US-friendly Iraqis in visa limbo

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US-friendly Iraqis in visa limbo

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The American troops who have left Iraq leave behind a sense of betrayal among Iraqis who worked with them. Many interpreters feel branded by a collaborator image, in a society that has grown increasingly wary of fraternising with foreigners.

Euronews spoke with several former translators in Baghdad. Archad spent seven years alongside the US forces, working his way up to a respectable salary of 1,450 dollars per month. Now he feels abandoned.

“I’m scared,” he said. “I risked my life working with the Americans. I’m waiting for a response now to my application to emigrate to the US — I haven’t heard anything. We’re on file here as collaborators. I’m in a critical situation, and so is my family.”

Archad was referring to his request to the US State Department for a Special Immigrant Visa which would allow people like him to enter the United States. Critics say the slow pace of processing is hard to justify.

In 2003, anti-American Iraqis said anyone cooperating with the enemy was a traitor and an outlaw, and must face Islamic justice. A religious warning was issued. Euronews spoke to a member of a hardline group who considers the order is still fully valid today.

Shaikh Osama Tamini, with the Assadr party, said: “It is forbidden to collaborate with invaders and occupiers of Iraq. The ban remains in force.”

This absolute disapproval is widespread; there is little ‘benefit of the doubt’ given to someone who worked with foreign forces, over whether they harmed their own society or may have acted constructively. Some people harbour very personal frustrations.

One woman said: “The interpreters are dishonest. More than one who I asked to translate my insults to the Americans did not do it.”

Some of these communicators will have worked selectively, for whatever reason, serving the Multi-National Force.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, some advocates estimate, more than 20,000 people filled interpreter roles.