The Special Immigration Visa for American allies of the Iraq was is set to expire September 30, 2013. I keep getting worried and heartbreaking letters, like this one:
Dear Linda, hope my words meet you good. I’m typing to express my fears to you ma’am. I feel completely not safe now and feel that I might get killed at any time. The situations where I live get worse and worse day by day and even the day before yesterday 13 persons got killed by insurgents for different reasons such as; working for Americans or other religious reasons. Last night I was watching a movie with my beautiful wife while we heard a strong sound in the back yard of my house, we were so afraid because we don’t even have a gun in the house only the kitchen knifes. I looked around the house but found no one. the sound might be caused by air or by a cat even but you know what, it is so hard when you live with fears. I don’t even sleep at night recently and don’t have a good mood to joke or have fune even. I don’t know what is going to happen to me tomorrow or today or the day after. It is so difficult to live like this. I am counting down days to the 30 of September to see what is going to happen after two years of waiting. I cannot live in Iraq any more because I don’t think only about my life but about my little daughter’s life who is only seven months old. I cannot imagine her life if something wrong happened to me. Please I need your advice and nice words.
Tell me what nice words do I have for this man???
Time did not stand still.
I did some traveling since I last wrote (attending two graduations and a wedding) but I always keep in touch with the applicants for special immigrant visas who are waiting in Iraq mostly in great danger. I pray every day for them.
Just a few days ago one of the interpreters’ home was riddled with bullets. It was the bravery of a neighbor who shot his own gun at the shooters and scared them away. I will post pictures of some of the damage here. The bullet holes do not look huge, as the damage made by a bomb would appear, but bullets are indeed deadly and it is fortunate the ex-interpreter and his mother were not killed.
Today I spoke with an employee of Global Linguistic Solutions…….I won’t use her name in case she were to get in trouble, but she had something to share with me about the “security checks” the interpreters are going through. First of all, there is a language and cultural barrier; and these interpreters go into the interviews VERY worried about the outcome. If they do not answer a question correctly they will be blacklisted (denied a visa) and stuck in Iraq. That is what happened to the owner of this house that had this “drive-by” shooting. He did not answer a question “correctly”.
The interpreters are asked “loaded” questions like, “Do you know any terrorists groups in Iraq?”. Bear in mind the interpreters may get confused and think they are being asked if they actually personally KNOW terrorist groups. Also bear in mind the interpreter’s life relies on his answer. His immediate instinct might be to say NO, (because he is not a terrorist), but that would be the wrong answer. That answer would be considered deceptive and it is enough to blacklist him. Everyone know there are terrorists groups in Iraq so the correct answer should be yes. But it is a very confusing question, especially to someone who speaks English only as a second language. Consider your own self communicating with a Mexican immigrant who speaks pretty darned good English, but STILL makes errors now and then. The Iraqi interpreters are much the same; they speak English well (considering); but not PERFECT.
The woman at Global Linguistics Solutions had criticism for the way these interviews are handled as such. She said she is certain that a high percentage of innocent interpreters are being fouled by these security tests. I am sure of it also and it makes me sad beyond words.
An ex-interpreter that worked with American troops has been killed within the past few days. He leaves behind members of his birth family and a recent fiance. He was only 25 years old. This young man had fled his hometown after threats to his life but was followed or found in another town where he was killed.
This is all I know so far and I will update here with details as they come; but I didn’t want to wait in giving you this proof that interpreters lives are in great danger. The “bad guys” in Iraq have sworn to kill everyone that cooperated with Americans and they hate the interpreters more than Americans themselves……..
This interpreter was waiting for a visa that did not come soon enough. His requests for safety were not honored, and now he is gone. His is just one more case of collateral damage. But he should have been protected!
I have not heard back from the interpreter that reported the death of the murdered interpreter (his friend), but this does not necessarily alarm me. The interpreter I wait to hear from does not have regular internet connection, so perhaps I will hear from him soon.
A worry is that the killers may have now also killed the interpreter I wait to hear from. I’m trying not to think about that.
I got a phone call a few days ago from an ex interpreter (Iraqi who worked with American soldiers) who had been working a minimum wage job. He got injured and had to have time to recuperate and lost his job. He didn’t have a next month’s rent; somebody told him about this lady who is a friend to the interpreters (me), and now we have this nice young man staying at our house. Like many of us natives, the immigrants too often live on the edge; paycheck to paycheck. And we can turn out backs or not.
You would not believe all the work this guy is doing for me. I have to tell him to stop. He is definitely paying his way.
