© 2022 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Iowa Falls Man One Step Closer To Asylum

Zalmay Niazy with Grassley.jfif
Sara Konrad Baranowski
Iowa Falls Times-Citizen: timescitizen.com
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley in Iowa Falls in 2017 spoke to an audience after hearing Zalmay Niazy's story of being an Afghan interpreter for the U.S. military and fleeing to America to escape the Taliban.

Zalmay Niazy picked up his coffee from the store in Iowa Falls Friday morning, like any other morning. But today was different.

People stopped him on the way out.

"Sorry about your country, but I'm glad you're going to be alright."
"Very happy for you."

The other shop goers had heard about the call he received Thursday afternoon.

It was his lawyer letting him know all accusations against him of engaging in terrorist activity have been dropped by the U.S. government. That means his journey to being granted asylum will go much more smoothly.

Niazy, who goes by “Z,” said he’s glad his chances are good for staying in Iowa, but he has mixed feelings. In Afghanistan, he knows people are struggling and he wants to help again. He's concerned about other Afghans who helped the U.S. in the past, like he did.

"Right now, if I get a call, it will be my lucky day like yesterday. That I will go and help those people. They are innocent people, they worked with us, with the U.S. just to survive," he said.

He put his life in danger for three years to aid the military in Afghanistan, and he said he isn't afraid to do it again to help innocent people in the evacuation process. Although, he's frustrated because he said he worked so hard along with the U.S. military to make change in his home country. And now it has reverted back to Taliban rule.

Niazy’s first application for asylum was denied due to the U.S. government’s claim that he supported the Taliban as a child. He explained he gave a piece of bread to a member of the Taliban who had threatened him.

But now, he said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can see it wasn’t an act of support, rather an act of survival.

Niazy summed up the call from his lawyer, who got the heads-up from the Department: "[They said] 'We don't have any... we're not proceeding with any process of removal or deportation and that this has been cleared from our records and everything. And that he deserves to stay in the country and has to proceed with all the legal documents that he deserves.'"

And yes, he admitted that's a good thing. But he can't ignore what other Afghans are experiencing.

"I'm not afraid to go back and I urge [the U.S. government], I beg them...I'm not even a citizen but one day, I will be a citizen and I won't feel embarrassed that the world will say that the United States left these people behind," he said.

He explained he knows the language and knows almost every road and street there. He said the help he can provide with his knowledge and experience will not only help both the U.S. and Afghanistan, but also humanity, because people are "fighting for their lives."

Within the state's borders, Niazy said he has found a support system in Iowa and in his Iowa Falls community. He's been in the state since 2015 and is now a small business owner.

"I've been very overwhelmed with the support and the affection and the behavior of the people of Iowa," he said. "It's been an honor to me, and I hope that I can return the favor back."

His next step will be his asylum hearing on Oct. 4 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Iowa leaders have urged for the safe removal of certain Afghans as well. The White House has reported 9,000 Americans and Afghans have been evacuated since Saturday.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines