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

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Nigerian Islamic School Tries to Combat Boko Haram

Kaduna school headmaster teaches his students that what militants are doing is are doing is 'a total misunderstanding of the Islamic religion' More

University Trains Students to Advocate for Deaf People Worldwide

Program prepares graduates to advocate internationally for access to education, jobs for people with disabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid