Speaking up for imperiled Afghani translators

Governments that sent troops to Afghanistan were quick to recruit local translators. Lured by high salaries and assurances that they would be protected from possible Taliban reprisals, many qualified experts signed on, risking their lives alongside foreign troops.

matt_zeller_janis_shinwariAccording to US army captain Matt Zeller, who waged a long campaign to secure an American visa for Janis Shinwari, an Afghan translator who saved his life, “American troops and diplomats relied on these men and women to be their eyes and ears throughout both of these military engagements. So it’s no exaggeration to say that pretty much everything the Americans did over there was thanks to a translator.”* Not every local translator who served foreign troops in Afghanistan has been as lucky as Janis Shinwari.

Although foreign troops posted in Afghanistan relied on the linguistic abilities, integrity, and courage of native translators, most of whom now live under the constant threat of Taliban reprisals, many of the governments that sent these intervention units have had less-than-sterling records regarding the provision of visas to the linguists who served them. Concerned individuals in various countries have launched petitions in Change.org to support the extension of visas to threatened translators and their families. Interested readers in The United States, Great Britain, and Spain can help convince their government officials to provide a safe haven for Afghani translators by clicking on the links below.

Change.org petition to British Foreign Minister William Hague

Matt Zeller’s petition to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in support of his unit’s second interpreter, who has been waiting for his visa since June 2012

Jennifer Eshaqzai’s petition in favor of her husband Fazil

Petition launched by Ana Ballesteros in support of local translators who worked with Spanish troops in Afghanistan. Support for these translators is especially urgent, as the Spanish government has done nothing more than offer equivocal responses to translators’ requests for asylum.


About Change.org (from its website):

Change.org is the world’s largest petition platform, empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see.

There are more than 45 million Change.org users in 196 countries, and every day people use our tools to transform their communities – locally, nationally and globally.

We live in an amazing time, when the opportunity to make a difference is greater than ever before. Gathering people behind a cause used to be difficult, requiring lots of time, money, and a complex infrastructure. But technology has made us more connected than ever.

It’s now possible for anyone to start a campaign and immediately mobilize hundreds of others locally or hundreds of thousands around the world, making governments and companies more responsive and accountable.

We want to accelerate this dramatic shift – by making it easier to make a difference, and by inspiring everyone to discover what’s possible when they stand up and speak out.

We’re working for a world where no one is powerless, and where creating change is a part of everyday life. We’re just getting started, and we hope you’ll join us.

* From an NPR interview available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=241786392