Save my Afghan interpreter
  • Petitioned US Embassy in Kabul

This petition was delivered to:

Media Relations
US Embassy in Kabul
Duty Press Officer
US Department of State

Save my Afghan interpreter

    1. Matt Zeller
    2. Petition by

      Matt Zeller

      Fairfax, VA

October 2013


After gathering over 113,000 signatures on his petition, US army vet Matt Zeller won his campaign to secure a visa for Janis Shinwari, his interpreter while he was in Afghanistan. Janis had been waiting for a visa for years and was unsafe in Afghanistan since he is on a Taliban kill list for assisting US troops. Matt said: "Janis saved my life in Afghanistan. When I heard he was also at risk, I had to do something. I’m so relieved that the US Embassy in Kabul and the US State Department got our message and that so many people across the country joined me in standing with Janis. We've saved Janis' world and for that I will be forever in your debt. You have my and Janis' unending thanks." Check out Matt's petition for his other interpreter, Ehsan, here:

When I served as an Embedded Combat Adviser in Afghanistan, my interpreter, Janis Shinwari, saved my life. Now I need you to help me save Janis’ life.

In 2008, Janis and I were caught in the middle of a firefight. He took swift action when a combatant shot at me. But beyond that specific incident, Janis served a critical role for me and all of the other troops serving in Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghan nationals have served as interpreters to assist US troops in communicating in real time and providing a cultural link between the troops and Afghan nationals. 

However, because they are so visible in their communities, many interpreters have become targets for violence. Janis knows for a fact that the Taliban has added his name to a kill list and he is in constant danger. For the moment, he is living safely on an army base, but he needs to leave the country immediately to ensure his safety and that of his family.

The US operates a specific visa program for Afghan nationals who serve as interpreters who want to relocate to the US -- and there is a similar program for interpreters in Iraq. The program was created through legislation in 2009 (the Afghan Allies Protection Act), but thousands of interpreters like Janis are still waiting for their visas. The process is incredibly complicated for applicants and bureaucrat hold ups leave interpreters waiting in dangerous situations for months or even years. Now, both programs are weeks away from expiring unless Congress takes action to renew them.

Janis began his application for a US Visa in 2011. Today, he is still waiting for the US Embassy in Kabul to issue him the visa he has earned. The Embassy and the State Department have the power to help Janis leave Afghanistan and start a life in a safe place. I know first hand how critical interpreters like Janis are to our troops serving overseas. It’s time that the US do the right thing and help Janis escape the dangerous situation he’s in because of the work that he did for our country. 

Please join me in calling on the US Embassy in Kabul and the State Department to help save Janis life by issuing his visa immediately.

US Embassy in Kabul, Media Relations
US Department of State, Duty Press Officer
Immediately Issue Janis Shinwari his visa

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. HBO is helping us save Afghan and Iraqi translators

      Matt Zeller
      Petition Organizer

      Last night on HBO's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver rightfully excoriated the Special Immigrant Visa programs for Iraq and Afghanistan (the programs that are supposed to bring translators who served the US military at war to America):

      I only wish the show had gone on to tell folks what happens to most once they arrive:

      Last fall you helped me get Janis, the translator who saved my life, to the US. We subsequently started No One Left Behind to help properly resettle these translators as veterans and heroes.

      Too often, we learn of translators who arrive in the US only to be instantly indebted, abandoned into poverty, evicted, and forced to flee back to a Afghanistan only to be hunted down by the Taliban.

      Just last night as I watched the show, I received a message from an Afghan translator now living in a slum in Maryland. He faces eviction in mere days unless we can raise him the necessary funds. He's not alone. In the last week, I've learned of at least two families who arrived with nothing and haven't received any real aid or assistance since arriving in the US months ago. Sadly, these stories are the status quo.

      We feel these translators have earned better than the government's current system (or severe lack thereof). We provide all of our beneficiaries with three months of rent, fully furnished homes, job placement, and cars. We are prepared to help, but we can only do it with your assistance. Will you help us help them?

      Please contribute to our efforts today by clicking here:

      Many thanks for your continued support.


      Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Translators (HBO)

      Translators who have aided the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and Iraq are in great danger in their home countries, but red tape is making it impossible for many of them to leave. John Oliver interviews Mohammad, one translator who made it out.

    2. An update from Matt and Janis

      Matt Zeller
      Petition Organizer

      I hope this finds you well. As Janis and I celebrate the upcoming one year anniversary of his arrival in the US, we wanted to write you to express and extend our thanks for your efforts and energy in saving his life. We are eternally grateful.

      But now we need your help with another former translator. You can read his story here:

      When the Taliban learned that Mohammad Usafi was working alongside U.S. Marines, they tortured and murdered his father. Mohammad was able to come to the U.S. but his family lives in fear and in hiding everyday.

      So Mohammad started a petition asking the Dept. of Homeland Security to allow his family to travel to the US. Please sign it here:

      DHS can grant Mohammad's family "humanitarian parole" which allows people in emergency situations to come to the states. They really are in danger. After killing his father, the Taliban then kidnapped his 3-year old brother and held him for ransom. They were able to get him back but who knows when they'll strike again.

      One of the Marine's Mohammad worked with had this to say about him: "Mohammad would have taken a bullet for me. Lets take care of his family!"

      Thank you for helping Mohammad and his family by signing his petition:


      Matt Zeller and Janis Shinwari

      Department of Homeland Security: Save My Family's Lives

      As an Afghan interpreter for the U.S. military, it was my honor to serve the United States. But in retaliation for my work alongside the U.S. Marines, the Taliban captured, tortured, and murdered my father. I moved my family to safety and continued to serve.

    3. Reached 100,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • walter moore WILLIAMSBURG, VA
      • 12 months ago

      viet nam vet understand what the local do to save american lives

    • Stephen Levine RICHARDSON, TX
      • 12 months ago

      This man is a hero. Please help him and escalate his request to it can be granted.

    • Bernadette Brésard ST CYR EN PAIL, FRANCE
      • 12 months ago
    • Breahna Jordan BURLESON, TX
      • 12 months ago

      I work for a non-profit organization called Eternal Threads. We work with women in 13 different countries, one of which is Afghanistan. Our partner was one of these interpreters and has brought this issue to light for us. You can find out more here:

    • Michael Klein AKRON, OH
      • 12 months ago

      Show gratitude for these people who put their lives in jeopardy to facilitate our success and safety. When I lived in England, I met many Indian families who had to flee India due to their identification with and just such facilitation for the British at that time. We have many ourselves from Viet Nam. Please act with alacrity to repay the faithfulness of this man and his family with gratitude before he suffers an unjust fate due to our carelessness to respond in a timely manner to resolve his need!


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