She was seventeen and thought it was going to be an ordinary day. 

Without warning, however, Noor Greene’s life was about to change forever. “I woke up in the morning in Iraq, and I was planning to go to school that day,” she recalls, “but that night, when I went to bed, I was in Jordan.”  

Would-be kidnappers had attempted to wrestle Noor into the backseat of a car, and her father was receiving death threats as a result of his work for the Associated Press. “By the grace of our neighbors and God, we were able to escape,” Noor tells IWF. When the opportunity came to get out of an increasingly precarious situation in Iraq, the family had to take it.

While Noor and her family were living in Jordan, the U.S. State Department created the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which was designed to get Afghan and Iraqi U.S. allies, or others who had a contract to work with a U.S. governmental entity, out of harm’s way and settled in the U.S. Because of his work, Noor’s father was eligible for an SIV. 

Would-be kidnappers had attempted to wrestle Noor into the backseat of a car, and her father was receiving death threats as a result of his work for the Associated Press.

While waiting for the SIV to be approved, Noor worked in London for a video production company. Noor and her family were able to come to the United States in August 2008. They were resettled in Atlanta, where Noor landed a job at CNN. She also has worked as a video producer for Reason magazine. Noor is now Chief Operating Officer—COO—and second in command at No One Left Behind, which is “dedicated to ensuring that America keeps its promise to employees in Iraq and Afghanistan through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs,”—the very same program that allowed Noor and her family to come to the United States. “No One Left Behind was started in 2014 by an Afghan SIV recipient, a person who’s just like my dad. So, this is full circle for me,” says Noor.

The U.S.’s hasty and disorganized retreat from Afghanistan left behind thousands of interpreters who had worked for the United States. “Every day that they are not able to get to America is an additional day that the Taliban has to hunt them down,” a No One Left Behind spokesman once told the L.A. Times.  Part of the process for a Special Immigrant Visa is an extensive interview at a U.S. embassy, which can’t be conducted in Afghanistan. No One Left Behind helps applicants make their way to Pakistan, where there is an embassy. Meanwhile, many former U.S. interpreters left behind in Afghanistan are in hiding. 

“These are people who signed the contract, and in the contract, the U.S. pledges that if you work with us under these circumstances, then you come to the U.S.,” Noor explains. “And right now, there are 152,000 applicants that we left behind in Afghanistan, who are eligible and whom the State Department is still interviewing. So, there are some requirements for coming to the U.S., one of which is a physical application or physical interview that is done at a U.S. embassy. Now, we shut the embassy down in Afghanistan. They can’t do it in Afghanistan. They have to do it in Pakistan.

“We help large numbers get to Pakistan and even provide many with housing throughout the interview process,” she continues. “We assist in housing and groceries and help them renew Pakistani visas because they need visas to be in Pakistan.” No One Left Behind continues to support them when they come to the United States—but with an emphasis on gaining independence rather than receiving aid. “We are mostly interested in upward mobility, so we have a car loan program, and we work with LinkedIn, for example, to get them LinkedIn premiums to open them up for LinkedIn recruiters, LinkedIn courses, and so on.”

The car loan program has been so successful that Noor sees it as a possible model for other communities. “How can we fundraise on this low default rate, and can we apply for loans from banks so we can expand the program rapidly? Could this work for juveniles getting out of jail? We’re trying to become loan servicers for other places so we can find, somehow, a sustained stream of revenue to help more SIVs without relying constantly on fundraising, because people don’t resonate with Afghanistan as much as they used to.” No One Left Behind brought nearly 2,500 eligible Afghans to the U.S. last year.

No One Left Behind continues to support former Afghan interpreters when they come to the United States—but with an emphasis on gaining independence rather than receiving aid.

The nonprofit urges the State Department to expand the SIV program. “We have interpreters who work for us in Syria who get shot, people who help us in Yemen with the Houthis who get shot. So, we have an advocacy effort that’s called the Global SIV program, which urges the U.S. government to grant interpreters who work there a pathway to come to the U.S. The Iraqi program has been on hold since 2014, and you see how Iraq is going right now. If Iraq falls, many Iraqis are going to be in danger for having worked with the U.S. America made a promise, and America keeps its promises, and I think that’s where the name No One Left Behind comes from. And if you see our logo, it’s a U.S. veteran and his interpreter, who are our two founders, and a visa stamp.”

Noor was born in Iraq in 1988, nearly ten years after Saddam Hussein became President of Iraq in 1979. In 1990, The UN placed an embargo on Iraq, after Saddam invaded Kuwait. “My parents grew up in an Iraq that was open to the world,” she explains. “By the time I was three or four, Iraq had turned into a repressive society. Everything was controlled by a socialist party. Iraq turned into more of a surveillance state, not in a technological sense, but there were plenty of Ba’ath Party officials around who kept an eye on any attempt at resistance. I was born in the south of Iraq, which was historically opposed to Saddam. So, the South experienced a lot of uprisings and there were arrests. There were mass graves because of these uprisings. I grew up in a place where my parents were unsettled by everything around them, where they were also worried about saying anything that might get them in trouble.

“We existed in this weird state where I would go to school and learn about the great achievements of Saddam, and it was essentially the way North Korean leaders are portrayed. As children, we had to call Saddam Dad in school. I remember my real dad being sarcastic about my calling Saddam dad. I used to think my dad was jealous of Saddam. It was confusing. There was talk we heard from relatives, but we were not part of those conversations and also we were questioned at school. What do your parents say about the regime? What do they say about Saddam? Do they support him? Families would disappear. I had kids in my class who I went to school with and who would disappear from classes and their homes would get bulldozered. I remember asking my mom like, what happened to them, and her answer was, ‘What are you talking about?’ Those people didn’t exist essentially.”

