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Off topic: Translators and Interpreters as Targets
Thread poster: Jean-Luc Dumont

Jean-Luc Dumont  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:34
English to French
+ ...
Mar 27, 2004

I think it is on topic but did not know where to post.

Two days ago I learned that a translator/interpreter was shot dead in Iraq beacause he was working for Time Magazine, i.e the USA, the West, etc. It was not the first time I heard or read that translators or interpreters were seen as "collaborators" in Iraq and therefore the targets of death threats or murderous acts.

Below is an interesting article on this situation :

Translators and interpreters are of course a precious ressource in such situations where communication with the local population is key.

In every war or conflict situations, they pay a dear price for exercising their skills whether they want it or not... In the Middle-Ages, the messengers/interpreters were often the first victims of "disagreeing" parties.

The position of translators and interpreters in Iraq may seem more "delicate" to some and "ambiguous" to others... In some cases, is it taking side or just trying to make a living and feed one's family ?

Not looking for controversy here, so please refrain from any "non diplomatic" comments. I just thought that it was very tragic for our dead colleagues of course and I feel for their families. I also understand how dangerous it is for all translators and interpreters in Iraq or Afghanistan and even Pakistan, now, but not just there sadly enough...


[Edited at 2004-03-27 19:51]

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Atenea Acevedo  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:34
English to Spanish
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Every death counts... Mar 27, 2004

I agree with you in mourning the death of any of our colleagues. Throughout history, all sides, have taken interpreters and translators as targets, and the same happens in Iraq these days, interpreters are being killed by both sides.

It is true that we all have to make a living and sometimes we're not in the position to actually choose who we work for, but I don't think it'd be far-fetched to say that we're all clear about certain fields/topics/people we'd refuse working for no matter how much money they paid. And I personally think this shouldn't be off-topic at all, because the bottom line is not politics, but ethics.


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Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:34
German to Italian
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Salman Rushdie Mar 27, 2004

When I started translating books about Islam in October 2001, I remembered that some years ago two people who had translated Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, as well as a publisher, were stabbed: the Italian translator and the Norwegian publisher survived, but the Japanese translator didn't. Even if we work at home, our job is not always as riskless as it seems.

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United States
Local time: 21:34
French to English
+ ...
relevant article Mar 27, 2004

It is sad that professionals can be persecuted for helping people to communicate.

One day they will need translators and interpreters to negotiate peace.

The ATA posted a somewhat relevant article on their website:

Thanks, Jean-Luc for that article - we need to stay informed.

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Nedzad Selmanovic
Local time: 05:34
English to Bosnian
+ ...
death is everywhere around us Mar 27, 2004

What to tell, crazy minds and bullets they shoot at us do not make difference. I faced death being interpreter in Bosnia, but there are other fellows who were not so lucky. Even today, when my full time translator/interpreter career with UN is over, I carry a burden of collaborator.
However, I wish you all good luck and take care my fellow interpreters/translators.

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