When the media covers the tragedy of the 8-year war in Iraq, they typically focus on the 4,400+ Americans killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While there is no doubt that these casualties are an incredibly horrid toll to pay, often glossed over in all of this is the toll to the Iraqi civilian population that our presence in the region has had to this day.
It has been estimated that between 150,000 to 650,000 Iraqis perished in the war, and the vast majority were not actually our enemy, rather they were civilians and forces working directly with the United States.
In fact, to this day, thousands of Iraqis who worked alongside Americans, oftentimes risking their own lives, are still being persecuted for these actions. Interpreters, construction crews and mechanics who put their lives on the line to save American lives and push forward our effort to stabilize the region, are now in dire need of our help via asylum. Terrorist groups and countering political parties within Iraq specifically seek out these individuals and their families, and either kidnap them or murder them in cold blood.
Now, these Iraqi citizens, who America asked everything of, can’t escape the mess that we created for them, as President Trump’s travel ban disallows their asylum.
Over the course of the last couple of weeks, HillReporter has been in contact with several of these individuals, most of whom prefer their last names be left out of our story. Their personal stories, however, are both heart wrenching and sickening.
An Iraqi who we will refer to as Bager, had this to say:
“I’m one of the interpreters who served with the coalition forces and had the honor to put the American flag on my chest. I had worked with four security companies who were funded by the American military, L3 communications and the joint training academy. I have badges, recommendations and certifications proving my story. 17 interpreters of my team have been kidnapped and/or killed in Basra. We have suffered too much and are now seeking a safe place to rest. We struggle to live another day as we are hunted by militia and political parties and are on move all the time. We can’t stay in the same place because we have families and don’t want them to be fatherless.”
This is just one story out of the dozens of individuals we have been in contact with. They worked for companies such as Pilgrims Group, Tetra Tech Foster Wheeler Inc., International Relief and Development, Sabre International Security, and even directly with the U.S. Department of the Army. Translators, plumbers, technicians, electricians, and just about every other profession one can imagine, these individuals risked their lives to help Americans.
Another individual, who prefers to go by just his first name, Murtadha, reached out to us in an effort to tell the stories of those who are too scared to speak out themselves. He explains how the majority of these individuals applied for asylum in the U.S. through the International Organization For Migration (IOM), but Trump has put a halt to accepting these asylum seekers.
“Most of the guys in this group applied for the IOM and have been waiting. I know some people who could not reveal their names due to security reasons. They were threatened by some governmental and non-governmental sides due to supporting the US Troops in Iraq. They were once told that they will be saved from the militants, but the US left without any support. What makes them lose hope is the latest stance by the US government towards the refugees and the purposefully hindered procedures.”
Another fellow Iraqi, who worked in unison with the U.S. military had this to say of the Trump administration:
“President Trump has left us behind. What he’s doing is against American values and ethics. We thought we were going to be one of your priorities, and instead are now being left behind!!! We just want to convey our voices to anyone who is concerned and listening.”
The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program was created for these individuals, who worked with, or on the behalf of, the United States government or military between March 20, 2003 and September 20, 2013. The program specifically sought out individuals whose lives were threatened as a result of their work for the United States. The program was then supposed to resettle these individuals with a green card within the United States.
On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that halted this resettlement program. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld this order, leaving these American-loving Iraqis in harm’s way after all they did for this nation. While this refugee ban expired in October of last year, Trump signed yet another Executive Order which brought the refugee resettlement program to a crawl and excluded family members of these individuals from being resettled.
As of earlier this year there are 60,000 Iraqis who had worked with or on the behalf of the United States, who are now seeking political asylum. These individuals all fear for their lives and their families’ lives according to their asylum requests.
Just because what we are doing to these people may be legal, it does not mean our actions are right and just.