Iraqi Interpreters Allowed to Wear Masks

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Iraqi Interpreters Allowed to Wear Masks

The U.S. Pentagon has granted battalion commanders the discretion to ignore an earlier ban on the wearing of masks by Iraqi interpreters. Withdrawal of the ban has been seen as essential to protecting interpreters from reprisals. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) agrees with soldiers and interpreters that restrictions preventing interpreters from shielding their identities put them at risk. Several interpreters and American soldiers stationed in Baghdad say they are not aware that battalion commanders can disregard the mask ban for "high-risk" missions. Kirk Johnson, the Director of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, says interpreters are not protected by the new policy. He argues that "…every mission is high risk. I don't comprehend how people who are not on the front lines are pushing a policy that doesn't seem to resonate with anyone who is indeed on the front lines." Currently, only the Baghdad command forces interpreters to work without masks; the other three field commands in Iraq permit masks when interpreters are working in areas where they fear recognition. U.S. soldiers and interpreters note that in some districts of Baghdad, the Iraqi army and National Police officials routinely disguise themselves when engaged in joint missions with Americans. Interpreters say the prohibition on masks has spurred many to apply for the Special Immigrant Visa program created by the U.S. government last year to help interpreters working with the American military become permanent U.S. residents.

From "Iraqi Interpreters May Wear Masks"
Washington Post (DC) (02/13/09) P. A12; Londono, Ernesto; Mizher, Qais

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - February 2009


 

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