I don’t know where he will go from here, but he is welcome here for now and longer.
Bear in mind we don’t just help foreigners; we also have a wheezing senior citizen in a spare bedroom. He’s not even a relative………. but he asked for a room. That was about a year ago and he may be here til the end.
Before the wheezer geezer we housed a disabled vet for about a year.
I wish I had room for more people.
I had applied for the SIV program in 2009 and I was granted for the Chief Of Mission Approval in October 2010. and I had the Interview at the U.S Embassy in Baghdad in (April, 3rd, 2011 ) at the U.S Embassy in Baghdad. I worked with the United States Marine Corps AND the United States Army in Iraq as an Interpreter for the last four and half year. I have had worked with two companies that support the United States Military with Interpreters in Iraq.
The National Visa Center NVC Informed me last month and told me that my chief of mission was revoked for something negative on security check. When the NVC informed me about the revocation I had to inform a lots of Army and Marines officers that I worked with in the past and they know me better. One of the Marine officers contacted an Army captain who had accused me for no reason (of stealing because there was an electric cable in my room that wasn’t supposed to be there) and he Informed the Marine officer about my two cellphones that I used to use when I was a linguist, and he informed the Marine captain that I had “Suspicious Activity” on my cellphone. But that’s because I had an Iraqi counterpart I communicated with as part of my job. I had used to use my two cellphones to coordinate between the Iraqi Army/Police Officers and the U.S Officers as well. Plus I had the phone numbers of my family as well. I have nothing to do with any suspicious activity as he said.
I really need you guys help here with me. the Terrorist and militias are looking for the people who worked with the United States Military in Iraq. I am getting threats by unknown people. I have no place to go. I can’t travel to any other country because of my family. I already lost one of my brothers back in 2008 because of my job and I have another brother and he’s disable right now. They were attacked because of me working for the United States. I faced the death the day I start working with the united states military in Iraq. I sacrificed my life and my family’s life as well. I have a lots of people who can provide you and with a lots of positive recommendation letters for me.
I faced the death when I was with the Marines and the Army as well. I was hit by multiple IEDs and VBIEDs and one day a terrorist in falluajh hit the truck that I was ride in with RPG I believe and my commander captain Paul Benfield was riding in the same truck with me. I faced all the threats while I was a linguist, We trained the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police and they all knows me they know my face. Now I can’t even get a job to support my family because I will be recognized. I try to stay inside all the time or I am not safe.
I have my younger sister in high school and the school driver asked my sister and told her If I was a linguist with the Americans but my sister denied that and he didn’t believe her and told her your brother is traitor your brother and American agent he sold his country and helped the americans against his country Iraq.
I served the United States government in Iraq with dignity I didn’t steal anything. I didn’t get in touch with any terrorist organization I was straight clean with the United States Government. I didn’t refuse any mission. I didn’t refuse any order. I didn’t refused anything that my commander said to me.
All I am asking right now is to have my Chief Of Mission back on the track. I did the Interview and I waited for one year and AFTER ALL THAT I RECEIVED THE REVOCATION NEWS.
I can provide you with everything you need I can provide you with all the Information that you guys need. I can provide you the emails for the people that I had worked with for the past four and half year so you can ask them about me and get more Information.
People please please please. Don’t leave me alone and hanging like that. I need your help so bad. I am innocent. I wouldn’t fight for the Visa unless I deserved it.
Even a reporter at the National Public Radio NPR Knows about my story. I had an Interview at the NPR in baghdad the Interview was in one month before the revocation. As I told you I have no place to go and also there were more and more Interpreters were rejected for small misunderstanding with their Officers in charge OIC. I know more innocent people like me who were rejected. Please help us. Help me and help my family
Thank you, God Bless You and God Bless America.
The good news is that the visas are coming faster. They’re not coming fast enough by a long shot, but word of the few visa approvals is enough to keep hope alive for the interpreters whose moments of hope are few and far between. Hopefully by now you heard when the US troops withdrew from Iraq they left behind the employees that interpreted for them. For these interpreters the war is not over; some have been already killed; some are hiding in family homes, and even some are moving about homeless because they have been thrown out of their family homes.
But even with the interpreter gone the home stays in danger of attack, regardless. A grandmother has been killed because her grandson was an interpreter; while he is waiting for a SIV visa in a neighboring country. Why did the interpreter not have his grandmother with him?? Because he is living in an apartment with seven other refugees, each splitting an exhorbitant rental fee; while he works whatever poorly paid job that is available (if any). There is a second attack on the family home in Iraq and his mother is hospitalized with internal bleeding, and then he gets the news that he does not qualify for a security clearance that will allow him to take what is left of his family (his father and now nearly deranged mother) to resettle in America where they can live in safety.
