Afghan translator living in Iowa awaits word on appeal of asylum denial

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IOWA FALLS, Iowa — An Afghan refugee who worked as a translator for the U.S. military, and has lived in Iowa Falls for years, is fearing for his life after finding out his application for asylum has been denied.

Zalmay Niazy’s work as a translator made him a target of the Taliban. Even after coming to the United States in 2014, he and his family have continually received death threats from the Taliban.

“My uncle got killed because of me being a translator,” Niazy says.

Now, Niazy faces that same threat if he gets deported. In his asylum denial, U.S. officials say he engaged in terrorist activities.

Niazy says, “Was a gut punch because I fought them and they stand against them. People know interpreters walked alongside them I the war zone.”

Without clarification, Niazy suspects the denial is for telling U.S. officials about a time when he was nine-years-old and gave the Taliban a loaf of bread after being threatened. 

“The question was if I ever saw the Taliban and I can’t deny that,” says Niazy. “When you are facing threat when your house is getting burned and when you are getting punished by somebody, some terrorists, what are you supposed to do?”

Robbie Katschke is Niazy’s best friend. She says, “He cares about doing the right thing and is honest.”

Since coming to Iowa Falls, Niazy has become a beloved member in his community. His friends say it’s unjust to deport him after his work. 

“He is the reason that other American soldiers came home,” says Katschke. “And he made sure messages were translated accurately.”

Niazy hopes the decision will be overturned, “I want justice on this case. I want them to keep their promises. They are leaders and if anything happens to me they are responsible for my life.”

Naizy says he’s still waiting for the official word.  Immigration Services hasn’t set a court date for his asylum request.

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