Iam FNU Mohammad, the Afghan Interpreter interviewed by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, AMA!
My short bio: My name is Mohammad (AKA FNU Mohammad). You may know me from my appearance on Sundays John Oliver last week tonight, various press coverage e.g. NBC News, or my recently viral change.org petition I am a former Afghan interpreter who worked for U.S. and Coalition Forces from 2008-2012, spending most of my time as a “terp” for U.S. Marines. I’m also a client of Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.
In retribution for my service, the Taliban kidnapped, tortured, and executed my father and kidnapped my then three-year-old brother, threatening the same fate.
Despite all of this, it took almost 3.5 years, 11 congressional inquiries, and multiple news stories to secure a special immigrant visa (created by Congress for interpreters in danger just like me). I arrived on MLK day of this year, and have quickly become a fully productive, tax-paying, insured, and hard working resident. In fact, I got my job on the day of the Super Bowl…go Seahawks!
Now I’m trying to save my family. As John Oliver said, they would have been eligible for visas had they been Iraqi, but there is no equivalent law for Afghans. We are thus in the middle of a “Hail Mary” humanitarian parole application, which is the only means of saving them. Now that my father is dead, I’m the eldest son. I could use your help to save my family.
My Proof: http://i.imgur.com/3AH43Nv.gif
EDIT: Thanks again everyone! It is an honor to be in this country. I can't wait to have my family here with me and safe!
So, I've signed the petition on Change and I shared it and several videos about interpreters on FaceBook, but I'm sitting here in impotent rage over my own government's incompetence. Is there anything people sitting at their laptops can do, anything, to help you, your family, and other interpreters?
You can support this Fundly campaign to help my family: https://fundly.com/help-mohammad-resettle-in-america-and-support-his-family We are trying to raise money so that we can pay for tickets and room and board.
You should also contact your local Congresspeople and tell them we need more Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghans. Write a letter to your local newspaper or reporter, because it really helps when things are talked about in the media. Don’t forget about Afghanistan (or Iraq) even if the government says the U.S.’s work there is done. There are also groups working to protect people like me. I got support from the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project - you can visit their website at www.refugeerights.org (twitter.com/Refugee_Rights) (facebook.com/IraqiRefugeeAssistanceProject)
Thank you so much for sharing my story online - it’s also helpful to keep doing that. I’ll continue to put up shareable posts on Facebook (facebook.com/LeaveNoOne) and Twitter (twitter.com/LeaveNoOne). Stay tuned for a new about-to-be-released interactive campaign. Your help pushing the conversation forward is deeply appreciated by me and my family.
Hey T_eo. I'm so sorry to hear about your sick family member. I hope they get better soon. A lot of bad things have happened to me. When my dad died I tried to go back to my family but the Marines told me that was a suicide mission and that instead I should move them to safety. I was really out of it for a long time, and filled with hate for the Taliban. The Marines I was working for took care of me and supported me, and this support continues to this day, not just from the Marines I served with but also all the people across America reaching out to help.
I would say please surround yourself with others who can help you and take care of you and your family. My family and I will pray for you.
Hey Fnu. I am so thankful that you are here in the states. I hope we can get your family over here soon. Since other people have already asked how we can help I have a different question.
Do you have a moment/story during your work with US troops that you are especially proud of?
Thanks again for your service and continued activism.
There was an old man who came onto base one day, crying, saying that he had nothing left, that it was burned down by the Taliban. He was incredibly sad. I gave him all my cash so that he could move his family to a safer place. He became really happy and gave me a very long hug. I think of him often and hope he and his family is safe.
There were many stories like this. I tried to help the Afghans and the Coalition Forces as much as I could.
Another time I was able to divert a patrol from an IED waiting from them by interpreting for a villager who came out to warn us.
You were awesome on John Oliver! What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to about life in America? What are you most excited about here?
The most exciting thing is that I'm safe and I can live, that I can work and not constantly look over my back. The hardest thing for me is learning about the American culture. Luckily, I have my big brother to be my interpreter now.
Who is your big brother?
My big brother is the Marine I worked with in Afghanistan who became my sponsor.
Mohammad, I saw a clip of John Oliver's show. I am currently deployed here in Afghanistan. First of, thank you for helping my fellow brothers in the military. I was hear broken to hear about your father. I don't really have a question, I wanted to give my thanks. But redit requires one, so... What's the last movie you've seen? Again, thank you.
Thank you so much, and I hope that you and my brothers are safe. Thank you for helping my country. The last movie I saw was Lone Survivor. Hint: it helps to have an interpreter with you for that movie because not all of it is translated.
Hi Mohammad, I'm a law student who works with IRAP and am about to get on the phone with my recently resettled client. (He's now in Kentucky). My question is directly related to that: What do you think is the most helpful thing I can do for my client now that he's resettled, short of providing him actual legal assistance again (because I am not allowed to do that lol)? Thanks!
I was lucky enough to have my sponsor and IRAP help set up everything for me, including a room and a network of friends. My story is rare, though. A lot of the terps I know who come here don't know anyone and don't know how to get started. It would help a lot to find your friend a community.
