“I would do it again. A former Iraqi translator talks about his desire to continue serving the United States now that he is here

Now I do real estate. I’m far from smart right now. Because it’s like beating a dead horse – you’re never going to get hired. It’s like that.

I think there is mistrust [of Afghans and Iraqis, even the vetted ones who have worked for U.S. troops and are allowed entry to the U.S.]and it comes from this fear of “what if we hire this person and this person turns out to be the bad guy?”

In Iraq, there are not many people who are willing to work for the United States because they know that there is almost an 80% chance of dying. Once you sign this contract, you sign the death contract. You know you’re going to die; you don’t know when and how. These are the chances you have to take. The United States needed people like me back then because we are in a war zone. So they have to trust you, otherwise there is no one else to trust.

The US Army job would be like, “OK, you’re good, so we want you to do this and this and this for us. Thank you very much, we leave, you stay. Until, finally, you find the officer who finally accepts you to go to the United States. Because most units, as I said, are revolver units. They come in, they serve 12 months, and at the end of 12 months they leave, you stay. And when the new units arrive, you have to establish a whole new friendship with them, and so on and so forth. And they say, “you stay.”

But when you come here, it’s a whole different system. It’s not the US military anymore, it’s different entities that you work with. You have the FBI, the NSA, the CIA. Other small organizations that — they have their own system, and they have their own requirements, and they have their own choice.

Even then, I would do it again. I’m not here to take care of bureaucracy as much as I’m here to help take care of Americans. If you work for HR and you don’t hire me, I don’t care, because I’m not here for you, I’m here for the American people. I care about Americans, their families and their children. I care about the people across the way, even if they don’t like me for who I am, I like them. You might want to say, “Oh yeah, I hate you. Well, I don’t hate you! And I’m willing to sacrifice my life for you, even though I don’t know your name, because that’s who I am. It’s the person I am.

I know it’s hard to believe! But that’s who I am, that’s who I am. And even if, for example, if I died abroad, I would not regret it. Because at least if my death saves someone’s life, I will without a doubt, without a doubt.

Throughout my life, I’ve learned something that has stuck with me since I was a kid, that the world doesn’t revolve around me. It’s not always about me. It’s always about people, and I happen to be in it. I have to do whatever it takes to make sure the world revolves around people, not me. Even if it means I have to make sacrifices, and even if it means I have to stay away from my family, friends, etc., even if it means I have to get shot or die. It’s OK. So it’s not always about me getting the stuff and going here and there, no.

I haven’t seen my family for 11 years. I haven’t seen them for 11 years. At the moment I am in contact with them via Facebook, via Viper, WhatsApp. But before all this technology advanced here, we, I didn’t have these tools. We didn’t have a smartphone. So I had to buy the card, and the card disconnects phones and phone calls and everything, but I stayed in touch with them, with my family, my friends, everyone. But it’s a sacrifice I was willing to make, and I did. It’s a compromise.

I obtained my American citizenship at the end of 2014.

Now I have my own family. And all Americans are my family. I have a lot to watch [forward] at.

I hope people can actually know what some foreign translators are facing and how are they going to succeed here in the United States, in Charlottesville and how they got here, and how can they navigate their lives through this and to advance their lives and serve the communities around them.

Many people have in mind that the translator is just a tool that you use when you need it, and it’s okay if you leave it behind because no one cares. It may be a tool, yes, that you use, but, at the same time, this tool is very intelligent and very knowledgeable, valuable. This tool is a human being.

Right now I’m calling on anyone who has some sort of financial stability, if they’re a businessman or something, do what you can do [for SIVs and refugees].

The IRC has very limited resources. You can either donate to the IRC or to other offices where they deal with refugees. Or you can sponsor an Afghan family who comes from abroad. You can put them in your house, if your house is big enough, and they can stay with you for about a month or two until they get up. This way, you will bear the pressure of the IRC so that they can direct these resources to other families. At the same time, it’s a good experience for your family, for your life and everything, because these people, when they come here, they have already been pre-screened abroad, either in Germany or in other countries , therefore, you know that they will not be dangerous people. You can put them there. You can have a very good relationship with them. Your family will socialize with them.

It’s like a kind of student exchange program.

If you don’t want to do this, you can always donate to IRC or other organizations that help those in need. Because keep in mind, these people, when they come to this country, they only have the clothes they wear. They do not have money; they have no language. They don’t have the experience. Some of them do, some don’t. It would be a great help if the community got involved and helped the people who are going to come here. And we’ll see a lot of Afghans when they come here, and they have nowhere to go, or the IRC can’t really handle that many people at the same time

There is also an organization called No One Left Behind. This organization will take care of translators who have worked for American, Iraqi and Afghan translators. This organization also helps Afghan families and Afghan translators to resettle them here. They try to help as much as they can. If, for example, a businessman or financially stable person can get in touch with them and see how they can help, I’m sure they’ll have all the questions answered.

The most important thing you can do is learn about that person’s culture. You can’t just grab that person and start talking to them as if they were your friend. It has to be step by step. “Hi, how are you?” See where they come from, what their culture is like, if they allow another person to communicate with them. And from there, you start going, “Hey, how about you come over to our house, for a dinner or a little little party?” And then start a friendship, and from there you can teach them the language, the traditions, the culture, everything else. And they might be open-minded and ask you to learn new things.

I have lived a very hard life. But I hope my child will have a good life. I hope he will have more opportunities than me. It is always more difficult for the first generation of immigrants. Immigrants may not have a good life, but their children can. Their children can change the world — look at Steve Jobs, child of a Syrian immigrant — and sometimes, immigrants themselves too.