Brigade wants to bring Iraqi interpreter to US

Members of the local 56th Stryker Brigade are working with legislators and the State Department to help bring an Iraqi interpreter to the United States.

Sergio Carmona, a sergeant leading the brigade in its effort, said the process seems to be “moving along well so far.” Othman Mohan Muaawin Al-Janabi, 26, worked directly with the Strykers as a translator and currently teaches English in Baghdad.

Al-Janabi, also known to the brigade as Justin Swat, is looking to acquire a visa, alongside his wife, Zahraa, and their 2-year-old daughter, Melak.

Carmona said Al-Janabi would prefer to stay in Iraq, but he is concerned about the growing influence of the terrorist group ISIS.

“He loves his country and really wants to stay there, but unfortunately things started going bad,” Carmona said. “He and his family are now going to be easy targets because of their association with the U.S.”

Carmona said Al-Janabi has received the final application for his visa and will soon move into the interview process. Members of the brigade are hoping this process doesn’t last long, Carmona said, as he learned from other interpreters that it’s taken years for them to finally get the visa.

Sen. Pat Toomey’s office has been coordinating the discussions between the Stryker Brigade and the State Department, Carmona said.

Carmona said he kept in contact with Al-Janabi using Facebook, and it was in a message on that website that he first broached the subject of leaving Iraq.

Jacob McGarvey, another member of the brigade, said in an email that many of the members of the Stryker Brigade are hoping for the best for Al-Janabi.

“I have done everything that my country has asked of me and never asked for anything in return until now,” McGarvey said. “This matter is very important to me, and (I) consider him a brother to me. I am sure the rest of the guys that are active in helping feel the same way.”

Carmona echoed the sentiment, saying that Al-Janabi always did everything he could to assist the brigade.

“He was actually our interpreter for most of the time that we were there, and we got to know him,” Carmona said. “We were working with him pretty much every day. He’s a really good guy – always honest and did whatever he could to make sure we were accomplishing our missions.”

He said the brigade has taken a number of strategies to help Al-Janabi get out of Iraq.

They’ve written to legislators, petitioned news outlets and started a petition on the White House website, which closed before it got the needed 100,000 signatures.

Carmona said organizers of the effort know there is little they can do, aside from keeping their friend’s name in the public eye. He said, though, that Al-Janabi himself has never asked people to go out of their way to help him, even though he is well-aware of the dangers of staying in Iraq.

“He’s never asked for us to do anything other than to pray for him,” Carmona said. “We kind of just took this upon ourselves and have been pushing it.”

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.