Revisiting the Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard Force Support Act

— Domani Spero
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In December last year, we urged your support for a bill in Congress intended to provide Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to a surviving spouse or child of an employee of the United States Government killed overseas in the line of duty (see Please Ask Congress to Support the Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard Force Support Act).

This Act may be cited as the “Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard Force Support Act”.

SEC. 2. SPECIAL IMMIGRANT STATUS FOR CERTAIN SURVIVING SPOUSES AND CHILDREN.

In General.–Section 101(a)(27) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)) is amended in subparagraph (D)– (1) by inserting “(i)” before “an immigrant who is an employee”; and (2) by inserting the following: “(ii) an immigrant who is the surviving spouse or child of an employee of the United States Government abroad killed in the line of duty, provided that the employee had performed faithful service for a total of fifteen years, or more, and that the principal officer of a Foreign Service establishment (or, in the case of the American Institute of Taiwan, the Director thereof) in his discretion, recommends the granting of special immigrant status to the spouse and children and the Secretary of State approves such recommendation and find that it is in the national interest to grant such status;”. (b) Effective Date.–This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall take effect beginning on January 31, 2013, and shall have retroactive effect.

Check out this page showing support for H.R. 1781. Warning, reading the comments posted against this bill will melt your brain and make you want to throw your shoes at somebody.

A comment from a Maine voter says it all:

Some of the ignorant comments I have seen regarding this case make me ashamed. We have an obligation to the families of these guards who make the ultimate sacrifice, and a few nice words and a flag just don’t cut it. We need to do the right thing here.

So, on June 14, 2013, this bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.  As of 12/13/2014 no related bill information has been received for H.R.1781 – the Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard Force Support Act.  The majority of the bills die in committee, and that apparently happened to this one, too.

The 114th Congress will be seated on January 3, 2015 and will run until January 3, 2017.  The GOP has taken control of both the Senate and the House. It is a worthwhile cause to urge our congressional representatives to revisit this bill again when they return in January, with great hope that it will pass this time.

We think it is important to emphasize that this bill, hopefully reintroduced in the 114th Congress, has a very narrow coverage — only for a spouse or child of a USG employee killed in the line of duty, and only if the employee has performed faithful service for at least fifteen years. It also needs the recommendation of the principal officer at post and the approval of the Secretary of State.

If Congress can allocate 50,000 permanent resident visas annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States (see “Lottery” Diversity Visas), we can find no reason why it cannot allocate visas to the next of kin of persons who actually died while protecting United States government officials and properties.

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Contact Congress: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/US-Congress.shtml

We believe this site will also update when the 114th Congress is seated and can be used to contact congressional representatives next year: http://www.contactingthecongress.org

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Please Ask Congress to Support the Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard Force Support Act

— Domani Spero

On February 1, 2012, the United States Embassy in Ankara, Turkey was attacked by a suicide bomber.  The attacker was reportedly carrying a handgun, a hand grenade, and 6 kilograms of TNT.  Had he been successful,  there would have been considerable harm to Americans and embassy employees inside. One of the armed Turkish Embassy Guards, Mustafa Akarsu, stopped the bomber before he could get into the compound.  The suicide bomber detonated the device, killing Mustafa instantly. See our previous posts below:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents an award to the family of Embassy guard Mustafa Akarsu at a Memorial Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on March 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents an award to the family of Embassy guard Mustafa Akarsu at a Memorial Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on March 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

1,294 people helped DS Agent, David Root raised funds for Mustafa Akarsu’s next of kin.  On April 26, 2013, Rep. McCaul, Michael T. [R-TX-10] also introduced the Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard Force Support Act.  It currently has 18 cosponsors.  In June 2013, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Below is a quick summary of the bill:

Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard Force Support Act – Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide special immigrant status for the surviving spouse or child of a U.S. government employee killed abroad in the line of duty, provided that: (1) the employee had performed faithful service for at least 15 years; and (2) the principal officer of a Foreign Service establishment (or, in the case of the American Institute of Taiwan, the Director) recommends, and the Secretary of State approves, the granting of such status.

