Iraq's Unmasked Interpreters Fear for Their Lives

New US rule makes it easier for insurgents to target translators
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2008 11:45 AM CST
The US military recently changed its policy of allowing interpreters in Iraq to wear masks. Insurgent groups target the translators, many of whom now fear for their lives.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A change in US military policy in Iraq has endangered some of its more useful local allies: Iraqi interpreters. Since September, translators have no longer been allowed to wear masks while on the job, something they say is necessary to protect their identities from extremists who target them as traitors, the Washington Post reports.

"Professional units don’t conceal their identity by wearing masks," said a military spokesman, who suggested that interpreters worried about their safety “seek alternative employment.” About 300 Iraqi translators have been killed since 2003, and those working now often keep their jobs secret from friends and neighbors, for fear of execution. Still, most are proud of their peace-promoting work.