Another interpreter was refused a security clearance also, based on (false) accusations of stealing an electrical cable and also having suspicious phone numbers in his cell phone activity. The phone numbers were put in his phone by military personnel who wanted him to have of these parties they were then working as allies with. But things change so fast in Iraq, now these phone numbers are those of suspected terrorists…… How do I know these guys are good guys? Because I have talked with some of the US soldiers that served with them and whose lives they saved.
I don’t know how to help. Do you have any ideas?
New Day: HAPPY EASTER. The cats woke me and I laid here listening to roosters crowing and thought of apostle Peter and of how trusting we MUST be. Only the Bible readers may get my reference, and even then some may not……… I then heard geese which remind me of seasons changing and I also hear the thump of an oxygen machine from another bedroom which reminds me of our every last breath. Man this is deep isn’t it? :o)
But my heart feels good even with all the daunting tasks. Just the task of qualifying for a senior menu is daunting enough.
I wrote a letter to the NSC asking for more careful consideration for the interpreters yesterday……..and then I immediately asked myself who I think I am. It’s one thing to give words of comfort to the group of Iraqi interpreters I am Facebook friends with, but it seems to cross a line to write a government agency. Not that I haven’t left the little telephone blurbs we are allowed if we call the White House. I have done that; called to leave an appeal for help for faster help for the “terps”.
It definitely feels odd to write an appeal to a small group of powerful people. I doubt they’ll even read it; surely they have people that toss out “extra clutter” letters…… Or maybe (or probably) they file the letters from “concerned citizens”. I wonder if they have people that assess the sanity of the writers……….. But what can a person do you know? Write or keep your thoughts to yourself??
I do know at least one of interpreters who has been refused a visa is being advocated for by his former superior officer/s. I just want to praise those officers (and soldiers) who stand up for their interpreters against possible wrong judgement.
I saw one of those slogan/sayings you can put on your facebook page like a refrigerator magnet last week that said something like: ” I wanted to ask God why he allowed this or that terrible thing but I was afraid He would ask me the same question.” (I paraphrase ’cause I can’t remember the exact words but you get the idea).
So who do I think I am? Nobody important but nobody not important either. If my letter to the national security people gets filed under “nut-job letters” so be it………… I’ll know at least I did my best and I can rest and breathe easy. And then I’ll let those folks do their job, but not without first saying I expect them to do the best job possible because there are human lives involved. Now it’s time for me to trust. And that’s another daunting task………………
Here’s the letter I wrote to the National Security people:
Dear Council Members:
I am writing with an important request.
As you know, there are very many Iraqi war refugees trying to make it to the safety of American soil. The group I have chosen to be concerned about are the interpreters who worked with US military troops . This is primarily because I consider translators to be of utmost importance to the goal of peace-keeping. And while the interpreters or “terps” as they are called by the military are not of the same caliber as the most scholarly translators, they were still in a very crucial position. Also, this group is in especially great danger of retaliation for helping the United States.
I would like to ask your assurance that each interpreter that is decided unworthy of a SIV visa, have separate, impartial and especially intelligent reconsideration of their status. I am asking this because I have been in contact (on the internet) with over one hundred of the interpreters and it has been difficult to even observe from a distance their anxiety-ridden waiting in the dangerous surroundings. When several have received a negative reply to their visa requests it is absolutely demoralizing to the others and there is no clear way (at least at this point), for the rejected ones to contest the judgement and ask for a fair hearing.
You may reply that these people are not US citizens and may not be allowed the same regard as a citizen, but I have also spoken with some of the US soldiers who served alongside these interpreters. These interpreters literally sometimes saved the lives of American troops; not only by interpreting, but sometimes by picking up a gun and defending fallen soldiers.
Please, you must make certain that every of these interpreters that deserve relocation to safety be allowed to have it. Can you assure me of this?
I have a difficult time trusting the infallibility of systems that have shown themselves too easy to fail, and being that I have become familiar with some of these interpreters online, and I worry about them, I thought I would send this letter. It is my hope that you might assure me there will be the most careful efforts made to protect these people’s lives.
I hope to hear from you by phone, letter or email; whatever is easiest. And I am sorry if this takes your time away from other matters, but all lives are precious and I hope you understand my concern for these brave allies who sacrificed so very much for the United States.
