Iraqis nonetheless await particular US visas 20 years after invasion | The Iraq Conflict: 20 years on Information


Abdul Qadir Al-Dulaimi was shot thrice — within the head, shoulder and kidney — in what he stated was obvious retaliation for his work with United States authorities forces after they invaded Iraq in 2003.

He thought his work and the assault would qualify him for one of many 2,500 visas put aside for Iraqis who had skilled “an ongoing severe menace” because of their employment with the US.

However now, years later, he’s among the many Iraqis nonetheless struggling to obtain a visa to flee the violence that continues to focus on them.

The 66-year-old stated he had labored with US forces from 2005 as much as their 2011 withdrawal, in addition to with varied Shia and Sunni leaders, in an try to deal with the surging sectarian violence that gripped Iraq after the invasion.

However when he was shot in 2006, Al-Dulaimi understood the assault to be a part of a marketing campaign to drive a wedge between US troopers and the locals serving to them.

“The objective of that terrorism assault was to cease the connection enhancements between Iraqis and the US forces,” he advised Al Jazeera by means of an interpreter supplied by the Worldwide Refugee Help Mission (IRAP), a US-based group. “After that, my son was kidnapped.”

However even that string of incidents was not sufficient for Al-Dulaimi to obtain aid by means of the Particular Immigrant Visa (SIV) programme directed at Iraqis who assisted the US authorities.

Iraq war
Smoke and mud envelopes US soldier throughout a firefight in Adhamiyah district, Baghdad, Iraq [The Associated Press]

Of the two,500 authentic visas, 228 stay out there. However whereas the deadline to start the applying course of resulted in 2014, 100 circumstances stay un-adjudicated, in keeping with the US Division of State’s most up-to-date report back to Congress, revealed in October.

A separate SIV programme offers particularly with Iraqis and Afghans who labored as interpreters for the US navy.

In the meantime, candidates have been “going through actual hazard and an incapacity to plan their futures that’s brought on by this ongoing delay of their functions”, in keeping with Deepa Alagesan, a senior supervising lawyer with IRAP.

“I feel that there’s an actual worry amongst this applicant pool that they’ve been forgotten — that the legacy of their service to the US has been forgotten,” Alagesan advised Al Jazeera.

IRAP has led a class-action lawsuit to compel the federal government to hurry up the method, successful a main victory in 2019 that required related companies to create a plan to expedite processing for the Iraqi SIV programme, in addition to its Afghan equal.

However, in 2022, the US authorities requested aid from the truncated processing plan it had created.

It cited the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to different hurdles. The variety of new Afghan SIV candidates had ballooned, it stated, after the Taliban takeover of the nation.

And in Iraq, the “persevering with safety disaster” in Baghdad had prevented the US embassy from totally re-opening after it was compelled to droop consular operations two years earlier, the division argued.

A choose finally rejected the request, and the State Division has since submitted a brand new plan to expedite processing, which IRAP challenged in court docket on March 9.

“It’s time for the US to step up and work out the way it’s going to wind down this programme,” Alagesan stated, “in order that these individuals who spent years of their lives engaged on behalf of the US get the truthful shot at coming to the protection that they deserve.”

In the meantime, a State Division spokesperson advised Al Jazeera: “We’re dedicated to supporting those that have helped US navy and different US authorities personnel carry out their duties, typically at nice private danger to themselves and their households.”

“Everybody concerned on this course of, whether or not in Washington or at our embassies overseas, is totally conscious of the contributions of our Iraqi colleagues and the dangers they face,” the spokesperson stated.

‘Misplaced all the things’

Al-Duhaimi, a father of six, stated he utilized for his SIV in 2014.

US consular workers “advised me that nothing is unsuitable with my case file and that it’s in administrative processing,” he stated. “That was about six months in the past — the final time I heard something about my case.”

“There hasn’t been any motion.”

Al-Duhaimi defined that even after his son was launched following the 2006 kidnapping, the retaliation continued, choosing up after the US withdrew from Iraq in 2011.

Iraq SIV
Al-Dulaimi, left, is pictured with US Main Basic Bernard S Champoux [Photo courtesy of Abdul Qadir Al-Dulaimi]

Throughout a crackdown by the newly put in Iraqi authorities, primarily focusing on Sunni Muslims, Al-Dulaimi stated he was arrested thrice. He added that he was “tortured and mistreated” throughout his detainment.

In 2012, he and his household fled to the town of Erbil in semi-autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Iraq.

“They advised me that if I keep [in Baghdad] the place I’m I can be arrested many times and that it could be greatest if I might simply go away the town,” Al-Dulaimi stated. “That’s why I needed to go away all the things behind and transfer to Erbil metropolis within the north.”

In January 2022, Al-Dulaimi relocated to Turkey, the place he continues to pursue his SIV utility on the native US embassy, supported by funding from an immigration group, he stated.

In authorized paperwork, different Iraqis have detailed the perils of ready.

“It’s nonetheless very harmful right here for individuals who supported the US navy,” wrote one man, whose title was withheld, in a June submitting.

“To at the present time, I nonetheless obtain messages from individuals who criticise my work with the People and threaten to kill me,” the person stated, explaining that he first filed his utility in 2014.

“That it has been eight and a half years since I first submitted my SIV utility and there’s nonetheless no finish in sight feels very disappointing after all of the work I did and the dangers I’ve taken to assist US pursuits in Iraq,” he wrote.

As he spoke to Al Jazeera, Al-Dulaimi revealed he nonetheless retains a photograph of himself in Baghdad, strolling subsequent to US Basic David Petraeus, who oversaw all US navy forces in Iraq after the invasion.

It serves as a memento, he defined, of the numerous US officers he hosted throughout his work in Iraq, as a part of his “providers to each international locations”.

“My fundamental objective was to make the nation protected and to truly assist the US authorities of their mission in Iraq,” he stated. “However as an alternative, I’ve misplaced all the things, and solely this small factor — that I simply need to really feel protected — it’s not occurring for me.”

“This course of has been unfair.”


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