Afghan interpreter Muhammad Kamran said he felt like he was part of a brotherhood when he aided the United States military in its fight against terrorism in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014.
Kamran, a Muslim father of four and a teacher, served as a mission interpreter who helped recruit and train other Afghan nationals to interpret and translate for U.S. troops as they fought to eradicate al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
As a 19-year-old at the time he began, Kamran felt called to assist the Americans as they fought the radical extremists he considered to be the “enemy of humanity.”
“They were calling me brother,” Kamran said of U.S. soldiers during his 10 years of service aiding various branches of the U.S. military and the United Nations. “They were another nationality and another culture. I was from another country and of another religion but there was no difference for us. We were living with each other. We were eating with each other. We were sleeping in one room. There was no problem for us.”
But four years later, Kamran is among thousands of Afghan translators struggling to receive help from the U.S. government and the international community as they face death threats and violence for aiding the fight against terror.
As for Kamran, his wife and four girls, they have been forced into hiding and are living as illegal immigrant refugees trapped in neighboring Pakistan because of his decision to aid the U.S. — a “sacrifice” that he says he is proud of despite the fact that it has cost him his home, his cars, his wealth, and nearly his life.
Because he aided the U.S. mission, the Taliban is looking to kill Kamran. The Sunni radical terror organization that calls itself the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” spread lies throughout Kamran’s community in the Nangarhar Province that he’s a Christian looking to convert Muslims to Christianity — a charge that put a large target on his back inside his home village.
Today, the Kamrans live under the constant threat of Pakistani military and police raids. If Kamran is caught, advocates fear, he risks being killed by the Pakistani military or turned over to the Taliban.
Despite this, Kamran and his family were denied asylum by the very government he risked his life to assist.
Even though a generous American evangelical Christian family has spent over $58,000 to help keep the Kamran family alive over the last couple of years and offered to shelter the family at their California farm, a request for the Kamrans to receive even a one-year humanitarian stay was denied last November by the Department of Homeland Security.
The denial comes as tens of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi citizens are on a waitlist for Special Immigrant Visas designed to allow translators and interpreters who worked with the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek refuge in the U.S.
Yet, preliminary State Department data indicates that there was a slowing in Special Immigrant Visas issued for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters in 2018.
The number of Afghan SIVs issued in fiscal year 2018 is nearly 9,000 fewer than in 2017, and about 500 more than the number of Afghan SIVs issued in fiscal year 2015 under the Obama administration, and about 1,800 fewer than the Afghan SIVs issued by the Obama administration in 2014.
Kamran’s case was first denied under the Obama administration in 2016 and the ensuing appeal and application for humanitarian parole have been denied by the Trump administration.
The Kamran family was denied humanitarian parole by the U.S. government without a thorough review of the case or an explanation as to what the government’s security concern with his family is, according to the family’s advocate, Kristy Perano, who along with her parents and brother have financially sacrificed to help keep the Kamran family alive.
“I have worked 10 years for the security of the people,” Kamran said. “I did not care about the religion. I work for every religion. I work for every human and every country. But now, they say we are a security problem and I don’t know why. How did I become security problem? I don’t know this still.”
Fighting the war against terror
Shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. got involved in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan in which the U.S. sought to push the Taliban from power.
Being “strictly against terror,” Kamran began helping the U.S. Army in 2004. He worked out of the Kabul Military Training Center, where he helped interpret for Army troops in charge of training recruits for the Afghan National Army.
“My English was very good and the American people liked me a lot,” Kamran recalled. “They decided that they should push me to the missions and I should become a mission interpreter. So they gave me a good post and also make me mission interpreter.”
In 2006, Kamran began working with the U.S. Navy at Camp Lightening in Gardez Province where he worked on many training and humanitarian missions.
One of those was an assignment to assist the Navy in its efforts to institute a training program to teach the Afghan recruits to drive trucks. It was during this time that Kamran worked a lot with former Navy Lieutenant Karsten Daponte, who spent six months stationed in Gardez.