States that this Act shall be effective beginning on January 31, 2013, and shall have retroactive effect.

We should add that unlike the Iraqi and Afghan SIVs which require “faithful and valuable service” to the U.S. Government “for a period of one year or more,” this bill is narrowly tailored only for the surviving spouse or child of an employee with at least 15 years of service who die in the line of duty.

Over in VoxPop (h/t to M), constituents are running 52% to 48% in opposition of the bill when it was first flagged to our attention. The support has slightly gained numbers as I’m writing this but the numbers are small and borderline.  I have not used this service but it “provides a curating interface for anyone — including Congressional staff, the public and the media — to access and understand the voice of the people.”

Someone from California’s 6th district writes, “I oppose H.R. 1781 [….] because this doesn’t sound like a good idea. It invites angry people here.”

But most comments so far, are favorable and supportive.

David from Maryland’s 1st District writes:

I was one of the U.S. Embassy employees in Turkey that was saved the day Mustafa selflessly sacrificed himself and stopped a suicide bomber from killing may others.

The standing policy is that any local employee who has worked for the U.S. Government for 15 years or more is eligible to become a U.S. citizen with his family. Mustafa had more than 22 years and was in the process of finishing his application when he was killed, defending American soil.

In a time, when many are automatically placed in front of Mustafa with no service to America at all, isn’t this very limited legislation the LEAST we can do to ensure that his family has at least a place in line?

A constituent from South Carolina’s 1st district writes, “If it wasn’t for Mr. Akarsu who knows how many people would have been hurt in this attack.” 

An FSO from Texas 21st district pleads, “Please do what’s right and honor the sacrifices of all members of the Embassy community, most especially those who die for America even when it is not (yet) their country.”

An Embassy employee from Washington State’s 3rd district writes:

“I was directly in harms way when Mustafa stopped the February 1 bomber. I have interacted with his family and can speak first hand of the warmth and affection they have for our mission and the United States. These are not jaded or bitter people. Mustafa’s family is one of many who has devoted so much to the U.S. and to the protection of our missions. It’s wrong to turn our backs on the families of those who have given so much for us. Please support this bill. It’s the right thing to do.”

It will only take a moment.  Please add your voice of support by contacting your representatives.  If you want to use the VoxPop service (registration required), you may contact your reps by clicking the “Support” button here.  You have an option to add  a personal message in your letter to your congressional reps.

Thank you! Ben teşekkür ederim!

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Thank You For Your Help – Mustafa Akarsu Family Fund Hits $107,551

Two months ago I’ve blogged about the passing of Mustafa Akarsu, the local guard at the US Embassy in Ankara who was killed  in the suicide attack on February 1 (see US Embassy Turkey: Suicide Bomber Kills Local Guard Mustafa Akarsu, Wounds One and also US Embassy Turkey: Mourning Mustafa Akarsu).

A week after he was killed, his supervisor at the US Embassy in Ankara David Root started a fund-raising drive for Mustafa’s wife and children.  David, a  Special Agent with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and Assistant Regional Security Officer did it in his private capacity via Indiegogo. (see DS Agent David Root Starts Fund for Mustafa Akarsu’s Family, Guard Killed in Embassy Ankara Suicide Attack – You Can Help.

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During the 60 day campaign, David posted photos and did 31 updates to supporters of the fund.  The fund-raising effort generated 1,294 funders and 147 comments.  Best of all, the final amount of $107,551 is more than 35 times over the original goal of $3,000.

For some who may not know it, local employees are in a non-US compensation system.   They are not considered FS or CS and do not typically get U.S. Social Security (used to, but not in the last 30 years if I remember correctly).   I don’t know if they are covered by the death gratuity rules that cover American employees or if they get one on a case by case basis subject to the decision of the Secretary of State. I was told that while local employees do get life insurance when they are hired, the plan that covers the employees in Turkey  apparently states that it does not cover terrorist attacks, sabotage, etc.

