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'We will not leave them behind' | Arizona's Afghan community ready to help incoming refugees

Thousands of Afghans helped the U.S. Military, and many of them are still in the country fearing for their lives.

ARIZONA, USA — The Taliban re-took Afghanistan so quickly that many Afghans that supported and worked with the United States during the nearly 20-year war were left scrambling for safety.

One of those American allies is a translator nicknamed “Zabi.” Darius Amiri, an immigration attorney at Rose Law Group in Scottsdale, is working to expedite Zabi’s immigration case, fearing that the Taliban will target him for working with the Americans.

“I think we thought we would have an embassy that would be able to service these interpreters as we continue to process these cases,” Amiri said. “We didn’t account for some of this.”

Amiri did not want to share Zabi’s real identity, for fear that increased attention would cause quicker Taliban retribution. He did, however, tell 12 News that the translator had worked with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2015. 

On Aug. 22, the law group announced that Zabi and his wife safely made it inside of the airport after three days of trying to get in. The law group said the wife of a Marines sergeant heard about Zabi's situation and they coordination a special operation to get the two to safety. 

Zabi is not alone in his predicament. Thousands of Afghans helped the U.S. Military, and many of them are still in the country fearing for their lives.

“These are human beings. They are people. And the people that helped America - we have to help them,” Amiri said.

Said Sherbaz came to Phoenix as an Afghan refugee in 2005. He helps run a Facebook group called “Afghan Community of Arizona” and works for a non-profit, helping to find employment for refugees and asylum-seekers from all countries.

Prior to that, Sherbaz worked with the U.S. Marine Corps out of Twenty-Nine Palms, California. He worked as a cultural consultant of sorts, teaching Marines about Afghanistan and how to interact with their translators once they were deployed.

Sherbaz’s mother and other family members are also still in Afghanistan, hoping to leave.

“Twenty years we spend money; we spend life; we did something; we did something for people. There was freedom of speech and there was everything,” Sherbaz said. “We just left in one night.”

Sherbaz blamed the former Afghan government for fleeing the country as well as both the Biden and Trump administrations for “not having good planning” to get out of Afghanistan without the current chaos.

“People started, like, panicking. Everybody left in one night. People woke up the next day and there is no government. There is no military forces,” Sherbaz said. “What’s going to happen next, no one [knows], so it’s a very tough situation in Afghanistan.”

Amiri said Rose Law Group has contacted Senator Mark Kelly’s office, and he hopes anyone that sees this story will contact local, state, and national politicians as well. 

He said he believes enough advocacy can make things happen more quickly, and time is of the essence when it comes to Afghan refugees. Many are crowded around Hamid Karzai International Airport, where U.S. troops are still patrolling.

“It’s about as American as you can be to take care of your friends when they need your help,” Amiri said.

Should Zabi and others make it out of Afghanistan and arrive in Arizona, Sherbaz and his Facebook group are ready to help.

“All of them are ready to help any family that are going to come here to Arizona,” Sherbaz said. “We will not leave them behind.”

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