Iraqi translators working with US military fear reprisal from Iran-backed militias

Iraqi translators working with US military fear reprisal from Iran-backed militias
There are serious concerns among translators who worked with US coalition forces in Iraq over their personal information being made available to Iran-backed militias.
3 min read
13 November, 2020
US soldiers are slowly withdrawing from Iraq [Getty]
Iraqi translators who have worked with US military stationed in Iraq are concerned that their personal information has been given to Iran-backed militias, despite statements to the contrary from the US.

The names, addresses and the car licence plates of hundreds of translators– all identifying personal details - have reportedly been provided to Iraqi security forces.

The US military provides the personal information of translators to the Iraqi security forces in order for them to get permission to move around Iraq.

But because Iran-backed militias "have so permeated parts of Iraq's security apparatus" that information has now become accessible to such groups, The Washington Post reported.

"It's not a surprise that militias have these documents," said an official in Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's office.

"They believe it's going to be a long battle, so they will gather as much leverage over US interests as possible."

The publication spoke to seven translators who have worked with the US military, on the condition of anonymity. Two of them said they witnessed militiamen stationed near an Iraqi military checkpoint carrying a list containing personal details that had been acquired from a military coordination centre run by Iraqi security forces.

"When we realised where the information had come from, we were shocked. The list contains everything. Phone numbers, ID numbers, even our real names," said one translator from Baghdad.

"It'd be an easy mission to hunt us down," the translator said. "They have all the information now. What if this list now goes online?"

The US military has said it does not share personal information about its Iraqi translators, however, documents reviewed by The Post show that information has been provided by the US-led coalition to Iraqi security forces, including at three military camps in Baghdad.

The translators have been employed by Valiant Integrated Services, a Virginia-based contractor, and following the US's slow withdrawal from Iraq, many translators have lost their jobs.

The safety of former translators is an ongoing concern.

In February of this year, the US agreed to accelerate cases of hundreds of refugees including former interpreters for the US military whose asylum petitions were halted since President Donald Trump's travel ban was announced in 2017.

Read more: The Iraq Report: Sectarian killings revive fears of strife under an 'unsustainable' system

The concession was announced in a settlement filed in a Seattle federal court on Monday. The lawsuit involved over 300 refugees, who once close to getting the green light to enter the US in 2017, had their applications suspended after the White House rolled out a ban on immigrants from countries deemed security risks, many of which are Muslim-majority.

Some of the refugees affected by the lawsuit's outcome are close relatives of asylum seekers who are already in the US, according to the AP.

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