I hope the next step is to get the family members SIV if they want it, a much more complicated step now that the employee is no longer here. If I can get an update on that, I’ll post it here.

If you are a reader of this blog and have donated to the Akarsu fund, thank you for your kindness and support.

 

–DS

 

 

 

 

 

DS Agent David Root Starts Fund for Mustafa Akarsu’s Family, Guard Killed in Embassy Ankara Suicide Attack – You Can Help

We’ve blogged recently about the passing of Mustafa Akarsu, the local guard at the US Embassy in Ankara who was killed  in the suicide attack last February 1 (see US Embassy Turkey: Suicide Bomber Kills Local Guard Mustafa Akarsu, Wounds One and also US Embassy Turkey: Mourning Mustafa Akarsu).

Now, David Root his supervisor at the embassy has started a fund-raising drive for Mustafa’s family.  David  is a Special Agent with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and is the Assistant Regional Security Officer at Embassy Ankara. He was also Mustafa’s American supervisor.  He is using Indiegogo for the funding process, and while we have seen a similar response in the aftermath of Sean Smith’s death, this is the first time we are aware that this is used to support a local USG employee.

And what an extraordinary response!  ARSO Root started a funding goal of $3,000 for 60 days and on its second day the amount raised is already over $34,000.  In explaining the original funding goal, he wrote that  he was “petrified that not enough people would show their support and I would have to explain to Mustafa’s wife and children that we failed.”

In a separate post, he explains:

“Our hopes are that Mustafa’s family will not have to survive only off of Mustafa’s meager pension and give up Mustafa’s dream of his children attending college (goals we have for our own children). Mustafa is no longer here to work towards that dream. It is up to us to ensure his dream does not die with him.”

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Click on image to visit the Akarsu Family Fund Project in Indiegogo

Here is what David wrote on the funding page:

The United States Embassy in Ankara, Turkey was attacked by a suicide bomber on Friday, February 1st, 2013.  Carrying a handgun, a hand grenade, and 6 kilograms of TNT, it is clear that the terrorist’s plan was to kill and do considerable harm to Americans and American Embassy employees inside.

His plan failed.

One of our own armed Embassy Guards, Mustafa Akarsu, immediately recognized the danger and stopped the bomber before he could get into the compound and begin his attack.  The suicide bomber, realizing his plan was failing, detonated the device, killing Mustafa instantly.

Unfortunately, the Turkish government’s retirement program will only support Mustafa’s widow and children for a short time (as a Turkish citizen, Mustafa paid into the Turkish system, not the American).  Despite Mustafa’s over 22 years of service protecting the American Embassy and sacrificing his own life for ours, his family will struggle on Mustafa’s meager pension for the remainder of theirs (in Turkish culture, the husband is traditionally the sole “bread-winner”).  Even more tragically, Mustafa had applied and was being approved for a Special Immigrant Visa (a Visa reserved only for those who have dedicated the many number of years that Mustafa did).  He planned on becoming an American citizen with his family and hoped to send his children to college in the U.S. (Mustafa’s 19-year old son is pictured with him in the photo above).

Our Local Embassy Guards around the world, oftentimes overwhelmed and outgunned, are frequently forced to flee from attackers rather than stand and fight.  We saw this in the recent attack in Benghazi, Libya where a number of Americans were killed in a similar attack.  In holding his ground and knowingly placing his own body literally between the bomber and us, Mustafa truly demonstrated his selflessness and acted as courageously as any hero we have ever known.

If you are able to help us in this sad yet worthy cause, please donate what  you can.  ALL donations collected will go directly to the fund established for Mustafa’s family.

We know that there are a lot of people suffering during this economic downturn, but if you are able and willing to help, please go to  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mustafa-akarsu-family-fund?c=home.  Also, we are reminded by one of our readers (thanks D!) that official embassy/consulate websites and social media arms will not be pushing this campaign because there are FAM/FAH restrictions on fund raising.

