A few weeks ago, we started following Linda Wesson of Clovis, CA on Twitter. Her tweets all centered around one thing: the difficulties of Iraqi interpreters. We are always interested in anything related to interpreters, and we requested more information from Linda. After doing some research, we feel that there are many layers to this that we haven't fully understood yet, but Linda has started a petition to get protection for Iraqi interpreters who are receiving death threats for their role in the conflict. The Americans have largely left, but their interpreters are in a very vulnerable position. At this point, we are still mulling over this issue, but wanted to share the details with our colleagues around the world.
We had been taught that war-time interpreters, who risk their lives to do their jobs, wear masks to keep their identities a secret and to protect their lives after the conflict is over. Apparently, this wasn't done in Iraq. We'd love to learn more about why that happened, but have not been able to find more information. Allegedly, the US had promised visas (so-called "Special Immigrant Visas") to Iraqi interpreters (and other contractors) who are experiencing ongoing serious threat because of their collaboration with the American government. The reality now is that interpreters have to wait for years to get their visas processed while their lives are in danger. There are many things wrong with this equation, but this is a very complex issue, and clearly, we don't know enough. Many people risk their lives in war zones, and we presume these brave interpreters did so voluntarily, and if they were promised immigrant visas, then the US should certainly follow through on that promise. It appears that the process is taking much longer than expected, which is really turning into a life/death issue for many interpreters. Linda has started a petition that you may sign here if you are so inclined. Linda has no connection to the world of T&I -- she is just passionate about this particular issue and is working very hard to spread the word. Have a look at her blog here.
The Los Angeles Times has published an article about the struggles Iraqi interpreters face. You can read it here. In addition, Human Rights First wrote about this last year.
So you think you had a tough day interpreting in court or at a challenging conference? Take it with a grain of salt: at least you are not receiving death threats.
We'd love to hear your thoughts, dear colleagues!