Man helping former combat interpreter flee Afghanistan, settle in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – A local psychologist is working to help a former combat interpreter for the U.S. military escape the situation in Afghanistan and seek refuge in Rhode Island.

Dr. Jonathan Dator is associate director of the Providence College counseling center and met Amin Faqiry in 2018 while volunteering for No One Left Behind, a non-profit organization that helps translators and interpreters get their visas after working with the U.S. military.

Faqiry served the U.S. military for ten years as a combat interpreter but has been trying for the last five years to get his visa.

“Amin has always kept in touch with me. We’ve kept in contact intermittently over the years, and in the last two months that’s been bumped up significantly just because of everything that’s going on,” said Dator.

Dator got a message in early July from Faqiry and knew he had to help.

“He said to me, I think they’re going to end up taking Kumar, which is the city where he’s from. From my end, I just felt helpless. I called an immigration lawyer here in Rhode Island, and no fault of their own, they were telling me exactly what everybody was saying which is there’s nothing that can be done other than people are going to get evacuated.”

He knew if he wanted to help his friend, he’d have to take action on his own.

Dator worked to get cash sent overseas to Faqiry, and with that money, he and his family caught a ride to the capital city, Kabul.

“He was able to get what he needed to get to the capital, have food for his kids for a few days, and then the capital was taken quicker than expected. So then it became about, alright, thank god you’re there because that’s the only airport that’s operating, and so how do we figure out how you get on one of the planes, and that became strategy number two.”

The two messaged back and forth, coming up with a plan to get Faqiry, his pregnant wife, and four children on a plane. On Wednesday of last week, the family caught a plane headed to Qatar.

“They’re doing okay. I’ve heard from him, the military base sounds like it’s first-class all the way,” said Dator.

He said even while Faqiry’s personal life is in turmoil, he’s still serving.

“He’s been getting up at 7 a.m. every day, going to the clinic, and translating. He’s working basically and that doesn’t surprise me at all because that’s who he is.”

If he stayed in Kabul, Dator said, his friend risked losing his life. He was identified in a YouTube video that garnered thousands of views.

“The Taliban knew of him, they knew who he was, and that video was out there so he knew if he stayed in the capital much longer, they were gonna go door to door and essentially really put his life at risk.”

Now the work begins to get Faqiry to the United States. He said he plans to settle in Rhode Island, close to his friend who helped him so much.

When the family arrives in the Ocean State, Dator said, they’ll be welcomed with open arms.

“I have posted about this in my neighborhood group, people are offering clothes, people are offering money, people are offering to greet them at the airport,” he said.

Dator, who’s legally blind, said he was able to help get his friend to safety by taking things one step at a time.

“My mentality in life, I’m blind, I lost my eyesight at 20 years old, is, OK Jon, how do we figure this out? If you look at the big picture, it feels like this is never gonna work out. But one thing at a time – get to the capital. Capital, get a place to live. Get food, get the kids clothes. Next thing, get on an airplane. Now it’s, OK, how do we get to Rhode Island? So, you know, step by step until you get to the big goal at the end.”

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Categories: News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island