“He and I spent hours and hours in the truck and having some laughs,” Daponte, who retired from the military and now works in the energy sector, told CP. “Being in the front of the truck with Muhammad there with me, it was a shared experience and I will never forget that in my life.”
Also in 2006, Kamran was transferred to the Jalalabad Air Base in his home province of Nangarhar. There he worked with different branches of the U.S. military and went on night missions with U.S. Army 10th Mountains teams to arrest Taliban insurgents.
“I come to my province and I knew all the places that were [bad] and which were [good],” he explained. “I was providing information to the U.S. troops and U.S. Army. They were doing the operation and I was participating in that. The people know me very well. Taliban got a lot of information about me.”
Kamran said that over time he was “becoming a little famous” within the Taliban.
The ‘enemy of Islam’
The terrorists, he said, would frequently call his phone and threaten him. He was even forced to change his number and block callers.
“They were trying hard and hard to find me and get me,” Kamran explained. “They were asking people [in my community] to help them.”
“[Muslim clerics] told them that they should announce me as a Christian — not only a Christian but a dangerous Christian who is converting the people from Islam to Christianity,” Kamran said. “These people accepted it.”
Kamran said that the Taliban eventually began threatening people by telling them that if they have any relationship with him, they will be killed.
“They announced all our family as Christians and that our family should be killed. They would say, ‘They are Christian and their son is also Christian, and he is converting people to Christianity. He is the enemy of Islam and enemy of Muslims,’” Kamran recounted. “They directly announced me as the enemy of Islam. They sent letters to the mosque and said that I killed a lot of Taliban. I did not do that but they were blaming me a lot and they were making a lot of problems for me.”
Kamran said that the “most dangerous” time for his family began in 2014 after most U.S. troops had been withdrawn from Afghanistan. He said that people in his village and even people who he helped tutor were no longer friendly with him anymore.
“The Americans had gone and the job had gone and everything was finished,” Kamran explained.
“They (U.S.) did not care about me because they left Afghanistan. Then, my house got burned. [The Taliban shot] my brother. My two friends were killed. One man who I trained, they killed him also. The other friends who took a job as an interpreter, they arrested him, break his hand and feet and take all his money, his home and his car. Now he is a U.N. refugee in Canada, I think. I don’t have any contact with him. Finally, my dad and my mom told me that you don’t have to stay here anymore.”
Kamran turned to the government for help. He went to the district governor who offered him little help other than telling him to seek help from the United States.
With their lives in danger in Afghanistan, Kamran and his family fled Afghanistan on a five-day journey to Pakistan in 2014. According to Kamran, his family went without food for two days and only had dirty water to drink.
“I was walking in the mud for five days without boots and without shoes,” he said. “At that time, one of my daughters was only 6 months [old]. In different places, I got arrested but I was giving a bribe and I was giving the [officers] money.”
Although Kamran said that he feels fortunate to have fled Afghanistan, the situation in Pakistan is rough.
“My home has been raided by the police and by the military. Whatever I had here, the police took that from me,” he detailed. “I could not even buy one tablet when my kid got sick. I did not have the money to pay the rent of my house.”
Kamran has to regularly flee his house because of frequent immigration and anti-terrorism raids. Through connections, Kamran is tipped off when there is going to be a raid in his area. In some instances, Kamran has been caught by authorities but has paid officers with bribes so he won’t be processed and they won’t learn his identity.
At one point, Kamran and his family were kicked out of their home by a landlord because they couldn’t pay the rent. The Kamrans can’t leave their house out of fear of being arrested. This means that Kamran isn’t able to work and make a living.
The Kamrans initiated a refugee case with the U.N. in July 2014 and the case was referred to the U.S. in March 2015. In February 2016, the Kamran family was denied asylum by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for “discretionary” reasons.
Later that month, the Kamrans filed a request for the agency to review the denial of his case, which was eventually denied without review.
“It was in a very critical situation I was in,” Kamran said. “There were a lot of problems I was facing. Then I met Kristy.”
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Source: Christian Post