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Speaking Up for the Interpreters of Afghanistan

Posted: 13/02/2013 00:00

In Afghanistan, we rely upon friendly Afghan local civilians to help us do our work out there. When I was working out there, helping in the reconstruction work, it would have been impossible for me to engage, liaise and progress any of the projects there without the help of Afghan interpreters. I lived with these people, mostly from Kabul or off to the west of the country, for just over six months. I shared food with them, jokes with them, my life with them. In one fraught incident, I probably owe my physical well-being to one of them. They went pretty much everywhere with me, and without them I, and the other troops out in Helmand, would be just wasting their time.

And the British government is turning it's back on them. After the pull out of Iraq, the British gave - en masse - asylum to the interpreters that had helped us in that conflict, but the 'terps in Afghanistan are going to have to apply for the same asylum on a 'case-by-case' basis. The glorious British government says that the previous scheme was "was expensive, complex to administer and took little account of any individual need for protection".

Well I say shame.

Shame on you, British government. Shame on you.

Turn you back on these men who have risked their lives just as much as any squaddie from Leeds. They wear our uniform. They follow our rules and laws in theatre. The take the same risks as our troops. They are injured and die and risk injury and death in just the same way and a British soldier.

But once we are gone, they are going to be left to fend for themselves.

People like Kareen, Abuham, Abdul, Abdullah, Mohammed*. People I lived and worked with. They accepted our pay - like I did out there - and put their lives on the line - and not just for their own country but for US as well. To allow us out there to do our jobs. To do the job the government sent us to do.

Mohammed*, from Kabul, was shot through the arm whilst out on patrol. On the same patrol, in the same engagement, one of our own troops was killed. I bumped into Haroon whilst on my way home, outside the shop in Camp Bastion. He showed me his scar and told me he was soon to be heading back to the CP and would soon be back out on patrol. Yes, he was paid for what he did (and paid well too) but to be shot and nearly die through loss of blood, and yet still want to return to do his job shows more than just wanting to take the money - it showed that he had put his trust in us to make his country a better place, and wanted to help us to make it so.

And unlike me, when the British pull out and return home, they will return home to...

Well, what will they return to? A stable and safe country where the insurgents are defeated and where no-one will remember the 'sins' of the past? I don't think so. They will return to their homes where they will face fear, intimidation and the prospect of death for helping us to do our work.

That, is wrong. Plain and simple it is wrong. Particularly when the precedent has been set differently for other people. The 'terps of Iraq. The Gurkhas... remember them? Allowed to settle in the UK after serving with the British Army. How are the 'terps of Afghanistan any different? Why are they not to be treated the same?

I can't begin to understand the idea behind why the British have made this rule, and it makes it harder to understand when other NATO governments are doing just the opposite and are looking after their 'terps.

It hurts me, and makes me ashamed that the government, once again, hasn't the integrity to stand up for, and help people who have risked their all for us.

Mr Cameron, give ALL the 'terps who have lived, worked and put their life on the line for us, the right to come and live in safety in this country.

*Of course to protect the 'terps who are still working out there, the names listed above have been changed.

 

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