BAGHDAD, 29 August 2007 (IRIN) - Translators are being targeted by militants who accuse them of espionage and of working for the US military, says a local translation association.
“Hundreds of translators have been killed or injured in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 but their situation has worsened since January: Militants and insurgents have been distributing leaflets in Baghdad offering money to those providing information about translators,” said Moussa Fahid, a spokesperson for the recently formed Iraq Translators’ Association (ITA).
“Our association was formed after the increase in the number of translators in Iraq and the targeting of them,” he said. “Journalists and the US military assured translators they would get help to flee the country after their work but these assurances rarely came to anything.”
According to Fahid, at least 310 translators have been killed in Iraq since 2003 and hundreds of others have been injured during attacks on convoys or when their homes were attacked.
An example is 31-year-old Muhammad Ayad, a freelance translator who has been working for journalists in Baghdad. He had been promised help to flee Iraq but that help never materialised. After an attempt on his life by insurgents, he lost a leg and his job.
“I was attacked while leaving a hotel with an English journalist after an interview in the Green Zone. I was shot in the legs and one of them had to be amputated. After I recovered, the journalist said she couldn’t work with a disabled person as she needed someone who could help her with her stories. She didn’t offer to help me receive treatment abroad and never answered my phone again,” Ayad said.
Ayad’s case is not uncommon, according to Fahid. “Translators hope that after helping them they will be able to leave the country, but the truth is that those people need them here,” he said.
“There are a few cases of translators having been helped - mostly by the US-military - but they are less than 5 percent of those who live with such promises in Iraq,” Fahid said.
In some districts of Baghdad insurgents have distributed leaflets offering US$5,000 to anyone with information on translators working for foreign journalists or military forces.
“I was forced to flee my home with my family after a neighbour told me someone had sold information about me and that my home would be targeted,” Imad Mashadanny, 29, a translator in Baghdad, said. “That night I was told insurgents had forced their way into my home, searching for me, but thank God I was far away with my wife and children.”
“I asked for help from my manager in the foreign company I worked for but was told I had to look after myself,” Mashadanny added.
“To work as a translator in Iraq one must be prepared to be beheaded, shot dead or to leave the country at a moment’s notice. The profession is seen as sinful; no one is looking after translators,” Fahid said.