After gathering over 113,000 signatures on his Change.org 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: www.change.org/VisaForEhsan.
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.