The humanitarian crises that the people are going through in Afghanistan are not new to people. Television and online news have vividly brought the stories of their struggles to life for a worldwide audience, but throughout the United States government has been supportive in helping Afghans survive, recover, and rebuild their lives in the US. Just a few months back, on July 30 this year, the Biden administration enacted an Emergency Security Supplemental Act that authorised 8,000 additional Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghan principal applicants, under section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act.
The Afghan SIV program, enacted by the US Department of State, was created by Congress to provide protection to Afghans affiliated with US missions, such as translators and interpreters. This allowed principal applicants to move with their families and spouses to settle in the United States. The recent speeding up of SIV processing resulted in many young, educated Afghan leaders in the community moving to the US.
25-year-old Wasim (name changed to protect identity) is one such person. He speaks impeccable English, has a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration, and brings with him strong ethics of hard work, determination, and humility.
Wasim worked with the Ministry of Public Health whilst part of World Bank projects based out of Afghanistan. His projects involved engaging closely with UN agencies and foreigners, so his language skills are top notch. “I have worked and studied too much day and night,” says Wasim. “I always took all the chances and interviews. No matter what position, and where it was, I did it all to gain the experience.”
Wasim has been helping with translation work at the NAI, while awaiting his documents to be cleared so that he can dive into the workforce. Outside the NAI, he helps with translations in hospitals, lawyer appointments, he accompanies fellow Afghans for getting their essentials done, and provides any other assistance that he can, to help them settle in a new country in the initial months.
This feeling of camaraderie is not new to Wasim. He started working from the age of 11, assisting with English. Hard work and honesty are the only ethics he knows, and they're a way of life for him. “I did work with many people, including Indians. I visited India and Malaysia on work. I worked in a bank and had my business. I’ve worked on different projects for the World Bank and been teaching for over seven years. I had to learn English and other languages, so I did it,” he smiles.
He is the principal applicant for the SIV visa and moved here with his parents and three siblings, aged 16,18, and 20. At the moment, they are all attending school and EOSL classes at the NAI while awaiting their paperwork to be cleared.
Wasim’s parents are already making great progress in the EOSL classes. Especially his mother, Raheela, who often sets an example of diligence and perseverance in the class. Her homework is always up to the mark, and she makes the most of the NAI facilities while she is there.
Raheela and her husband Ashraf give out a quiet but strong energy. You are left feeling like you're in the presence of people who have lost a lot but remain positive and dignified in spite of it. “Everyone has their lives, but they choose to handle it,” says Wasim. “Not to think of negatives is the key. Everything comes with time.
“I lost everything in Kabul, money, the businesses, and it will take a long time to be settled here. Well, sometimes we struggle with too many balls in one hand, but we need to keep our fingers crossed, and stay strong,” he says.
What stands out in his personality is the humility and maturity that comes from education. He jokes that he is not good with remembering faces and people, and it's the lack of this part of his memory that he hates the most, but he loves to work with people.
“I like and respect simple people. They are always making a society shine,” he smiles. And amidst all this chaos and uncertainties that the recently evacuated Afghan diasporas in the US are facing, Wasim’s advice is: "Do not eat your soul when you can’t control the time. Give it some time, it will handle everything." That being said, he's still planning for the future, even if it might take a long time to get there, and intends to take his studies to the next level and obtain a Master's degree in Business Administration.
While writing about this young man, I thought 'what is life without some philosophy?' It surprised me to find it in the most unexpected of times, and it brings hope and positivity that is much required in these challenging circumstances. So, it somehow feels apt to end the story with a quote from the famous Persian poet Rumi: “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.”