Afghan Air Force Maj. Naiem Asadi goes over some immigration paperwork with Kimberley Motley, an American human rights attorney who is helping the family emigrate, at his home in Kabul
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Asadi family was up before dawn Tuesday after a fitful night’s sleep.
They dressed quickly in new clothes bought the day before and tucked a few precious belongings into two suitcases and two backpacks.
Maj. Naiem Asadi was about to make the move of a lifetime — one that would separate his family from their loved ones and the only country they have ever known. As he and his wife, Rahima Asadi, zipped their luggage, they worried that unforeseen obstacles would block the path to their final destination.
The decorated Afghan air force helicopter pilot had been in hiding with his wife and daughter, Zainab, 5, for seven months. The Taliban had threatened his life, posting his photo online with the instructions “Find him and kill him,” he said.
On top of being a pilot, he is Hazara, a member of an ethnic minority that has been repeatedly attacked by the Taliban and the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. Asadi said even air force commanders often discriminated against him because of his ethnicity.
There was more: His commanders were furious that he had been absent without leave since last fall. They had repeatedly ordered him to report for duty, but he refused
“I worried that they would never allow me to leave because then every pilot would want to go to the U.S.,” he said in lightly accented English.
But now Asadi, 32 — a farmer’s son, a graduate of Afghanistan’s military officer academy and by many accounts the Afghan air force’s leading killer of Taliban fighters — was leaving his native country, probably forever.
In the pale morning light in Kabul, the pilot held three dark-green Afghan passports. Inside each was a full-page stamp bearing an image of Abraham Lincoln that would carry them to the United States: “Holder has been granted parole authorization by USCIS for one year,” it read.
An American lawyer had helped the family obtain humanitarian parole — a little-known authorization by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to enter the United States for a year — but only after the U.S. military abruptly revoked a similar refugee application that was initially approved in October, as first reported by Stars and Stripes.