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Afghan interpreter in danger of having US visa revoked, fears Taliban revenge

JanisShinwari.jpg

Janis Shinwary (foreground) was granted U.S. visa status earlier this month for his assistance to military forces in Afghanistan -- but now his status is under review and he has been left a potential target of Taliban militants. (Courtesy of Matt Zeller)

The Afghan interpreter who finally received a visa for a new life in the U.S.could have it revoked after only two weeks -- and has gone into hiding amid fears he and his family have become targets of the Taliban.

Janis Shinwary already had quit his job as a translator for the U.S. military stationed in Afghanistan and sold all of his family’s possessions in anticipation for moving stateside. But the process to obtain the visa, which already put him and his loved ones in harm’s way, has apparently stalled with no explanation from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

“If you are getting a visa, you are expecting a new life,” Shinwary said to FoxNews.com via phone from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. “I started to sell everything we owned–even my kids’ toys.”

“I’m afraid I’ll be in serious trouble. The interpreter village was really the only safe place. I have nowhere to hide.”

- Janis Shinwary

Shinwary says that he received word from the embassy last week that there was an issue with his visa that was holding up the process -- but when he inquired, he could not get clarification.

“They told me to come to the embassy because there was an issue with my visa,” he said. “They wanted me to give it back.”

Shinwary has not given back the visa, at the urging of those who have supported his cause, but will be heading back to the embassy in Kabul in the coming week and might be forced to hand over the paperwork.

When reached for comment, an official for the State Department declined to discuss Shinwary's case but said in a statement:

"The Department has broad authority, under Section 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to revoke visas based on information that comes to light at any time indicating that a visa holder may be inadmissible to the United States or otherwise ineligible for a visa." 

The official added, "More broadly I would emphasize that every visa decision is a national security decision. Our visa procedures and processes are designed to address national security concerns at every stage of the visa application process."

On Sep. 20, the State Department Visa website listed Shinwary’s status as, “Approved/Issued” but just a few days later the same listing said “Administrative Processing” for both him and his wife.

In the short window that his status went from cleared to back into review, Shinwary had left his job as a translator and sold nearly all of his possessions. Like most translators, he has become a potential target from Taliban militants and has been staying with relatives and worries that he and his family are potentially exposed.

“I’m afraid I’ll be in serious trouble,” he says. The interpreter village was really the only safe place. I have nowhere to hide.”

The interpreter says that he has already been left chilling threats.

“Someone wrote on the hood of my car, ‘Judgment Day is coming soon,’” he said. “I’m sure somebody is watching me. I cannot trust anybody.”

Shinwary had originally applied for his visa and relocation to the U.S. in 2011 under a special immigration program for people who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The program was created to help interpreters and other allies from the Iraq war but faces extinction at the end of this month unless an extension is granted. 

The interpreter finally received his visa just two weeks ago after an online campaign was started by former Army officer Matt Zeller on Change.org. Shinwary saved Zeller's life during his tour in Afghanistan.

"After the State Department issued him his visas, he did what anyone in his situation would do --  what I would do too -- he sold his house, his possessions, and quit his job because he was told he was on his way to his new life in America," Zeller said to FoxNews.com. "Now, he literally has nothing but the promise our nation made to bring him and his family to the US for his near decade of faithful, honorable, and heroic service to the US military. Apparently, the State Department feels its perfectly routine and justified to break that promise."

Shinwary still hopes to be relocated to Arlington Virginia near Zeller and hopes to become a translator in Washington, D.C.

“I would try to find the same job, but I would do any sort of work to support my family.”

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