Thank you for everything you have done and for your bravery and optimism. How is your little brother doing? Is there anything he wants that we might be able to get for him?
You're welcome. You guys came to help fix my country and free us from the Taliban, so I was taking care of my guests. He's doing well. He wouldn't talk for a few days and was severely dehydrated. He told us that they kept him in a shed. But now he is talking again and is a happy boy, but he misses his big brother and wants to be safe.
How do you feel about the "FNU" situation? Do you think you'll embrace it?
My brother and I laugh about it. How is it that I was vetted for 3.5 years but the name on my visa is wrong? It's on our long list of things to fix, but obviously comes after saving my family.
Your story gave me chills you're an extremely strong person. While you where waiting did you ever think of trying to seek asylum in another country?
I considered going to Germany, but the U.S. was always my first choice because I helped so many Americans, and I also have some family in America. I also heard that other countries would be racist towards Afghans.
Are all Afghan interpreters who work for the US at risk, or was there something about you that made you a particular target?
All of them are targets. They want to kill us more than they want to kill Americans. I was particularly at risk because I was in Helmand and because I went out on a lots patrols.
Was your family happy that you were aiding the US? Did they know that there would be the risks that came to fruition?
Yes. My father was very proud. They weren't too happy when I was gone for months at a time, but they were proud I was helping fix my country. We didn't know it would be so dangerous for them. The plan was to tell everyone that I was working in Dubai, but someone spotted me on base and the word got back.
Are you still in touch with the military officers you helped?
Yes. Little by little, I've been reuniting with my brothers and sisters in arms all across the country. I live with my big brother, who was the commander of a platoon I served with.
We talk about the sacrifices of our brave fighting men in the military, but you never heard about anyone in our military having their civilian family killed for aiding our cause. And he certainly doesn't have the American war machine supporting him they way our citizens do. Hats off to you man; you make the world a better place.
So on to the requisite question. If your famiy were granted asylum here, where would you like to live?
Thank you. I would bring my family to beautiful California.
Did you try to contact anyone from the US government regarding your case? Was anyone helpful at all?
A lot of the time we would never hear back at all. I remember the SIV helpline that would forward to voicemail, the voicemail would tell you to write to an email account, no one would ever respond to that email, or if they did it would be two weeks late with a template response that wasn't usually helpful.
It was mostly like that, but I remember some agencies being more helpful than others. I think NVC was fast to respond.
Hello Mohammad! Thank you for all your hard work; you definitely deserve the best life you can get, and I also hope your family can join you here as well. I was wondering: what job did you end up getting? Was it based on your previous work as a translator, or was it something completely different?
I got a job at a tech company in California. Some of my friend took me to see the Super Bowl at their work and were teaching me all about how football works when the owner of the company, who is a vet, offered me a job. I hadn't even been in the country for two weeks. My new job has nothing to do with my previous work, except that I work equally as hard and have pride in my job.
Please tell me that you were able to get your first name changed from FNU on all legal documents?
Working on it. That requires more forms and fees. I will deal with it after I save my family. So much paperwork....
Hi Mohammad. Thank you for everything you have done. I only wish we could have shown you the same commitment.
Could you tell us why you became a translator?
My country needed help from the bad guys and I wanted to help in that effort. The Coalition Forces were guests in my country. I also wanted to help keep the locals safe by being a good ambassador and interpreter.
First off, thanks for everything you've done to protect our soldiers abroad.
Secondly, how often do you get to speak to your family back in Afghanistan? Do they know about what your crusade?
I speak to them every day on Google Hangouts. They know that there is a lot of people across America who are fighting for them.
Was going to Britain ever an option for you, seeing as you worked for them as well?
I think they have a program too, but when my father was hurt I was working with the Americans, so I asked them for help.
You are such a brave and inspirational person. Your story has shed so much light on a major problem in the United States and hopefully your courage leads to some actual change.
In your 3.5 years of waiting, did you ever actually think you would make it it to United States? What kept your hopes up and how did you feel when you finally made it to America?
I knew I would come to the U.S. because of my big brother and all the people he had helping him, including IRAP, friends across the country, even strangers, congressmen, etc.
I was so happy. I was overwhelmed. There was a crowd of American waiting for me at the airport to give me a hero's welcome. But it was also hard for me to leave my family.
Firstly, you can not be thanked enough for your service. So, thank you.
Secondly, my question: You and your family have sacrificed so much because of your decision to become a translator for the U.S. Military. Yet you provided an invaluable service to hundreds of people, and therefore hundreds of families. With that in mind, do you ever regret your decision to become a translator?
I don't regret that I was able to help so many people. I regret that my family was hurt. I knew that it was dangerous for me, but I didn't think they would get hurt.
Hi Mohammad, you are courageous and inspiring! What was you experience like dealing with the complicated process to apply for a visa?
I didn't know what to do. Luckily I had a lot of help from the Marines I worked with, but even they were confused. I never thought it would take so long. I thought maybe 6 months to one year. IRAP helped clear up the process for us by giving us legal help.
Thank you so much everyone. I never thought I would have so many people helping me and my family. Thank you for continuing to share and keeping the momentum going. There a lots of people like me and my family who need our help.
View HistoryShare Link