I worked for an Operational Mentoring Liaison Team
(OMLT), which served as a liaison between coalition troops and battalions from the Afghan national army. The team organised training for Afghan troops and helped them out when they requested ground or air support. A big part of my job was to translate during meetings between French army officials and Afghan army officials or local elders. We worked in Kabul, but also in many different provinces, including Kandahar, Wardak, and Kapisa. In 2009, I was shot in the leg during a battle in Nijrab, but quickly recovered and returned to work.
When I first started working as an interpreter six years ago, there was still hope that the country would find peace. So I told everyone about my line of work. I was proud of it. Now, I regret telling people. Today, as a result of all the resentment that has built up as the situation in the country has gone downhill, former interpreters are hated by many. The OMLT’s mission ended in the fall of 2012, and since then, I have been out of work. All my friends who worked as interpreters are unemployed, too. Nobody will hire Afghans who worked with the coalition forces.
“All former interpreters are at risk for their lives, so I don’t understand why some got visas and others did not”
But worse than being unemployed is the fear I live in. I changed my phone number recently, but before that I got frequent calls from insurgents telling me they knew where I lived. Since I’m unemployed, I live with my family; I’m very afraid that if insurgents come after me, they could hurt my family, too. It wouldn’t be very hard for them to find me – everyone in my neighbourhood of Kabul knows I worked as an interpreter. On the street, people often call me a “spy”. I can’t even go to a local mosque because the imam there says “spies” aren’t allowed. I spend most of my time at home.
Kabul is my prison. I can’t leave the capital – not even to go to the suburbs – because it’s too dangerous; the insurgents would easily catch me. My friends from other provinces who worked as interpreters don’t go home to see their families anymore. They know they would be killed. (In December, an interpreter was attacked while home on leave
; two of his brothers were killed. In February, two more interpreters were gunned down
.) We’re not safe in Kabul, but we’re safer than anywhere else in the country, where insurgents carry on as they like.
A few of my interpreter friends were given visas to France; we talk on Skype and they tell me they are very happy there. They can finally breathe easy. I envy them. All former interpreters are at risk for their lives, so I don’t understand why some got visas and many others, like me, did not. When our employment was terminated, French army officials told us to head to Kabul and go to the French embassy with our passports so that we could get visas. The embassy staff took down our information, and told us they would call us. Some got the call; others waited and waited.
“If I don’t get a visa, I’m going to have to try to somehow leave this country on my own”
I finally received a letter last month saying I had not been selected for a visa. I went to the embassy to protest, along with friends who had also received this letter. The embassy staff told us the letter came from the French army, and that we would have to call a specific phone number to reach those in charge of this decision, but that phone is always off. We’ve tried going to a French army camp that’s nearby, but nobody there will talk to us.
I still hope to receive an explanation, at the very least to know if there is any logic as to why they gave visas to some of us and not others. [The French authorities have indicated that visas were given to applicants who faced immediate danger
.] But if I don’t get any answers within a few months, I’m going to have to try to somehow leave this country on my own.