Linda Wesson Hirashima
A Human Being
by Abdullah Ahmed
They asked me of my nationality,
They asked me of my entity.
And I ask:
Are we not all created by one God?!
In one universe! In one spacious land!
Do we not descend From Adam and Eve?!
Are we not from blood and flesh?!
Did God not give us superiority over birds?!
That hover up freely from place to place!
They answered:” yes”
Hence I reply:
I have no boundaries
I have no borders,
Faith! Faith! Faith!
All I have is faith;
Faith in my human-being
That is my entity;
Here or there I’m human,
From blood and flesh,
I’m your brother,
And you are my brethren,
Then should we not love one another!?
A newspaper recently reported more Iraqi interpreters are now getting their visas, and this news is being retweeted on Twitter as though the interpreters’ problems are already solved. Unfortunately it is not this simple. The problems will not be solved until all of the interpreters are safe. Some have gotten their visas, yes, but most have not, and a promise is only a promise. We have not even been told when the processing of the visas should be finished, and meanwhile some thousands wait in great danger. I cannot just hear reported “good news” and put away my concern for the interpreters; and if you are concerned you should not either.
Some of the interpreters have had their visa applications rejected because their security checks did not clear. I believe there should be a transparent investigation and explanation as to why these visas were refused; because the individuals risked their lives and they have US soldiers standing beside them asking why their friends are not allowed to come to America.
As American citizens we have rights, and it is because of these rights perhaps that I feel so free to ask why we do not give other people rights also. One of these rights is a trial by a jury of our peers, and the peers of the Iraqi interpreters have been American soldiers. But our government, (at least some of it) does not show rights to non-citizens. It would seem to me we should respect the rights of citizens of the world. What is good enough for us should be good enough for others. When one of our own national citizens breaks a law, no matter how seriously, we give that person a trial.
When one of our own citizens is in custody on any charge, they are promised no cruel or unusual interrogation or punishment; and yet some in our government have circumvented this norm by doing things akin to torture (or torture itself) on foreign soil, as if that would make these actions any less unethical………. The rulings of the Geneva Conventions have been conveniently tossed aside.
And now I am expected to believe our faulty government with its veils of secrecy will make the best decisions about the Iraqi interpreters; but I find myself unable to trust. The government already been guilty of allowing terrorists into the country (last year two Iraqi immigrants were caught smuggling money and weapons back to Iraq)………but I must trust that they will allow the good guys in and keep the bad guys out??? And trust that this be done without accountability? With no transparency. I hope you understand my hesitation.
I don’t know the people that are being refused their visas well. But the soldiers that were in combat with them know them pretty well I would think, and I hope their voices are listened to. This is what I ask; that the soldiers’ voices are listened to; that these people have a chance to explain or defend themselves against what may be false accusations; and for the consideration that a visa refusal can amount to a death sentence for these people. Even if these people are not allowed to enter our border, I think it may be right that they should at least be helped to relocate elsewhere than Iraq where they are marked as targets. Can we really use people so easily and disregard them?
I ask that we Americans treat other people as we would like to treated.
I hope you don’t mind me saying, but I truthfully don’t trust every decision our government workers make. Last year about this time, there were two immigrants (they never worked with our armed forces) who were apprehended smuggling money and arms back to extremists in Iraq where they had come from. The State Dept. had made an error in letting them enter the country. One of them had fingerprints on file as having been on an IED that was found in Iraq. They were known to have connections to the “bad guys”.
NOW, the State Dept. is employing new super strict guidelines in their painfully SLOW decisions on who gets to enter the United States. If there has been any vague issue, there are interpreters that are being refused entry. This seems to me to be rather harsh in consideration of the fact that the interpreters risked their lives in service to the United States. To not allow them entry is to (basically) sign their death warrant; because eventually they will be found or recognized by these same people that are killing Iraqi youth for having American-style haircuts, clothing, or suspected to be a homosexual. Anyone associated with “the West” or tolerance of anyone “different” is a target over there.
The EXACT agency (or agencies) doing the intensive security checks will not answer questions about the checks, and apparently in most cases will not tell the reason why an interpreter is disallowed a US visa, but the letter below is from an interpreter who I believe was treated unjustly, if what he says is true (which I myself believe it to be). It would not be the first time that military personnel made an error……..I think we have seen FAR too many of errors. And I say this with all due respect for my friends who are soldiers……..I think my friends would agree. Also, I am hoping a soldier that knows the truth about this will come forward and tell it.
