Former interpreter begs for help to save families in Afghanistan

A former Afghani interpreter for the U.S. military said he narrowly escaped after the Taliban claimed control of the country’s capital.

Rafi Azim said he risked his life for 13 years to help the U.S. military communicate with the people and government in Afghanistan. Now he is begging U.S. leaders to help his family escape.

"They’re all trapped right now," Azim said.

Azim said he spent three days trying to get into the airport in Kabul after the Taliban claimed control of the capital city.

"You can see the crowd lining up, thousands and thousands of people, pushing towards that one little gap to make it to that gate. When you go in there, you have to have the mindset you either die or you make it," said Azim.

Beaten, bruised, hit by shrapnel, and almost shot, he is one of the lucky ones who was able to board a plane out of Afghanistan amid the turmoil unfolding there. "It’s chaotic, it is absolutely chaotic," Azim said.  

Rafi left behind 13 of his family members, who he said all worked in some way with the American military while they occupied the Middle East. Since the Taliban gained control in the war-torn country, Rafi said they’ve shown no mercy to anyone who has helped the U.S.

"My friend was burned to death alive, my brother-in-law just got shot at, trying to get into the airport, by Taliban," said Azim.

If he didn’t leave, his own life was on the line. Rafi spent 13 years working with the U.S. military. "I dedicated half of my life, almost half of my life, to doing this translator and interpreter job in Afghanistan and I’m proud of that," Azim said.

"The same proudness that I had then, that will cost my family’s life now," he added.

Since arriving in Austin, the thought that his family won’t make it out has kept him up at night. He said there’s no way there will be time to evacuate everyone with Special Immigrant Visas if President Biden removes U.S. troops on August 31.

"If you don’t extend that time, you agree with what the Taliban says, everybody will die that are extended SIV families," said Azim.

After giving his all to help the U.S., he’s hoping someone in power will repay his sacrifices by helping his family evacuate. "We need your help right now. We need your support right now," Azim said.

Rafi said if he can help evacuate other families from Kabul, he will gladly return in order to do so. Right now he believes his best chance to get them out is by advocating for more evacuations from the U.S.

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