Afghanistan 'not safe' for interpreters

02/08/11

Royal Marines

Hundreds of Afghan interpreters are worried they'll be killed after British forces leave Afghanistan.

That's according to one local translator who worked closely with UK troops in Helmand Province from 2006 until recently.

Mohamad Fawad is 25 and was born and raised in the Afghan capital, Kabul, but has now moved to Britain because he fears for his safety.

Like many other interpreters who have helped UK soldiers in the war he's terrified he'll be killed by the Taliban or the Afghan government if he stays in Afghanistan.

But the Foreign Office has told Newsbeat that translators are free to choose whether to take the job or not.

"People who put their life on the line for the United Kingdom will not be abandoned," a statement said.

Interpreters in Afghanistan

    • There are more than 500 Afghan interpreters working alongside coalition forces in Afghanistan
    • On average they earn around £400 a month
    • That sum changes depending on the how dangerous an environment they work in

"Interpreters voluntarily apply for positions and go through a recruitment process, during which they are briefed beforehand of the requirements of their job including any risks involved.

"Interpreters are free to resign at any time and, whilst a few do decide to leave for a range of reasons, most choose to remain in employment."

Newsbeat caught up with the Afghan interpreter in London.

What kind of things did you see on the ground?

"I was an interpreter - just a basic one and I used to go on patrol with them [UK forces] everywhere.

"I've been all over. I've seen quite a lot of bad things but I've also seen good things like the changes the British forces brought to the Afghan people. It's amazing.

"The bad thing is about losing friends. In 2006, I lost for the first time a British soldier. He was killed. Also we lost some interpreters, really bad for us interpreters."

Is there a particular experience you would like to tell us about?

"Many times I have seen people get blown up on the front line. The worst one was a suicide attack when I was in Gereshk with the British unit.

"He did it in front of our convey. He smashed himself completely. Luckily everyone was OK but it was the worst suicide attack."

How scared are you of the Taliban?

"Interpreters who work for the British army are really scared. That's why some of us come to the UK.

"The intimidation you get is from three sides: from the local people because they don't like you working for the infidel.

"The Afghan government as well because some of the higher ranks see you with different eyes and think you're a spy if you work for coalition forces or Americans.

"And also the Taliban and the intimidation you get from them, if you go to work you get killed. When the troops leave Afghanistan, they will be in most danger."

How did you get to the UK?

"I came to do a culture brief for troops coming to Afghanistan and I told my boss, 'I'm not going back,' and then I claimed asylum in the UK.

"I can't see my family for five years but my family is in danger, especially when troops leave Afghanistan it will be more dangerous. I am really scared but I got to UK and now I feel really safe."

What do you think should be done to help the interpreters?

"Interpreters do everything the soldier does. They sometimes do fantastic job and even save them and risk their own life.

"My answer is they should be saved because their life is in danger and any British troops serve in Afghanistan come home and are saved.

"They should get extra security because Afghanistan is not safe for interpreters. Like they did for Iraqi interpreters because our government doesn't keep interpreters safe."