Afghan translator: ‘My daughters will be able to understand the foreign language’

Written by Emily Sohn, CNN Published: 12/12/2019 03:15 PM ET

Interview is a series conducted by Ryan Matzner for CNN

“Our country is stable and it will continue to be stable. Its only problem is foreign policy,” said Shafiq Nisar when asked to explain what he thinks about living in the United States.

Nisar, 48, is one of two translators of American origin for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, and now serves as a translator for the Afghan House of Representatives, serving the people of Afghanistan in New York.

Nisar lives a relatively privileged life in America. One of the many reasons the Taliban targeted Nisar and two of his colleagues, Kunduz ambassador Hanif Atmar and member of parliament Mostafa Tajik, is because Nisar’s skills, in addition to that of the two other translators, is that he was also able to provide services to government officials.

“I was able to help the US military evacuate people when they were sent to Afghanistan. The US government had a large number of rescued people, and they wanted to let all of those people know that they were safe, but there were some people who didn’t speak English, so they sent my work translator to the American embassy,” explained Nisar.

The story Nisar told to CNN from New York was very different from the one he told in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

“A person coming from Afghanistan must tell the foreigners that this is a very dangerous country. It is a war zone, and this is a dangerous country for the foreigners. Even if you leave this office in the morning, you will never be sure that the day will pass,” said Nisar, explaining the restrictions on communications and security during the 7 to 9 weeks that he lived in Afghanistan in 2008.

That made travel to America even harder. While in New York, Nisar says he and his wife struggle to buy necessities such as bread. He tells CNN it’s become difficult to hold jobs because the cost of living is so high. Nisar said that once, he called the police to complain about a person cursing and hitting him in the street, but they refused to help. It turns out that the man was not a stranger, but instead the mother of a friend.

“I am grateful for my children’s education. This is the first Thanksgiving in my life. I understand my motherland, so it’s important for me that I speak the new language,” said Nisar.

His family, including his seven daughters, are enjoying their first Thanksgiving.

“What is very important for me is for my girls to have English as their first language, and then they will be able to understand the foreign language,” said Nisar.

“If there is another problem for Afghans in America, the second problem is that there is no opportunity for them to be educated.”

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