News / Asia

    Afghan Interpreter Finally Lands in US

    Afghan Interpreter Finally Lands in USi
    X
    November 07, 2013 8:57 PM
    Janis Shenwary, who worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, is said to have saved the lives of five American soldiers. But when Shenwary tried to come to the United States - under a special U.S. government visa program for interpreters in Afghanistan and Iraq - he ran into difficulties. At that point, one of the men whose life he had saved launched a campaign to bring Shenwary to the U.S. VOA’s Kokab Farshori has more
    Kokab Farshori
    Janis Shenwary, who worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, is said to have saved the lives of five American soldiers.  But when Shenwary tried to come to the United States - under a special U.S. government visa program for interpreters in Afghanistan and Iraq - he ran into difficulties. At that point, one of the men whose life he had saved launched a campaign to bring Shenwary to the U.S. 

    Army Captain Matt Zeller was embedded as a combat adviser with the Afghan security forces in 2008, when his convoy came under attack by a group of Taliban fighters.  Hurt and low on ammunition, Zeller was lying in a ditch when his interpreter, Janis Shenwary, who was also trained to use firearms, came to his rescue.

    "Somebody landed next to me and then I heard the unmistakable sound of an AK-47 being shot right next to my head.  And I turned, and it is Janis shooting dead these two Taliban fighters who had rounded the corner of a building.  Had he not been covering my back, I wouldn’t be sitting here.  He literally saved my life," said Zeller.

    Shenwary risked his life and killed two of his own countrymen to save an American.  He says Zeller asked him why.

    "I told him that you are my guest in my country.  You are here to fight for my people’s freedom.  You guys are here to bring peace for Afghans.  So, it is our responsibility to protect you and save your lives," said Shenwary.
     
    Shenwary’s association with the U.S. military made him a target for the Taliban. So in 2011, he applied for a Special Immigration Visa to move with his family to the U.S.  But Zeller says the visa did not come through in a timely fashion.

    The problem was that the State [Department] just sat on his visa and did nothing.  This past summer he sent me a Facebook message and said it’s only a matter of time before the Taliban catch me and kill me.  At that point, I went to the press, I started a change.org petition and got 100,000 signatures in a week and I was able to create a groundswell of support that compelled the government to do the right thing and issue him his visa," he said.

    Zeller says the State Department then nearly revoked the visa because of some incorrect information about Shenwary.   At that point he sought help from some members of Congress - allowing Shenwary to come to the United States.  Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, one of the members Zeller worked with, says the visa process should be expedited.

    "There are thousands of people still in Afghanistan who helped the United States, and their lives are at risk.  And a number of them are going to be killed and tortured, and mutilated bodies will be paraded to discourage others from helping us.  So, the U.S. needs to do its part as they did their part," said Moran.

    In an e-mail response to VOA, the State Department said “Overall, over 2,500 Afghans who have worked for the United States in Afghanistan and their family members have benefited from Special Immigrant Visa programs."  
    It goes on to say "There is no longer a backlog of applicants waiting for an eligibility decision.”

    Shenwary is extremely pleased to be safe in the U.S. with his wife and two children.  He says he looks forward to a bright future for not just his own kids but also for the millions of children in Afghanistan.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora