One New Jersey high school student is pushing Washington to throw a lifeline to an Afghan translator who served alongside U.S. Marines, then sought refuge in Germany after being denied safe haven in America.
Alex Joshua, 16, of Scotch Plains, says he recently started a White House petition after reading on FoxNews.com about the struggle Sami Kazikhani has faced since he was forced to flee his homeland. He served U.S. troops as a translator during the war in Afghanistan, but was outed as a “collaborator” and faced death at the hands of the Taliban.
“It’s a shame that so many people are risking their lives for the country and not being given to opportunity to come here,” Joshua told FoxNews.com. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. Obama is fighting like hell to get Syrian refugees into the country but what about the 10,000 translators and others who helped our soldiers?”
Foxnews.com has reported extensively on Kazikhani and the issues he has faced since working for the U.S. military.
Marked for death in his homeland after his cover was blown at a family wedding, Kazikhani, who was lauded by Marines he once served, was forced to flee last year. His escape came even as he was applying for safe passage to the U.S. with his wife Yasmiin and infant daughter Roxanna under a special visa program designed for those who served our troops.
After tribal elders ordered his death, Kazikhani fled first to Turkey, then made the dangerous trip across the Aegean Sea just weeks ago after being ordered to leave. He and his family eventually made their way to Germany, where they have been in administrative limbo ever since.
His supporters say he has more than earned a place in America for himself and his family. All coalition allies offer special visas for interpreters who served their troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the U.S. process is fraught with paperwork that can turn bureaucratic snarls into life and death for Afghans accused of being traitors and now actively hunted down by the Taliban, ISIS and Al Qaeda.
“I became a translator because I wanted to serve my country and because I was able to speak English," Kazikhani told FoxNews.com in an interview conducted via Facebook Messenger late last year. "I thought I could also be helpful to the coalition forces as well.”
"But there were many who absolutely did not like the people who worked with NATO," he said. "Especially interpreters.”
Kazikhani and his family have spent a majority of the time since then in Germany living at a center for refugees, but in a interview this past June, the translator expressed concern after government officials there told him his family would be sent back to Afghanistan.
"The German politicians are saying that Afghanistan is now a safe country,” he told FoxNews.com by phone. “We're really nervous for what is happening here. We are living in uncertainty and we also fear what will happen next.”
Attempts to contact Kazikhani for this article were unsuccessful. It was not immediately clear whether he and his family were still in Germany or back in Afghanistan.
As with most petitions posted on Whitehouse.gov, the Administration is obligated to review the issue once they hit 100,000 signatures within 30 days.
Matt Zeller, a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer who fought to bring to the U.S. another translator who saved his life in Afghanistan and started an organization called No One Left Behind to help others with SIV visas, said Joshua’s effort makes him proud.
“I think the fact that random Americans, who weren’t even old enough to remember the reason we went to Afghanistan, can recognize the importance of us keeping out word to those who helped us, it gives me a lot of hope,” Zeller said. “The fact that the still know the importance of honoring our promises and the willingness of complete strangers to something like this says a lot.”
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych