Qismat, Afghan Interpreter, Refugee
Long story short: Qismat was 19 years old when he signed up to be an interpreter in for the Army. He served alongside US soldiers (including my husband Matt) for three years, then applied for an immigration visa to escape death threats and the Taliban. He's been waiting since June 2013 to come to America. Yesterday, the day President Trump issued a ban on refugee travel, Qismat was granted his visa.
Please help buy his plane ticket and give him a fresh start!
1/30 UPDATE: You raised $20,000 in 24 hours, that's incredible and heartwarming. The goal has been met - but please keep sharing sharing and donating! Every donation will help secure Qismat's financial future, he will have unexpected expenses and this will make his fresh start a little easier. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Full story: Qismat and Matt, met on Matt's first deployment in 2010-2011 to the Nangarhar region of Afghanistan. They worked together day in, day out, and became very close friends.
In June 2013, Qismat applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and was stuck in "administrative processing" for years. As of yesterday, he has his visa. We are so relieved, but also anxious...
Qismat wants to arrive in America as soon as possible, before additional refugee bans are put in place. We are concerned he could be stuck in Afghanistan if he waits for the official assistance programs to issue him funds for a plane ticket.
Please help us get Qismat to California and set up for his new life! Qismat will stay with us in Palo Alto when he lands. He may move to Sacramento, where a close interpreter friend settled last fall, or Denver, where he could stay with Matt's parents.
Your generosity will cover transportation for him and bridge the time between now and when the immigration assistance program will provide financial resources. Specifically, funds raised will be used for a plane ticket, clothes, shoes, transportation, cell phone, medical expenses, all the basic things someone needs after leaving their home behind. Eventually he'll take classes, get a license, need transportation for a job, a job and eventually a place with some roommates. We are setting up a bank account for him to access when he arrives.
He's been through enough out of service to others, let's get him on his feet. We are thankful for anything you can contribute, and Qismat is too! He can't wait to get here, be safe, and start his new life.
Why does he need money, what about his pay from when he worked for the Army? This is a fair question; simply, Qismat's been in hiding for years and is out of savings. He was unable to get hired as a translator after he applied for the visa because organizations thought he might get through the process at any moment and leave. He's had to borrow money from friends to get by and has nothing left.
Additionally, he's been separated from his family during great loss. Qismat could not visit his family or hometown after 2011 because he received death threats. Qismat's father was diagnosed with cancer during this time, and Qismat spent his savings on medical treatments but it was not enough and his father passed away. In October, 2015 the Taliban threatened his family and confiscated their crops to force them to reveal where Qismat was hiding. Qismat, and his family, will be safe once he gets here.
Articles about Qismat's journey:
Army veteran struggles to save interpreter stuck in Afghanistan, San Francisco Chronicle, August 2016
The current administration has specifically stated that people in Qismat's situation (SIV recipients) will not be subject to the recent executive order, so we are growing more confident that Qismat will not encounter significant issues. However, there are many who continue to be affected by the ban. If you would like to continue supporting refugees, we suggest learning about the International Refugee Assistance Project, a fantastic organization that provides legal help to refugees.
He also commented on the travel ban with regard to interpreters, listen to him on the short segment here: https://soundcloud.com/kqed/veterans-worry-travel-ban-puts-interpreters-at-risk
We are so grateful to you all for donating to his plane ticket and supporting the life he wants to live.
Note: The reporter states he arrives next month. This is technically true because today is the end of January, but he arrives next week, much sooner than "next month" sounds.
We are not going to raise the goal again, but there is no cap on donations and as long as people are donating, we'll keep this page open. All donations go straight to Qismat's account and make his financial future that much more secure.
We are amazed by your generosity and willingness to take action. Thank you all for reaching out to friends and family, for asking us what else you can do, and coming together in this most remarkable fashion.
With love, Matt, Giselle (and Qismat!)
You all have so much support coming from me and my little 20-week old son in Texas. I hope he will have the heart, bravery, and loyalty of Qismat when he grows up. God bless all of you (including SC, who told me about it) for what you are doing for Qismat. It's a bright light during some rather dark days. Hope remains.
I'd love to be part of the welcome party as well! Please keep us posted and thank you for the updates!
Same--would love to be part of the welcome party.