Interview for

Hussain Muhammad

6/13/2019

Interviewed By:

Simone Wallk

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:14:22
Summary

Hussain speaks about his passion for his work as a translator despite the risks it posed to his life in Afghanistan, as well as how a sense of community, both Muslim Afghan and American, eased his settlement in the United States. He also discusses the nature of his work, the immigration process, and his relationship to family.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Hussain Muhammad

Date: 02/27/22

Location: Washington, D.C.


Content Warning: Death threats, killing

Summary: Hussain Muhammad speaks about his passion for his work as a translator despite the risks it posed to his life in Afghanistan, as well as how a sense of community, both Muslim Afghan and American, eased his settlement in the United States.

Topics: Employment/Career, Immigration Process, Cultural Adjustment, Religion, Language, Safety, Family, Cross-Cultural Understanding


Outline

Section One (0:00-10:35)

  • Employment, Immigration Process - In Afghanistan, Hussain worked for the US military as a translator and cultural advisor for 10 years, since he was 17 years old. He later learned of a program that could help translators who felt endangered by their work, the Special Immigrant Visa, which allowed him to come to the US in 2014.

  • Cultural Adjustment - Hussain had interacted with Americans before and googled the neighborhood they would move to so he experienced less of a culture shock than his wife. He expected the area to be mountainous like his hometown and believes there are commonalities between Afghan and American culture when it comes to hospitality and the community-building aspect of food.

Section Two (10:35-23:33)

  • Religion - American people, including his US sponsor, demonstrated understanding regarding his religion, asking if he and his wife wanted to visit the mosque. It made them feel more comfortable. Hussain respects and has been exposed to people of diverse religions, and feels that even when life gets busy, the mosque is always there for him. Most of the people who visit the mosque are Afghan. On occasions like Eid, Hussain and his family get together with others, dressing in traditional Afghan clothes and enjoying potlucks in the park.

  • Language - One of the reasons Afghan people bring their children to the mosque is so that they can learn Dari. There are also Farsi teachers.

Section Three (23:33-31:29)

  • Family - The hardest part of being in the US for Hussain has been worrying for the safety of his family, friends, and relatives.

  • Language, Employment - As a 12 or 13 year old, Hussain quickly picked up English from school and was always looking for opportunities to practice it, which led him to start working as a translator. It was a dream job that met all his expectations, and made him feel like he was helping people and serving his country. It was not a safe job for a child as they often worked on the field, but translators were in demand.

Section Four (31:29-42:07)

  • Safety - Hussain was terrified of being recognized and kidnapped as some other translators had been. In the mountains and along the dirt roads of Afghanistan, anyone could be trailing you.

Section Five (42:07-1:00:02)

  • Threats - Uneducated people and the insurgents believed that translators were no different from the foreigners and were out to harm civilians. After receiving threats, Hussain decided it was time to leave and began working on his application. He worries for the families of people working for the US or foreign forces.

  • Family, Violence, Career - His family supported him working as a translator despite the risks because of how much he loved his job, until his cousin working for the US was killed. Hussain protested to continue his work and says that even if he resigned, he would have been in danger anyways.

Section Six (01:00:02-01:14:18)

  • Cross-Cultural Understanding - In Afghanistan, Hussain felt a sense of comradery with American colleagues who were of various races and ethnicities. In the United States, his family has both Afghan and American friends. He often invites American neighbors over for Eid while they invite his family for Christmas and Thanksgiving.