Aug 6 (Reuters) – It was a bittersweet reunion in America for two Afghan brothers who have fled violence and threats in their country.
Sayed Abdul Wase Majidi, whose work as a translator for the U.S. military could make him a Taliban target in his homeland, landed late Thursday at Sacramento airport after being airlifted from Kabul and then going through U.S. government processing at Fort Lee, a military base in Virginia. He had to leave his mother, a brother, and two nephews behind.
Majidi was among 200 Afghans the United States brought out a week ago in an effort to protect translators and others who risk Taliban retaliation because they or their relatives helped the U.S. military in a 20-year Afghanistan campaign that is now winding down.
Majidi was met Thursday by another brother, Sayad Khalil Majidi, who arrived in Sacramento two years ago. Sayad Khalil Majidi, who is the older brother, said he was once a technician for Afghanistan’s Tolo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster.
He fled, first to Turkey, after a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying Tolo employees in 2016, killing seven journalists. The Taliban said Tolo was producing propaganda for the U.S. military and Western-backed Afghan government.
The older Majidi stared intently at the staircase where arriving passengers descended Thursday night. When the younger brother finally arrived, they engaged in a subdued embrace. The older Majidi’s two sons and Mohammad Safa, a childhood friend who also had worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military, soon joined with more exuberant greetings.
“I am very thankful, but unfortunately my brother and my two nephews are in Afghanistan. It is very concerning,” Sayad Khalil Majidi said in a telephone interview Friday. “All of these people know my brother was working with the United States as a translator. The people who worked for the U.S. Army and the others, the U.K. army, they are in danger for themselves and their families.”
The younger Majidi also expressed concern for family members left behind. And he was looking to his future in the Sacramento area, home to one of the larger Afghani expatriate communities.
“I have to actually find a job, like other people,” Majidi said in a telephone interview Friday. “I don’t know. It depends on how you actually find a job here.”
The evacuation of U.S.-affiliated Afghans comes as the United States plans to withdraw its forces by the end of this month, and as Afghan government forces struggle against Taliban advances. The Taliban captured the Afghan provincial capital Zaranj in Nimroz province on Friday in what a local police spokesman attributed to a lack of reinforcements.
As a young man, Sayed Abdul Wase Majidi and his friends passed the time in Kabul playing soccer. He was among a group that decided to take one of the few jobs available, as an interpreter for the Americans.
“When we graduated from school, we had nothing to do,” he said. “I was working as an interpreter. I have never been a politician or a part of any party.”
Certain Afghans are being granted Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) entitling them to bring their spouses and children, but not parents and siblings. Sayed Abdul Wase Majidi left alone.
As many as 50,000 or more people ultimately could eventually be evacuated in “Operation Allies Refuge,” the airlift of SIV applicants. The SIV program has been plagued by long processing times and bureaucratic knots that led to a backlog of some 20,000 applications. The State Department has added staff to handle them.
Around 75,000 other Afghans have been resettled in the United States in the last decade, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a recent statement, adding there is a “moral obligation” for the country “to help those who have helped us.”
Congress created the first SIV programs in 2006 for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters.