Translators/Interpreters contracted to work in conflict zones are often non-professional linguists yet play a key role in communications. Operating in high-risk environments, they are extremely vulnerable and require special protection.
In the wake of the attempted coup d’état in Turkey in July 2016, many international voices have expressed concern about the ensuing repression against government opponents and intellectuals. Now our international coalition of linguists appeals for the release of prominent translator, philologist, writer and defender of freedom of expression Necmiye Alpay, imprisoned in August. Her voice should not be silenced.
Facing death at home, despairing over the delay and difficulties of obtaining visas from the countries which employed them, more and more translator/interpreters who helped allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are joining the flow of refugees into Europe. The international coalition of linguists appeals to Canada not to limit help to individual, publicised cases but to implement a policy to expedite visas to all the interpreters it left behind.
Once again, the lives of interpreters are imperiled. Governments make promises which they don’t fulfill. In this case, a simple gesture towards a very few could make a great difference. The international coalition writes another letter.
The latest Open Letter goes to H.E. The President of Turkey, calling for the release of jailed interpreter Mohammed Ismael Rasool. The coalition of international translator/interpreter organisations is growing – now joined by WASLI. We speak on behalf of over one hundred thousand linguists throughout the world.
Following a speech by the Papal Nuncio in the UN exhorting member states to ensure improved protection for journalists in conflict situations, AIIC and partner organisations write an Open Letter to Pope Francis asking for his support for translators and interpreters at risk. This time the signatories are joined by Critical Link International, a non-profit organisation committed to the advancement of community interpreting in the social, legal & healthcare sectors.
Local interpreters are left behind as ISAF Forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs says no decisions have been taken regarding the safety of those who worked for their troops. AIIC, Red T,FIT and IAPTI write to the President on their behalf.
The Spanish newspaper El Mundo revealed that Afghan interpreters had been left at Kabul airport as Spanish troops withdrew from the country. A worldwide petition was launched to help them but no results have been seen so far. Our 'Open Letter' campaign has therefore gone into action again to urge the Spanish government to act.
With the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan, the government allowed a small number of Afghan interpreters and their families to enter France, but many were left behind and no plans were made to consider further visa applications. This letter to the French President urges France to re-open its doors to those linguists requesting shelter as the security situation deteriorates.
As troop withdrawals continue, the German government, like many others, has been slow to process visa requests by targeted Afghan interpreters who helped their armed forces. The German parliament recently rejected a motion to protect all Afghan nationals who worked for the German army by enabling their resettlement in Germany. The four signatory organisations, together with the Germany's Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ) , send an open letter to Chancellor Merkel, urging her to save the lives of our linguist colleagues, the most vulnerable at the moment in Afghanistan.
As the targeted killings by the Taliban increase, branded as traitors the interpreters left behind by British troops fear for their lives. The British government recently revealed details of a severely flawed plan to help only some of them. AIIC, FIT, IAPTI, and Red T write an open letter to David Cameron, echoing David Davis' call to give them all a safe haven in the UK.
Following letters to the US administration and the Swedish government, this joint letter to the Danish Prime Minister produced an immediate effect. Hardly had the letter been published than the Danish government announced a change in its policy towards Afghan interpreters who had helped their troops, opening a door to their applications for visas. We are extremely pleased that the joint pressure from AIIC, FIT, IAPTI and RED T, written at a decisive time for the debate in Denmark, seems to have been the trigger for the government's change of heart.
Afghan interpreters who helped Swedish forces in Afghanistan have so far been unable to claim asylum in Sweden although fearing for their lives as troops pull out. As the Swedish parliament opens its session and debates the question of whether and how to assist them, AIIC, FIT, IAPTI and RedT publish another open letter, this time addressed to the Swedish Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers urging them to take action.
The second Languages at War workshop met at the Imperial War Museum, London, under the title 'Meeting the “other” in war'. Combat narrative and the language of historians, language as part of the political economy of war, language teaching for war scenarios, interrogation and the “unsayable” things of war were all on the agenda.
Interpreters in conflict zones received the support of forty members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in a Declaration signed on 29 April 2010 in Strasbourg. The signatories are from all the political groups; the Declaration may be signed by other members between now and the next session in June.
A recent panel discussion in Rome drew attention to the plight of interpreters in conflict areas and called for fairer treatment by employers, often governments and their armed forces. Promotion of codes of practice and opportunities for training were cited as urgent needs, as was special status to safeguard physical integrity.
I've never been through psychoanalysis and after recently attending a workshop in the interests of our new project on interpreters in conflict areas, I'm not sure I ever want to. All day I felt like a laboratory mouse.
Most members stayed until the last day of the AIIC Assembly, a Sunday morning at that, in order to participate in the panel discussion and open debate on interpreters in conflict areas. The response was enthusiastic and the ensuing exchange of views a harbinger of new directions.
Wiederholt wurde in unserem Verband die Frage laut, ob wir nicht unseren Beruf und seine - und damit auch unsere - Stellung in der Welt neu überdenken müssen. Diese Frage rückhaltlos zu bejahen erscheint mir besonders zwingend, wenn Berufsanfänger oder Berufsfremde uns mit besorgtem Interesse auf die Verantwortung ansprechen, die unsere Tätigkeit mit sich bringt, und auf die damit unter Umständen einhergehenden moralischen Konflikte. Meist geht es dabei um Zweifel im Blick darauf, wie man vulgären Sprachgebrauch übertragen soll oder wieviel Freiheit man sich nehmen kann, um eine unglücklich gewählte Formulierung durch eine geschicktere, vielleicht auch politisch korrektere zu ersetzen - immer in Erfüllung unserer Rolle als Vermittler oder gar Überbringer von Friedensbotschaften, mit der wir uns gern schmücken.