Thank you for whatever help you can extend …. teşekkür ederim … feel free to link or pass along.
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In the Foreign Service: Death, Too Close An Acquaintance

This past week saw the death of a member of a local guard force at the US Embassy in Ankara.  Nomads By Nature who blogs from Ankara writes that the guard who died when the suicide bomber detonated the bomb at the embassy entrance, Mustafa Akarsu was a 46-year-old security guard at the embassy.  He left behind a wife, an 18 year old son, and a 15 year old daughter. “He put duty ahead and confronted the bomber in that initial checkpoint, hollering out a warning to the others as he did so.

This has been a reality for the Foreign Service, not just for the American employees and family members but also for the locally hired employees, and host country police officers tasked to guard our people and diplomatic facilities overseas.  AFSA has a long list on its memorial plaque of American officers lost dating back to 1780 when William Palfrey was lost at sea.  We don’t think there is a memorial plaque just for local employees. We lost so many of them in Beirut one year, and more another year. We lost many more during the twin bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Since 2008, this blog has attempted to keep track of the violent deaths related to the State Department overseas.  Since we mostly worked through publicly available material, we are pretty confident that we have covered FS employee/family-related incidents (missing, suicide, attacks).  We are also sure our list covering local national casualties are incomplete because those do not always make the news.

Apologies if we missed anyone.  If you know anyone not listed below kindly please add the information in the comment section.

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Feb 2013  – Mustafa Akarsu, Local Guard Force (Ankara, Turkey): investigation is still ongoing. Hurriyet Daily News has some additional details here.

Jan 2013 – Christopher “Norm” Bates, Foreign Service  (Johannesburg, South Africa): case is open and ongoing.

US Mission South Africa: FS Employee Christopher Bates Dead in Jo’burg

Nov 2012 – George Anikow, Foreign Service/EFM (Manila, Philippines): four alleged perpetrators are currently in Philippine court system.

US Embassy Manila:  George Anikow, Diplomatic Spouse Killed in Early Morning Altercation

October  2012 – Qassim Aklan, Foreign Service National (Sana’a, Yemen)

US Embassy Yemen: FSN Qassim Aklan Killed in Motorcycle Drive-by Shooting

 

Sept 2012

  • J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service (Benghazi, Libya)
  • Sean Smith, Foreign Service (Benghazi, Libya)
  • Tyrone Woods, Contractor (Benghazi, Libya)
  • Glen Doherty, Contractor (Benghazi, Libya)

Outrage! Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others killed in Benghazi, Libya

August 2012 – Ragaei Abdelfattah, USAID (Kunar, Afghanistan)

US Mission Afghanistan: USAID Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, Four Others Killed, Two Wounded in Suicide Attack in Kunar

May 2012 – George Gaines, Foreign Service (Bridgetown, Barbados)

US Embassy Barbados: Death of the Regional Security Officer

February 2011 – Khairy Ramadan Aly, Foreign Service National (Cairo, Egypt)

US Embassy Cairo Local Employee Confirmed Dead with Three Bullet Holes

March 2010 –  Lesley A. Enriquez, Foreign Service National (Ciudad Juarez, Mexico): one gang leader extradited from Mexico

 

January 2010

  • Victoria DeLong, Foreign Service (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
  • Laurence Wyllie, Foreign Service/EFM (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
  • Baptiste Wyllie (5),  Foreign Service/EFM (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
  • Evan Wyllie (7), Foreign Service/EFM (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)

State Dept Reports Death of FSO in Haiti Earthquake

Three FS Family Members Perished in Haiti Quake

September 2009 – James Hogan, Foreign Service (Curacao, Netherlands Antilles): still missing, more blog posts archived here.

