Rochester, N.Y. – A local army vet, and former congressional candidate, is set to be reunited with his brother-in-arms. In 2007, Matthew Zeller met his Afghani translator Janis Shinwari while serving in Afghanistan.
“Basically he’s my best friend in life,” says the Rochester native now living in our nation’s Capital. “Janis saved my life in a firefight, he literally shot a Taliban fighter charging our position.”
Shinwari saved the life of the Army Officer in a 2008 firefight with insurgents. For over two years Zeller had been aggressively lobbying for a visa for Shinwari after he began recieving death threats.
“Just last week he actually found a letter on the hood of his car,” Zeller told WHAM 1180’s Bob Lonsberry on Wednesday, “‘Judgment Day is coming. You are a traitor to Afghanistan and an enemy of Islam and when we catch you we are going to cut you into pieces.’ He knows that he’s safe on the American base, but since his job is almost over, and when he goes to live amongst the Afghan population it’s only a matter of time before the Taliban will find him.”
Backed by a several local soldiers that served with Zeller and over 100,000 others Americans across the country Zeller started a petition on change.org to push for Shinwari to be granted a visa after he began receiving death threats from the Taliban.
“Out of nowhere I get a Facebook message from him saying ‘the US Embassy in Kabul told me to come by and pick up the visas for me, my wife, and my two kids.’”
In 2011, Shinwari applied to move to the U.S. under a special immigration program that started in 2008 for people who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the end of the month Zeller says that Afghan program will end, if no new law is passed, leaving several thousand applicants left behind enemy lines. To date less than 5,000 visas have been issued.