Should Britain offer asylum to Afghan interpreters who served its forces?
Thread poster: Aisha Maniar

Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:34
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Nov 11, 2013

This is an article I have written about a potentially fatal threat faced by 1000s of interpreters in Afghanistan. It does not only affect those who worked for the British army/government, but I do not know enough to comment on other countries. This is just my view. Feel free to have your own.
http://onesmallwindow.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/should-britain-offer-asylum-to-afghan-interpreters-who-served-its-forces/
Aisha


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:34
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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Yes Nov 11, 2013

As a British citizen, I think it is an utter disgrace that we have not already done so.
But I think this thread will probably be shut down as being too political for ProZ.


 

Andrew Little  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:34
Member (2006)
Indonesian to English
+ ...
Are interpreters protected or not? Nov 11, 2013

Interpreters have an entitlement to protection - if someone doesn't like the message, it shouldn't be the interpreter that's in the line of fire. Obviously the profession is not accorded this level of due respect in all wilder places of the planet, but I think it's incumbent on the UK government to uphold the principle and set a proper example by affording the necessary protection to those Afghans and others who have put their lives on the line in service to Her Majesty's forces.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Yes, I think so Nov 11, 2013

Aisha Maniar wrote:
Should Britain offer asylum to Afghan interpreters who served its forces?


I did not read your entire blog post, and I can't comment on it here, but as to your question whether friendly interpreters in an occupation situation should be offered special privileges by the aggressor, I think the answer is "yes".

The reason is this: in an occupation setting, the interpreter is not neutral. Even if the interpreter works as ethically as possible, he will be experienced by the local population as being a partner of the aggressor. He always accompanies the aggressor when he comes to visit, and he is the one who delivers the messages from the aggressor, and even though he is a local person he does nothing to intercede on behalf of the local people but stands by idly (this is what it looks like from the point of view of the occupied people). So you can't expect the local people to regard the interpreter in the same neutral sort of way that they would have regarded him if it hadn't been for the occupation or the war. In the eyes of the locals, the interpreter does not serve both parties, but only the aggressor. The interpreter is not a messenger, but a collaborator. Therefore it is fair that he is offered asylum by the occupier when the occupier leaves the region.



[Edited at 2013-11-11 16:13 GMT]


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:34
German to English
Yes, and the US should do it too! Nov 11, 2013

The Soviets expatriated a number of their Afghan allies when they exited the country. There's no reason the US and Britain should act any less honorably. Many interpreters put their lives on the line when working in hostile areas, and all of them will be at risk once the occupation forces leave.

 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:34
German to English
+ ...
Yes! Nov 11, 2013

The US does have a special visa program for interpreters, but I believe there are only something like 50 spots per year and even those aren't being filled. Apparently there are problems with the program, and in addition it will being discontinued at the end of the year if Congress doesn't extend it. I know some members of the military are working to bring the interpreters they worked with here. They are in mortal danger if they stay in their countries.

By the way, those interested in this issue might want to check out the organization Red T:
http://red-t.org/

From their homepage:
"Red T is an initiative dedicated to the protection of translators and interpreters (T&Is) in conflict zones and other adversarial settings. Comprising a team of volunteers, Red T advocates worldwide on behalf of linguists at risk, raises awareness of their plight and promotes their safety."


 

Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:34
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for the feedback Nov 12, 2013

I have tried to look at the issue comprehensively, and I understand the US situation to be pretty much as Daina describes. Thank you, Daina, for the link to Red T; it's a really interesting website/organisation. As it says "From conflict zone to courtroom, T&Is are confronted with varying degrees of distrust, discrimination, and threats." I do think there is a considerable amount of risk involved - at different levels - in our profession. Although other professionals are in exactly the same situation as the interpreters, I feel the poor response (or lack of) from a number of states also reflects the lack of importance attached to the work (translators and) interpreters do, in general.
Thanks again, Aisha


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:34
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
How can anyone justify putting friends in danger? Nov 12, 2013

As far as I'm concerned this goes without saying and the entire issue simply goes to the end of a very long list of reasons why I cannot whip up the slightest of patriotic sentiments.

 


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