James Hogan Case: A Royal Hurricane Shit Storm of Pain for All to Read

May 2009 Terrence Barnich, State Department  (Fallujah, Iraq)

US Embassy Baghdad Employees Killed by IED

February 2009 – Brian Adkins, Foreign Service (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia): a local man reportedly pleaded guilty to the murder but we have no information whether the murderer was sentenced.

One of Ours is Dead in Addis Ababa

January 2008 

  • John M. Granville, USAID (Khartoum, Sudan): convicted murderers still at large
  • Abdel Rahman Abbas, USAID/FSN (Khartoum, Sudan) convicted murderers still at large

How much does a US diplomat’s life worth? About $1,800 US dollars, and look there’s no raging mob…

 

For the Foreign Service, the six degrees of separation is acutely much closer.  As such, death is often too close an acquaintance.

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US Embassy Turkey: Mourning Mustafa Akarsu

The following is an excerpt from Ambassador Frank Ricciardone on the passing of local guard, Mustafa Akarsu who was killed last week in the suicide bombing at the US Embassy in Ankara:

We lost a brave Turkish member of our Mission family. We are all are profoundly grateful for the Mustafa Akarsu, a hero who stood guard every day, was skillful and dedicated to his duty, and who died defending the Turks and the Americans who work at our embassy. We will never forget his ultimate sacrifice. We salute his bravery and his service to Turkey and to Turkish-American friendship. Our hearts go out to his family. 

In honor of our fallen colleague Mustafa Akarsu, I have directed that flags at the U.S. Embassy and our consulates in Turkey will fly at half staff until sunset on Wednesday February 6. On Monday at 13:13, we will observe a moment of silence in Mustafa Bey’s memory,  precisely 72 hours after the moment of his sacrifice.   

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Photo via US Embassy Ankara/FB

Apparently, Mustafa Bey had also been thinking ahead to retire and to bringing his young son and daughter to the United States to study.  We’re not thoroughly familiar with SIVs, but we know that to immigrate to the United States under the special immigrant visa category, you need the principal beneficiary of a petition, typically the USG employee who has performed faithful service for at least fifteen years.  The principal officer usually recommends the granting of special immigrant status to an employee or former employee in exceptional circumstances and the Secretary of State approves the recommendation if he/she finds it in the national interest.  We’re not sure if Mustafa Bey was at this stage, but we hope that the USG will not forget his children.
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Related post:

Don’t Forget the FSN Emergency Relief Fund

 

Related articles

 

 

 

US Embassy Turkey: Suicide Bomber Kills Local Guard Mustafa Akarsu, Wounds One

The US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey confirmed that at approximately 13:15 on February 1, there was an explosion at the embassy.  It also says that “Appropriate measures have been taken by the Turkish National Police who are now investigating the incident.” And that  “the U.S. Embassy would like to thank the Turkish Government, the media, and members of the public for their expressions of solidarity and outrage over the incident.”

In a separate message to U.S. citizens in Turkey, the embassy  advised them “to not visit the Consulates in Istanbul, Adana or the Embassy in Ankara until further notice.”

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Media reports indicate that a suicide bomber detonated an explosive at the entrance of the U.S. Embassy in the capital city, killing himself and Turkish guard, Mustafa Akarsu from the embassy’s local guard force. The blast reportedly wounded a still unidentified journalist with life-threatening conditions.

Below is an excerpt from Turkey’s Today’s Zaman:

The suicide bomber who detonated an explosive device at the entrance of the US Embassy in Ankara on Friday, killing at least two people, including himself, was a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), according to initial findings of the police shortly after the explosion.
[…]
The DHKP/C, considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, has carried out nearly a dozen terrorist attacks over the past seven months in Turkey, including Friday’s embassy attack. Intelligence reports suggest that the DHKP/C uses militants who suffer from a terminal illness in suicide attacks.

A separate report quotes Turkey’s Interior Minister Muammer Güler identifying the assailant as Ecevit Şanlı, a member of the far-left terrorist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) who had been implicated in a terrorist attack in 1997.
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