- After thousands signed an Army veteran’s Change.org petition, the US State Department has issued a visa for the Afghan interpreter who saved his life in combat;
- Veteran says the interpreter was on a Taliban kill list and feared for his life;
WASHINGTON, DC – After more than 100,000 people signed a popular petition on Change.org, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan says the interpreter who saved his life in combat has secured a visa to escape Afghanistan. The interpreter, like many other Afghan interpreters assisting US troops, has become a target for violence by the Taliban and was seeking to escape to the US for safety. His visa application had been held up in red tape since 2011.
Army veteran Matt Zeller of Fairfax, VA, says that Afghan national Janis Shinwari, who served as his interpreter, not only saved his life when they were caught in a firefight, but also protected countless other troops by helping them communicate in real-time and serving as a cultural link to Afghan nationals. Because of his assistance to US troops, Shinwari had been placed on a Taliban kill list.
In an effort to protect the man who saved his life, Zeller launched a successful petition on Change.org urging the State Department and the US Embassy in Kabul to issue a visa for Janis and his family.
“Janis saved my life in Afghanistan. When I heard he was also at risk, I had to do something,” said Zeller, who launched his petition on Change.org. “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.”
The US State Department also issued visas for Shinwari’s wife and two children.
“We’ve saved Janis’ world and for that I will be forever in your debt. You have my and Janis’ unending thanks,” added Zeller.
A program to grant visas to Afghan interpreters was established through the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, but Janis has been waiting for his visa for two years because of a backlog of applications and bureaucratic hold ups. In fact, Matt says thousands of interpreters like Janis are waiting for visas to escape to safety. A new petition on Change.org has been launched to protect a similar program established for Iraqi interpreters, which will expire on September 30 unless Congress takes action.
“It’s incredible to see more than 100,000 people join Matt in supporting Janis — and more importantly, that Matt has achieved his goal of protecting his friend and comrade,” said Deputy Campaign Director Tim Newman. “But how many signatures will it take for Congress to take action on this new petition launched by an Iraq vet?”