Fargo South grad serves critical role as translator during Afghanistan evacuation

Helei Amini's Afghan roots made her a valuable civilian employee of the U.S. Army and ally of evacuees on an American base in Germany that was helping those fleeing the country now under Taliban leadership.

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We stay close to some of our high school classmates and lose track of others, but a 2007 Fargo South grad has quite the story to tell during the holidays.

A job with the U.S. Army at an Air Force Base in Germany changed her life.

Helei Amini served in a vital role as a civilian translator, working with thousands of Afghan refugees who arrived there following the chaos in their home country.

"It was a huge honor to be there and it was something fulfilling for me personally and professionally," Amini said.

Amini came to Fargo with her single mother in 2000 from Afghanistan, but her job translating for the U.S. Army would put her back in touch with her roots.


"At the time, I was the only female Afghan translator there," she said.

Amini was featured in a Vice News special about the difficulties left behind as the U.S. military withdrawal led to the collapse of the Afghan government.

That collapse left a void that was rapidly filled by the Taliban.

"In terms of you being an Afghan American, what do you think about what is happening in your country?" asked Vice News reporter Liz Landers.

"Having experienced my mother flogged by the Taliban when I was nine, they are still the Taliban, we know and they will never change," Amini said.

And she talked about being able to help the Afghan women.


"Not only does it help me empathize, but I see myself in those little girls," Amini said, overcome with emotion.

Amini knows several languages, so her translation skills and knowledge of the refugees' culture and religion became valuable as the military tried to deal with so many, so quickly.

"It is our responsibility, moral responsibility to help our fellow Afghans especially in time of need," she said.

Perhaps the best measure of her contributions led to a heart-warming moment borne out of crisis.

When an Afghan woman had to give birth to her child on the base in Germany after fleeing her home country, Amini stepped in and asked men to leave the room before assisting in the delivery.

"And they put the baby on her chest and they asked the mom what she wanted to name the baby, and she looked at me and asked 'What is your name?'" Amini said. "So it was very, very beautiful."

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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