A petition calling for the UN to protect translators and interpreters worldwide
Thread poster: Caryl Swift

Caryl Swift  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:11
Polish to English
+ ...
Oct 20, 2015

The petition, posted on change.org, reads:


The world cannot function without translators and interpreters: We help the public stay informed by interpreting for journalists; we keep everyone safe by translating terrorism chatter pulled from the airwaves; we assist with delivering humanitarian aid to those in need; we act as language bridges for armed forces; we ensure due process and justice in courts and tribunals; we facilitate truth and reconciliation proceedings; we keep peace negotiations going in various international forums. And we transcend conflict by translating culture to reach people everywhere.

But we are at risk. Linguists working for the military are kidnapped, tortured and beheaded as traitors; prison camp translators are prosecuted as spies; court interpreters receive death threats; fixers are persecuted for doing their job; and literary translators are incarcerated for content. The simple practice of our profession makes thousands of us vulnerable to loss of life, limb and liberty.

Currently, translators and interpreters are not specifically protected by international legislation. As a professional category, we fall through the cracks in the Geneva Conventions and, unlike journalists, we are not covered by a resolution. This must change. A UN Resolution would be a first step toward ensuring our protection under international law, and it would mandate member states to prosecute crimes perpetrated against us.

Please sign this petition and let the UN know that the time to protect translators and interpreters is now!"

Here's the link:


[To the site staff: I wasn't sure where I should post this. If this isn't the best place, please could you move it? Many thanks!]


Caryl Swift  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:11
Polish to English
+ ...
Now posted on another forum thread, as well Oct 21, 2015

The same petition's now been posted on another forum thread:



Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:11
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Why UN protected status matters Oct 21, 2015

A good month ago, we were privileged to have Maya Hess (founder of Red T) and Linda Fitchett (ex-president of AIIC) as closing keynote speakers at IAPTI's Bordeaux conference. In their presentation full of relevant details, they mentioned that conflict-zone interpreters in Iraq were 10 times more likely to be killed than troop members. Just stop for a moment and let that sink in.

Their lives are at serious risk both during and after their missions. While many of them were promised protection and visa to resettle, the promises are very often not kept, as powerfully exposed in John Oliver's Last Week Tonight.

A UN protected status could make an enormous difference for them. Consider this: at the end of August, two journalists and their translator were arrested in Turkey. Journalists have a UN protected status, translators and interpreters do not. The two British VICE News journalists arrested on terrorism charges were released a couple of days later, but their local translator remained in custody. See http://time.com/4022623/turkey-vice-journalists-released/

The issue of protection for conflict-zone translators and interpreters is one of the very few translation-related issues that is regularly covered by major media outlets. As the resolution adopted by the 2014 FIT congress eloquently put it,

With their dangerous, yet important jobs they guarantee at least a minimum of communication between the otherwise “speechless” parties in the conflict. As linguists committed to impartiality, they build bridges that overcome language and cultural barriers and thus help resolve situations where otherwise only weapons would speak.

A UN-protected status could save many lives: those of the conflict-zone translators and interpreters themselves, and those who suffer because of the lack of proper communication. And it would also be beneficial for our profession in general. As a highly respected colleague, Dan Newland wrote:

I am signing this petition because it is high time translators and interpreters were given the professional respect they deserve. Governments, businesses and armed forces the world over are using T&I professionals and their work as expendable commodities. Furthermore, the fact that the very nature of these professionals' work involves a high degree of anonimity tends to lead others to treat them as spies and informants and to identify them personally with the contents and issues that they translate, which is far less just than holding defense attorneys accountable for the crimes of their defendants.

Please read more about the joint actions of the six signatory associations, Red T, AIIC, FIT, IAPTI, CLI and WASLI – in particular the Open Letters written to heads of states to respect their engagements and facilitate the asylum-seeking procedures for conflict-zone translators and interpreters.

Our vision is a world in which translators and interpreters can work free from fear of persecution, prosecution, imprisonment, abduction, torture and assassination.

Our mission is to protect translators and interpreters in high-risk settings.

Red T takes that vision and mission very seriously, and Maya has done a marvelous job in forging powerful alliances and raising public awareness around these issues. The UN protected status is a major step towards this goal. To achieve it, we need your help.


[Edited at 2015-10-21 13:30 GMT]


Maria Kopnitsky  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2011)
Bengali to Chamorro
+ ...
Link to interview with Maya Hess, CEO of Red T, about this petition Dec 15, 2015

Hello all,

I came across the petition mentioned here after reading this thread (thanks for sharing, Caryl!), and contacted Maya Hess - CEO and founder of Red T - for more information about the project. My interview with Maya can be found in the site's official blog, in case any of you were interested in learning more about this initiative and what can be done to help: http://prozcomblog.com/2015/12/15/advocating-for-translators-and-interpreters-worldwide-an-interview-with-maya-hess-of-red-t/

Best regards,



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A petition calling for the UN to protect translators and interpreters worldwide

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