Former Afghan interpreter worked for U.S. but wants Canada to get his family out of Afghanistan

As an interpreter for the United States military, Samsoor Gullyar knew the risks that came with the job, but he gladly did it so that he could provide for his family while playing a key role in the war against the Taliban.

Now, having lived in Toronto since 2014, Gullyar is deeply worried about his mother, two brothers and their families who are still living in Afghanistan.

“I’m concerned about their wellbeing and safety because they’re left behind there, and the job I have done, I think because of that they are at risk,” Gullyar told CBC Toronto.

“So, I am really hoping if I can get them out of there to this beautiful, safe country.”

Gullyar, who says he worked with the American military for nine years, says stories he’s heard about the fate of interpreters at the hands of Taliban fighters have him even more alarmed.

“I think this year, in January, one Afghan interpreter was killed with his 10-year-old child.”

The Canadian government has promised to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees as thousands fled the country, many in fear of reprisals when the Taliban took over the country last month as American troops withdrew.

But those refugees are mostly people who have already fled Afghanistan before the Taliban takeover and are now in third countries. They are separate from the former interpreters who helped Canada and its allies during their military mission and family members who are eligible for special visas — many of whom are still in Afghanistan.

‘The thing here is about the risk’

Gullyar, 35, admits that his situation is unique and he is hoping that the Canadian authorities will look favourably on his case.

“In their application, it said if you have worked with Canadian forces, but I have worked with American forces so I do not meet their requirements. That’s why I’m hoping if I can get the same privilege or treatment as those who worked with the Canadian forces,” he said.

“I’m very thankful for [the] Canadian government where they have this program to bring 20,000 Afghans, among them those who worked with Canadian forces as interpreters, because they know their life is at risk, and I have done the same job but I’ve done it with the U.S. Army,” he added. 

“The thing here is about the risk. The risk is the same if you have worked with the Canadian forces or American forces.” 

Gullyar said he has been trying to reach immigration officials, including the federal immigration minister and others, to plead his case.

In response to questions from CBC Toronto, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said the federal department can’t speculate on individual cases.

The department said it has introduced an immigration program for Afghan nationals who assisted the Canadian government and their families. It also has a resettlement program for Afghan refugees outside of Afghanistan that includes “immediate family members of individuals currently in Canada” and “extended family members of previously resettled interpreters.”

The IRCC noted that the U.S. also has a special immigrant visa program for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters and translators.

Last Tuesday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada plans to accept 5,000 Afghans airlifted by the U.S. The 5,000 are part of the 20,000 Afghan refugees that the Canadian government has promised to resettle.   

“The country is in chaos right now. The Taliban took over and … they are tracking for a long time those who worked with Canadian or American forces or other forces to track them and kill them,” Gullyar said. 

“Therefore, I think my family is not safe in Afghanistan and I’m hoping … I can get them out of the country and come to this safe country.”

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