(below is a letter to you from an interpreter who I believe has been wrongly refused a visa. There are a few other decisions by this judging panel that I also question. I hope they will have the decency to give these few interpreters a fair appeal, and/or otherwise provide safety to these interpreters in another location). ANYONE that worked with the Americans is not safe in Iraq, and I think anyone that risked their life in service to America is due political asylum and safety.
HI ALL. I am a former Iraqi Interpreter totally worked for the United States Government as an Interpreter for four and half year, I am here today to share story with all of you, I’ve had worked with the Marine Corps in Iraq for the past three and a half year straight without problems at all, With the Marines I used to travel with them all over the country Iraq, Then I have applied for the SIV program in 2009 and I have got the Chief Of Mission in Oct 2010, When the last unit of the Marine Corps left the country the in the end of 2010, then GLS Sent me to work with the Army 3rd Infantry Division somewhere in Iraq I am not trying to mention the name of the FOB or the name of the city, Anyways I did the Interview at the United States Embassy in Baghdad in April while I was with this Army unit They did take good care of me too, Then we moved from small FOB where the Iraqi Army living at to another Iraqi Army base with the rest of the element of 3rd Infantry Division. then I lived in an Occupied room by another Interpreters at that time I found three rolls of cables and they were tight when I Informed the platoon SGT about those cables he said “it’s just a cables not yours so don’t worry about it” HE IGNORED IT and I listened to what he said and I left them sitting in my room the whole time. then in mid of June of 2011 3rd Infantry Division left the country and been replaced by the 82nd Airborne, But I didn’t Informed the new unit the 82nd Airborne about those cables because I though they going to ignore it as well. AND HERE THE TROUBLES BEGINS. I dedicated myself to the Army Company commander and platoon commander as well. it was a part of the job. and right before the 82nd Airborne wanted to leave Iraq we cleaned the FOB and about to turned it to the Iraqi Army. He found the cables in my room and he start yelling at me and screaming at me, then I told him the whole true story about the cables but he didn’t believe me. Then he asked me and I responded to his questions
(Why you have those cables in your room and who’s belong too?)
I Answered him
(Those Cables aren’t mine aren’t belong to me they were sitting in this room for long
And he asked me this.
Are you trying to make money from the U.S government Property ?
Then I answered him this
( No sir, Why would I do that. I have my salary. I have money )
and he asked me this
(Why you didn’t take them out of your room)
Then I answered him this
(They were so heavy)
Then he tried to lift them but he couldn’t
then I told him that I had Informed the last unit but they Ignored it. So I didn’t tell you about it because I though you will ignore it as well.
then he told me I will fire you, and I told him Sir you can’t just fire me like that I didn’t do anything wrong I served the U.S.G for four and half year and he didn’t respond to me. Then the 1st LT Shows up and found out. and the LT told his commander Sir my Interpreter isn’t thief. I trust him as much as I trust my soldiers. BUT Unfortunately. The Captain didn’t listen to the 1st LT as well.
then he took me to the Intelligence and the Intelligence start asking me about the cables and Interrogated me there and they took my two cell phone from me and checked them the Intelligence didn’t find anything suspicious on my two cell phone.
and they dropped me at the gate of the FOB late in the evening. and flagged me and he put my name in the black list for his MISUNDERSTANDING of me and his 1st LT. Now I can’t work with any U.S Contracted company in Iraq. and My Visa about to be revoked.
Just yesterday a sergeant got told me that, The captain was hate the Interpreters and he wanted to fire one of you guys. and he found you with the cables and he found it to easy to fire you so he accused you false accusation. Because he can. He was the commander. and that SGT don’t want me to say his name.
I am asking you for help please. I sacrificed my life and my family’s life of working with the U.S Military in Iraq. is that how you treat your allies. Save my life. As an Former Iraqi Interpreter my life now in Iraq is full with threats. I trained the Iraqi army and police and most of them knows me and can see me in Baghdad where I live. as you know some of the Iraqi army and the police are corrupt and it has a militias once they found my house and my family they will kill me and kill my family as well, HELP ME LIKE I HELPED YOU. SAVE MY LIFE LIKE I SAVED A LOTS OF AMERICANS LIVES IN IRAQ. PEOPLE I NEED YOUR HELP. HELP ME WITH ALL YOU CAN. I REALLY NEED YOUR HELP NOW.
That’s all I have got.
Best regard,(anonymous interpreter)