NOTE: This is the first in our series on the brave women we’ve met and been inspired by in the refugee community.
Firouzeh* remembers when her husband came home that night. She’d just had their first child. Her husband arrived unexpectedly and rushed back to see the baby. Though it was a girl – and in their culture, girls aren’t always as prized as boys – he was delighted with his beautiful infant daughter.
But as they shared together in the joy of a baby, Firouzeh suddenly noticed multiple burn marks on his arm. “What is this?” she exclaimed. “Oh, that’s just from bullets flying by,” he replied. Shocked, she began to weep. She knew his job was dangerous, but seeing these burns and other injuries he’d sustained sent her into a full scale panic. “Please, please don’t go back,” she begged.
“I even fell at his feet,” she later recalled. “This is the strongest way of asking. I was pleading and pleading. But he told me he had to go, he had to help. He then had to sneak out of our village and get away before the sun came up again, otherwise he would have been in great danger.”
Crucial to the US Military’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq have been the interpreters. These men enlisted with the US because they knew their family and their country was in desperate straits, and they believed America could bring that change. They fought side by side with the American troops, keeping their ears glued to the radios for insurgent chatter and being the go-between for the villagers and the military. As one US solider said, “These guys were our brothers. They fought alongside us.” Interpreters saved countless American lives during the wars.
And then the US troops pulled out. And the threats began to roll in.
In 2014, the International Refugee Assistance Project, a nonprofit based in New York City, estimated that an Afghan interpreter was being killed every 36 hours.
For Firouzeh’s husband, his work as an interpreter for US troops became known to the Taliban after a picture of him was published in a US military magazine. From that point on, home became a very dangerous place to be. For Firouzeh, the days ahead were full of challenge. Her family had to escape. She had to leave behind extended family. She’d already sacrificed so much during the war, and now this!
But she pushed forward bravely for her family and for her husband, finally arriving in North Carolina. She’s homesick for family and life is challenging. She’s faced prejudice from Americans who can’t see past the hijab. Yet she hasn’t given up. She’s mastered English. Learned to drive. Remodeled her home. Sewed for fashion designers. Created hand-woven jewelry. She’s entrepreneurial, constantly looking for new ways to provide for her family. Firouzeh is a brave, sweet woman and mother and friend. And her story is representative of the other interpreters’ wives who are now in the US. They and their families are such an asset to our country. We are honored to know and work with them.
*Names changed for privacy