Noor’s father was a mechanical engineer who worked on merchant oil ships. Her mother was a stay-at-home mother. The oil embargo hit the region and the family hard. “Our economy crashed and with no oil ships to work on, my father picked up random jobs. Fast forward to the war, and my dad stumbled onto a U.S. government-owned broadcast channel (which made him eligible for an SIV).” Alhurra broadcast material caused Noor’s father to receive death threats and increased danger for the entire family. This was the reason for Noor’s surprise, one-day journey to Jordan. She has not been back to Iraq.

Because the family had not established residency in Jordan, Noor briefly went to school in Syria. The AP, where her father worked, helped the family with housing and other expenses. The AP also helped document Noor’s father’s eligibility for an SIV.  After being resettled in Atlanta, Noor worked at CNN as an evening monitor. “I just monitored news all night for breaking news,” she recalls. She didn’t have a car so she had to walk several miles to the bus that took her to the metro to downtown Atlanta. When she heard from a friend that there were jobs in Washington, D.C., she decided to give it a try. She was hired by the Defense Language Institute, which provides instruction for military linguists, and which relocated Noor to its Monterey, California headquarters.

“I was an assistant professor at the Defense Language Institute, which is a DOD Army unit,” Noor says. “I worked on teaching Iraqi dialects to multiple branches of the military.” She created curricula and videos. She loved teaching but hated the bureaucracy. “And at the time I started doing CrossFit. I had started doing CrossFit in D.C., but I knew that CrossFit, which started in Monterey, was working on translating programs into other languages. They needed someone who knew Arabic and had an Arabic and video production background, so I was literally their unicorn an hour and a half away. So, I applied for the job, I got into CrossFit, and that is where I started to become a free market, free speech absolutist.”

“So, I applied for the job, I got into CrossFit and that is where I started to become a free market, free speech absolutist.”

The charismatic and controversial founder of CrossFit was a libertarian who left the company over controversy surrounding his offensive remarks and behavior, but the company was imbued with an intellectual libertarianism that Noor began to evaluate. She studied publications from the Cato Institute and Reason Foundation. There were also practical applications of libertarian ideas. “We put on multiple scientific conferences on the impact of cronyism,” she says. “In 2005, D.C. passed the first occupational licensure requirements for fitness trainers, and that was going to kill businesses for 20 CrossFit affiliates, which was not the issue. We had 15,000 CrossFit affiliates, and our concern was that this was the first time that occupational licensure was passed on fitness trainers, and we saw what it did to the beauty industry. It was simply unfair. You shouldn’t have to risk going to jail if you braid hair without a license. So, a team of us moved to D.C. and fought this bill because we were worried that it would be adopted across multiple states.” 

The Wall Street Journal wrote of the endeavor: “Fitness trainers in the nation’s capital city look set to pull off a feat,” the Journal reported in 2015, “that has eluded the White House and a number of libertarian groups: stopping the spread of occupational licenses.” The bill was defeated. Greene is now a D.C. resident.   

Being in Washington gave Noor a chance to dip into events at libertarian nonprofits such as Cato and Reason. Although she unabashedly says that CrossFit is the favorite entry on her resume, she was looking for a job that would let her combine her Iraqi background and video talent. She was hired as a video producer by Reason Magazine, where she turned out a series of polished videos. Among them are a video on a Green Beret who moved heaven and earth to get his interpreter out of Afghanistan, a moving profile of Enes Kantor Freedom, and another on Ukrainians arming themselves to fight for freedom. It was entitled “The Right to Bear Arms Is Still a Check on Tyranny.” 

“I am a proud owner of a gun in D.C., which is very, very, very hard to do,” Noor says. “First of all, if the Constitution grants it for me, then I want to be able to own a gun. I believe in constitutional rights and I believe in people exercising their constitutional rights. I don’t believe the government knows better for you. The government’s idea is that if something is dangerous, you must let the government control it. That goes for guns, and it went for the pandemic.”

“When people go along on the little things the government asks, it leads to big things. I think it starts in the little things, like just put the mask on even though the science says it doesn’t work, why is it so hard? But you can end up with a place like Iraq, and you end up with a place like North Korea. It doesn’t start with big things.”

“The government’s idea is that if something is dangerous, you must let the government control it. That goes for guns, and it went for the pandemic.”

For now, Noor’s focus is on Afghanistan and the SIV program. She worries that Pakistan is dangerously close to Afghanistan and the process is too slow. No One Left Behind is hoping that centers in other countries, such as Germany, can be expanded. “The clock is ticking,” she says. “When the Taliban took over, they thought they were going to be recognized, or they thought they were going to get money, but that has changed. So, the Taliban has shifted from playing nice to stopping girls from going to school and there are more targeted killings. And as they tighten their grip on the country, eventually people in hiding will be found.”

Although a lot of Americans would like to forget the Afghanistan debacle, Noor Greene can’t. The journey that began one day in Iraq and took Noor Greene and her family to Jordan and then to America continues. The opportunities that have come to her as a result of coming to America are now a lifeline for U.S. associates stranded in Afghanistan. Her work reminds us all of America’s real promise for the

rest of the world, which is both to keep commitments made to those who work with us but also to recommit to our values of limited government and a truly free people.