DOT sample driver’s license.

Afghan refugees in western Iowa can now take the state driver’s license exam in their own languages, as driving courses are now available in Pashto and Dari for Iowa’s latest arrivals.

Ahmedullah Kohbandi passed his written exam last week and, speaking through a translator, says he’s excited to drive to places other than work or home, once he passes the road test.  Kohbandi says, “If I want to go visit my relatives and go to park with friends or buying groceries, going to the grocery shop, so yeah, of course, I’ll need car for that.”

Refugee organizations are collaborating with the Iowa Department of Transportation to ensure the tests are available in Afghan languages. The DOT currently offers the test in 21 languages, but not in Pashto or Dari. That’s why Lutheran Services of Iowa in Sioux City is offering twice monthly opportunities for the test to be translated and read aloud.

LSI refugee coordinator Katie Hagen says it’s a means of empowering the Afghans to get to know their community. “This allows them not only to go to the grocery store or get to work but it also allows them socialization,” Hagen says. “So now they can not only socialize with the guys that are living around their area, but all over town.”

Hagen says it’s especially important given western Iowa’s lack of a robust public transit system. She says many of the recent arrivals have driven before and just need to overcome the test’s language barrier to get back on the road.

(By Kendall Crawford, Iowa Public Radio)