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Iraqi interpreters face death threats from Iranian-backed militias

Pro-Iranian militia forces with Iranian advisors during Hawija offensive in 2017. (Dlshad Anwar/VOA released)

Eight Iraqi interpreters who worked with British forces fighting Daesh have said they fear for their lives after receiving threats from Iranian-backed militias.

Seven of the interpreters have gone into hiding as they believe their identities have been exposed to anti-coalition groups targeting bases used by US and UK troops, The Times reported.

The interpreters stopped translating for British forces at the Camp Taji military base in March 2020 after troops who were training Iraqi forces began to leave the country.

Two interpreters told the British newspaper that their full names, identification numbers and vehicle registrations were handed over to Iraqi Security Forces and the information was handed over to checkpoints in Baghdad. This meant that the data ended up being accessed by Iranian-backed militias.

Militia groups responsible for attacking bases where coalition troops were stationed targeted one of the interpreters and posted bullets through his door. They had told Iraqis working with coalition forces to work with them instead.

The interpreters have moved, except for one who could not afford to do so. Some have left their families amid concerns that they would be found and killed.

The UK’s Ministry of Defense said it was investigating the allegations. It is understood that the British military believes there were no data breaches and that standard security was followed.

Another interpreter said that Iranian-backed militias increased their targeting of coalition bases after the death of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

He said that tougher security requirements after the attacks meant that interpreters had to supply their full documentation, including vehicle details, to the coalition.

“They told us they would not pass this information to the Iraqi government, but it was then circulated for all the checkpoints throughout Baghdad. Many of these checkpoints are joint with the Popular Mobilization Forces — the legal name of these militias, of which many of them have loyalty to Iran,” he told The Times.

He is appealing to Britain to give him and his family sanctuary. “We are not a huge number, there are only eight of us with our families.”

The Ministry of Defense said: “While we do not employ interpreters in Iraq directly, we take any breach of personal security extremely seriously. We hold our contractors to the highest standards and are investigating.”


(c) 2021 the Arab News

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