Many Afghans who risked their lives to aid western countries are getting turned away

Afghanistan seems to have fallen off the North American radar screen lately. One can certainly understand this, with the veritable smorgasbord of juicy and exciting papier-mâché preparations already underway for the US presidential election in 2016. Over the last few years, however, a continual problem has become more apparent.

Afghan interpreters, who previously served with and provided vital services to western military forces during the war are now being denied visas by the very countries they risked their lives to help. This is not to say that all Afghans who served as translators have been denied, however. The issue generally centers around the length of “continuous” service rendered by the individual in question. The Taliban has made it very clear that participation with western military forces will result in a permanent sentence to continuous death threats.

This has also proven itself to be difficult with respect to translators who, in the past, cooperated with UK forces serving in Afghanistan. France withdrew its last remaining active troops from Afghanistan in 2012. As has been the case with Afghans who have provided aid to other western peacekeeping forces, some of those who cooperated with the French as translators have not yet been able to obtain travel visas.

Jamal and Ismat are two of these Afghans. When asked in an interview what their “hopes were for the future,” both respondents answered similarly:

Jamal: “Only France can save us. other countries will always deny us visas because we didn’t work for them. We hope that the French people, French politicians, and the French president will be able to change our situation. If they can save us, life will go on.”

Ismat: “We have to re-open the process that allows interpreters to be granted visas-it’s the only way. Death could come today or tomorrow.”

Simply put, these persons have, over the years, aided western forces so as to bolster their ability to both defend themselves and to stay out of harm’s way. They have also facilitated efficient communication with the indigenous population. It is for those reasons that they must be allowed asylum in the west if they desire it.

Certainly, the governing variable in this situation is determining exactly “how long” these individuals actually served as translators. Humans (across cultures) have demonstrated remarkable capacities for lying. In addition it must be determined, in relation to the previously defined, how much of a threat such activities constitute, on the part of a reaction from the Taliban.

In many ways, countries like the United States, France, and the UK are responsible for the well-being of these individuals. They have provided for the well being of their own fellow citizens and foreign soldiers. This must be the path followed going forward, as diplomatic credibility depends on following through on material obligatons.

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