Afghan immigrant Nasser Haqparast (right) and a fellow member of the non-governmental organization Homes Not Borders help furnish the apartment of a family of Afghan refugees on 11 July 2023, in Arlington, Virginia. EFE/Eduard Ribas

Afghan who worked with US military now assisting refugees from his homeland

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Afghan immigrant Nasser Haqparast (left) and a fellow member of the non-governmental organization Homes Not Borders help furnish the apartment of a family of Afghan refugees on 11 July 2023, in Arlington, Virginia. EFE/Eduard Ribas

Washington, July 25 (EFE).- Life can take many twists and turns, and Afghan immigrant Nasser Haqparast is proof of that.

Afghan immigrant Nasser Haqparast (right) greets a family of Afghan refugees on 11 July 2023. He and other members of the non-governmental organization Homes Not Borders helped furnish the apartment where those new arrivals to the United States will live in Arlington, Virginia. EFE/ Eduard Ribas

He worked for years as a translator for the United States Army in Afghanistan, but now he furnishes the homes of compatriots who fled the Taliban and have taken refuge in the US.

Two years after the fall of Kabul and the chaotic withdrawal of American forces, some 97,000 Afghans have found safe haven in the US. Some are still arriving today.

Outside an apartment complex in the Washington DC suburbs, Nasser carefully parks a large moving van painted with the logo of the non-governmental organization he works for, Homes Not Borders.

He climbs out of the vehicle and looks carefully at a list in his hands.

His task today is to furnish the new home of the Jamanis, a family of Afghan refugees who, like him, were forced to leave their former life behind and relocate to the US.

“When I came from Afghanistan, I had the same situation (as this family). I needed help, so many organizations came and helped me. And now I am in the position to” do the same, Nasser told EFE, adding that he knows how difficult the adjustment to the US can be.

He had served as a translator and cultural adviser to the US Army for four years in Afghanistan before taking advantage of a special immigrant visa to settle in the United States in 2015.

At the time, the Taliban takeover still seemed unthinkable.

But, even so, life in Afghanistan for someone working with the US Army was potentially dangerous, and so he, his wife and their three children packed their bags and moved to the other side of the world.

After arriving in his new country, Nasser worked as a cook and at a hotel until joining the Homes Not Borders team, which helps refugees from around the world settle in the Washington DC area, including parts of Virginia and Maryland.

A sofa, a double mattress, a table, a lamp, several lounge chairs.

Nasser and his companions carefully unload all the furniture they purchased with donations and start turning the empty space that greeted the newly arrived Jamani family into a place that feels more like home.

The US withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, two decades after Washington had invaded that country and toppled the Taliban.

With the departure of the Americans, the Taliban launched an insurgent offensive and quickly seized power and restored their Islamist regime.

Since then, Washington has authorized the arrival in the US of thousands of Afghans under a two-year humanitarian parole program that allows these immigrants to seek employment.

That program was recently extended for an additional two years.

But those who worked for the US government during the occupation of that Central Asian country are eligible for a so-called Special Immigrant Visa that grants them permanent residence in the United States.

The Jamani family could be among these beneficiaries, since the father worked for 14 years with the Germans and two more years with the Americans.

“When the Taliban took all of Afghanistan, it was pretty hard for my father because they say that whoever worked for foreigners, they have to die or we will rob them,” Mustafa, one of the family’s four children and a self-taught English speaker, told Efe.

The 16-year-old said he misses his country and that it was a very “emotional situation” to leave their large family behind.

But he added that life in Afghanistan has become much more difficult, with millions facing hunger and women and girls unable to study under the Taliban’s fundamentalist regime.

The Jamanis first fled to Germany.

But they moved on about a month ago to the United States, where they have other relatives and Mustafa will be able to study computer science.

After moving all the furniture into the home and taking a breath, Nasser shares a bit of wisdom with the teenager: living in the US is not as easy as it might appear from the outside, but a good life is possible for those prepared to work hard. EFE