rest of their lives in a safe place. Obviously the interpreters are intelligent, and took on such a dangerous role to help them improve their own situations, putting a lot on the line to try and aid us during the war. The core reason the program exists is to help the threat facing Afghan men and women who worked for the US government. Many of the denied say that they failed to get their visas based on vague accusations that they were secretly involved with terrorist groups.

“We have to keep our promise to individuals who risked their lives serving alongside our troops… Failing to act puts lives at further risk and hurts our credibility around the globe,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is a member of the Armed Services Committee.

What are your opinions on this situation? Do you think the interpreters deserve a fair shot at a new life in a safer country?

Image Credit: MSNBC (featured)

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