Iraqi interpreters: hope rises to go to U.S.
President Bush extended a law that could give some of the thousands of interpreters working for the American military refuge in the US under a special visa program.
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While their courtship and marriage was relatively speedy, their actual wedding party had to wait until they could go on leave together in 2006.Skip to next paragraph
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Last year, new Army rules allowed the couple to work and even live together on the same base in Baghdad.
Sarah is an observant Muslim who has found a creative way to wear her hijab, or head cover, on duty. All interpreters are issued the same digital camouflage pattern uniforms worn by the US soldiers. Sarah has turned the Army balaclava of the same pattern and color into a hijab.
Chris hopes to soon get a date for their appointment for an interview at the US Embassy in Jordan to move along the process for the SIV.
He has completed all the steps of the arduous application that requires an Army general to vouch for their character and good standing.
Their sponsor is Sgt. Howard Kott of Muskegon, Mich. The scenic Great Lakes city will be their destination if their application is approved. They will receive money from the government for resettlement and a Green Card within three months of their arrival because of their special status.
"Even if the situation in Iraq improves, the influence of extremists will always be great," says Chris.
The couple speak of the endemic corruption and sectarianism they witness firsthand among Iraqi officials they come in contact with because of their jobs.
"Trust me, you do not know what the truth is. The politicians may say a lot of good things on TV but it's not true," says Sarah.
They say that they have no faith in their own security forces either and even accuse an Iraqi Army unit of having raided an apartment that they had rented off base to use when on leave and stolen their money, Sarah's jewelry, and other possessions. They say US troops can't leave the country for a long time because Iraqi forces are not ready to take over responsibilities.
"You have to baby-sit the Iraqi Army, you can't leave them alone," says Chris. "If multinational forces leave Iraq it will be a humanitarian, social and political catastrophe."
They say they are willing to come back to Iraq to be interpreters again after they spend some time in America.
Both describe the frequent arguments they have with US soldiers stationed in Iraq who do not believe they are fighting for a worthy cause and speak disparagingly of Bush.
Chris says he reminds soldiers of the "mass graves and horrors" of Saddam Hussein.
"I tell them 'you have to thank God for a president like Bush,' " says Sarah.