Afghan SIV recipient evacuated by US veterans group will attend State of the Union
Stars and Stripes February 7, 2023
An Afghan man who recently spent a year on the run from the Taliban will be among the special guests at the State of the Union address Tuesday.
Until a few weeks ago, Shams Rahmani, a Special Immigrant Visa recipient from Afghanistan, feared for his life as he fled between houses.
He believed that the Taliban, who overthrew the U.S.-backed government in Kabul in 2021, were targeting him because of his work as the site manager for a Defense Department contractor.
“I hope that my presence at this important moment inspires the U.S. government to fulfill their obligation to my fellow Afghans who remain behind,” said Rahmani, 34, who spoke to Stars and Stripes via text Tuesday.
No One Left Behind, a Virginia-based nonprofit founded by veterans, helped Rahmani and his family evacuate to the U.S. in December, a group statement said Tuesday.
“Mr. Rahmani’s presence at the State of the Union doesn’t just represent the 160,000 American allies left behind, but he also represents the many American lives that our Afghan partners saved serving our military,” Mike Mitchell, the organization’s executive director, said in the statement.
The United Nations and global advocacy group Human Rights Watch, among others, have accused the Taliban of killing or threatening the lives of hundreds of Afghans who helped U.S. efforts.
Rahmani was invited to the speech by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a Marine veteran who has spoken out on behalf of Afghans who worked with the U.S. during 20 years of war.
“There are tens of thousands of people just like Shams who are still stuck in extremely dangerous situations in Afghanistan,” Moulton said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “There are people at the top of the evacuation list who are literally dying at the hands of the Taliban while they wait.
“It is inexcusable that the United States, with all of our resources, has failed so many of our allies,” he said.
Moulton recently took part in efforts to extend the Special Immigrant Visa program, which resettles Afghan interpreters and contract workers who aided U.S. forces in the conflict.
Members of Congress often bring guests to the State of the Union address to bring attention to specific issues.
Among this year’s guests are Brandon Tsay, who disarmed a suspected killer in a shooting in Monterey Park, Calif.; former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; and lead singer of the band U2, Bono.