Ansam, the 34-year-old Iraqi translator for the U.S. Marines that McClatchy first wrote about in March, appears to be headed for the United States. On Wednesday, she got an e-mail saying a visa is waiting for her and telling her what paperwork will be required.
That’s a big turn in fortunes for a woman whose hopes for political asylum in the United States were at a dead end. Several U.S. military officers had written letters of support and she had a “guardian angel” in the form of Angela Williams, a State Department employee who took a special interest in her case, but there’d been no movement in her case.
Two weeks after the story ran, the U.S. government flew her to neighboring Jordan and set her up with a salaried embassy job and free lodging. Ansam credits both the publicity and Williams’ tireless behind-the-scenes work for getting her predicament noticed in Washington.
“Now I’m in the embassy, working on visas, and before this I couldn’t even get a passport!” she said during a phone interview from Amman. She proudly added that she would be paying her own expenses within a few weeks.
“They’ve been taking care of me for two months and next month I hope to be handling everything on my own, from my salary,” she said.
Ansam said civilian life was sometimes jarring after so many years of living on base with rowdy Marines. She sent photos of her first trip to an Amman beauty salon, where she had her hair cut and highlighted. Back in Iraq, her hair was typically shoved under a Kevlar helmet.
Williams, who is still based in Iraq but regularly checks on Ansam, wrote in an email that the State Department would care for the former translator “until her immigration to the U.S. kicks in,” implying that Ansam should have a smooth path to the United States.
Ansam’s asylum interview was scheduled for Wednesday. The e-mail came just a few hours before her appointment.
“Today I'm the happiest person in the world,” she said in an e-mail to friends. “I’m free now and no one can hurt me anymore.”