Today, the New York Times ran an “op-doc,” a short documentary about the List Project’s work over the years and the continuing pressures faced by the Iraqis who stepped forward to help.
It pays special attention to the case of one Iraqi who tried desperately to summon America’s help. ’M’ worked for the U.S. Army’s 501st Brigade Support Battalion and applied for a visa nearly a year before the end of the war. But every letter he sent to the refugee resettlement bureaucracy was met with an auto-reply, asking for the name of his American employer. Despite having sent numerous letters of commendation he’d received from bosses in U.S. Army, the bureaucracy doubted his service to our country.
When he finally submitted the email address of his American supervisor, who instantly verified his work and supported his visa application, M believed help was soon on the way. He was in a bind: militias in his town knew who he was, had issued threats shortly after our withdrawal, and M was forced to shuttle between safehouses with his wife and 5-year-old son while they waited for the visa.
But when a long period of silence ensued, he wrote back to the refugee resettlement bureaucracy and asked for an update. They sent him an auto-reply, asking for the name of his American supervisor, even though they had already communicated with and received verification months earlier. M continued writing desperate letters in search of anything other than an auto-reply. When he received a new death threat in the spring of 2012, he forwarded the letter to the U.S. Government, begging them to evacuate him to Jordan or Turkey.
In June of this year, six months after the withdrawal, he was found decapitated on a street not far from his home. When his brother, who has also received a death threat on account of his relationship to M, wrote to the U.S. refugee bureaucracy through M’s email account to ask for help, he received an auto-reply asking for the name of an American supervisor who could verify M’s work.
The List Project is now trying to assist M’s widow, young son, and brother in their visa appeals, but our confidence in the bureaucracy to recognize an urgent situation is increasingly frayed.
Watch the op-doc: