Monday, December 18, 2006

A translator is blinded and abandoned

“I wish you knew Mazin Al-Nashi,” said Kevin Kelly, a counselor for the Center of the Blind and Visually Impaired. “Mazin is one of my clients; despite extreme adversity, this couple has tenacious faith that justice will prevail.” As you read their story, you will learn how you can make a difference in their lives, and turn wrong into right.

Some Background

Mazin and his wife Layla are American citizens of Iraqi descent. As Aramaic Jews, they separately migrated to the United States, they met each other and their lives became interwoven through marriage. They looked forward to the new opportunities that this country would give them. Multilingual and ambitious, they began to chart new ground with goals and dreams. They never imagined the horrific nightmare that would encapsulate their lives and spiral them into a sequence of events triggered by deception and irresponsible neglect.

When George Bush asked Americans to go to Iraq, Mazin Al-Nashi signed up in a civilian role as a translator for Titan Corporation. He worked with the Department of Defense. In August 2003, his life changed forever. He was riding in a Humvee when the American soldier sitting next to him discharged his M-16 rifle. A bullet fragment hit Mazin's helmet. Next Mazin was knocked unconscious by a blow from the soldier's rifle butt. Because of his civilian status, he received minimal treatment. On the day of this accident, he was discharged from the hospital, was drugged with morphine and left alone by Titan's representative for three days in a tent where the temperatures exceeded 120 degrees. This friendly fire event transformed his life with complete vision loss and partial hearing loss as well as motor skill and other neurological damage. When Titan Corporation deemed it necessary, they sent him to Fallujah and propped him up in a doorway to translate. When he collapsed, they were done with him. Now that he was totally blind, how could he be of any use to them? Titan sent him to Germany. There for two weeks, Mazin was given no rehabilitation assistance or therapy to help him adjust to his altered life.

In November 2003, Mazin was shipped back to America and given a final payment of nine dollars. Layla met him at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field. Since the day of this horrific tragedy, Layla has worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives. She has had to deal with a bureaucratic Goliath where medical personnel were encouraged to falsify records, insurance coverage was mishandled, worker comp benefits started and stopped over and over, and attorneys stalled in taking action. Everyday this couple face the challenge of being economically marginalized as they struggle to keep their heads above water.

This couple has insurmountable strength. From the very beginning, Layla has been both caregiver and advocate for Mazin. Mazin has been taking classes at the San Diego Center of the Blind and Visually Impaired since August 2004. At this rehabilitation and teaching facility, he has been participating in a curriculum where he can achieve his highest level of independence and adjust to his vision loss.

“His transformation is impressive when you think of all the obstacles he has had to endure,” remarks his counselor Kevin Kelly. Meanwhile, Layla has been working equally hard to move forward. She is well-organized and a skillful documenter.

“Her positivity, her belief in humankind, and her tenacious desire to make things right is equally impressive,” Kevin exclaims.

Where They Are Now

L-3 Communications-Titan Corporation and AIG WorldSource Insurance (work comp)attorneys have begun depositions while Mazin had no attorney to represent him. Mazin went to a hearing on October 23 and 24, 2006, without an attorney to represent him. The hearing turned into a deposition of Mazin. The questioning by Titan attorneys Roger Levy and Katherine Farrar continued even though Mazin vomited twice on the stand. He became so ill that within a week he was in intensive care. He stayed there for three days and had a heart procedure.

Layla has found an attorney with the necessary Longshore and Harbor Worker Compensation specialization who wants to take the case immediately, but he requires $25,000.

Mazin and Layla need a defense now against the effort of Titan Corporation (now known as L-3 Titan Group) and AIG Insurance Corporation to leave Mazin without health care and both of them penniless.

For more background on this story, see the San Diego Union-Tribune July 24, 2005, article by Bruce Bigelow and David Washburn,
"Titan worker claims he was abandoned in Iraq."

Joseph Peña of the East County Californian newspaper in San Diego also wrote about Mazin on November 23, 2006.
"L-3 Titan Rebukes Local Patriot's Claims."
A Google search for MAZIN AL-NASHI will provide many other links.

If you are touched by this story, and can help in anyway, please contact us at - Thank you in anticipation.

“I know that God will provide for us,” says Layla.