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A former Afghan interpreter for the US military escaped Taliban rule only to be shot and killed in Washington, DC

Katie Hawkinson   

A former Afghan interpreter for the US military escaped Taliban rule only to be shot and killed in Washington, DC
  • Nasrat Ahmad Yar, 31, was shot and killed in Washington, DC while working as a Lyft driver.
  • He had served as an interpreter for the US military since he was a teenager, a close friend said.

Nasrat Ahmad Yar spent almost his entire life navigating the conflict in Afghanistan.

As a young teenager, he began working as an interpreter for the US military. He later met his wife and they had three of their four children.

When the Afghanistan government fell in 2021, the United States fled, and the Taliban re-captured Kabul, he and his family had no choice but to flee. After several frantic months, they made it out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and —eventually — to the United States.

Then, on July 3, Ahmad Yar was fatally shot in Washington, DC while driving for Lyft.

It's a uniquely tragic American story.

Ahmad Yar selflessly dedicated himself to helping others, his loved ones told Insider. Matthew Butler — an Army Special Forces veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan with Ahmad Yar as his interpreter — said he first showed up at a US camp in Afghanistan as a young kid.

"He'd been hanging out at this camp since he was 10 years old," Butler told Insider. "At first, they just paid him to empty the trash or rake rocks. Ultimately, he taught himself English through association."

Ahmad Yar and his family first set their eyes on coming to the United States in 2020. However, Ahmad Yar's plans were immediately derailed after the Afghanistan government fell in 2021 and the Taliban captured the city of Kabul.

That's when Butler — now Ahmad Yar's close friend — immediately began mobilizing resources within the veteran community to make sure he could leave the country.

"We probably exchanged a couple hundred text messages a day for months," Butler said. "It was my full-time job, keeping him alive."

Ahmad Yar was just one of hundreds of Afghan interpreters scrambling to flee the country after the Taliban takeover. Their work for the US military put them in significant danger of being targeted by Taliban forces.

The US requires interpreters like Ahmad Yar to apply for Special Immigrant Visas, which allow foreign nationals who have worked for the US government to immigrate. Throughout 2022, many investigations — including those from the LA Times and CNN — revealed that the US State Department denied the applicants of dozens of Afghan interpreters who served for years and had positive performance reviews, leaving them in significant danger.

"Because of the length and type of his service, he was in a lot of danger," Jeramie Malone, a volunteer who helped coordinate Ahmad Yar's escape and started a GoFundMe for his family after his death, told Insider.

Even amid his own efforts to escape with his family, Malone said Ahmad Yar fought to help other families escape Taliban rule too.

"He worked really hard to get out, and he worked really hard to help other Afghans trying to get out," Malone said. "Even when he was on the run, he was extremely helpful, and there was no competition — he wanted to do everything he could to help get people to safety."

Butler said the process took months as Ahmad Yar and his family moved between dozens of safe houses as they awaited evacuation. Amid the chaos, Ahmad Yar's wife was also pregnant with their fourth child.

Ahmad Yar and his family were not on the infamous final US military flight out of Kabul on Aug. 30, 2021. Rather, Butler secured seats on an evacuation plane organized by a nonprofit in October 2021.

Butler said it was one of the last aid planes evacuating people from Afghanistan.

From there, the family went to Abu Dhabi, where Ahmad Yar's wife gave birth to their youngest child, according to Butler.

After several months, Ahmad Yar and his family finally received their visas and first relocated to Pennsylvania. They later moved to Washington, DC in early 2023 to be closer to family and find connections in the wider Afghan community.

Ahmad Yar worked for a towing company and as a rideshare driver. Before he was murdered, he was working to start his own tow truck company to better support his wife and four children, as well as those still in Afghanistan.

"Whenever he learned about other people in his community back home, especially those with hungry or sick kids, he felt compelled to offer them money," Malone said. "He shared everything he had."

The investigation into Ahmad Yar's death is ongoing. Surveillance footage from a nearby home shows four people running away from the scene of Admad Yar's murder, just after a gunshot rang out. Investigators are offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest or conviction.

For Butler, there may never be true justice for the killing of Ahmad Yar — but he hopes those responsible for his death model their lives after the selfless man he was.

"I hope they turn their lives around and live their lives as a memorial to the type of man Nasrat was: sacrificing, loving, caring, happy," Butler said.

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