We still can’t turn them away

You may have heard something about this campaign regarding Iraqis who have worked with the British army.

Iraqis who work with the armed forces have been targeted by death squads. Many have been murdered and others have gone into hiding.

Read this chilling account of what happened to Mayada Salihi, a translator for coalition forces.

A month after the fall of Baghdad May was volunteering, working as a translator for a succession of US and Iraqi forces…too many it seems. Living in Baghdad she got one warning note, ignored it, and was gunned down and left for dead by masked men in the alley beside her house just two days later. That was in the Spring of 2004. But May would not die.

Whisked to a hospital where her identity as an American translator was revealed, she was declared dead back in her neighborhood for the safety of her family, while in reality she went into hiding. Ultimately she recovered in Jordan, but the recovery took months. She could have stayed in Jordan, but in the end, she found that her heart would not let her. The two nations she loved most were now fused in a death-love struggle, she could not leave them alone. Besides, working for us paid better than just about anything else a divorced woman could legally do in Baghdad, and that allowed her to support “H” (her son), “M” (her daughter) and her mother. So she came back.

Living now in another neighborhood, May thought she was safe. But as any New Yorker will tell you, even seven million people can make for a small town in some ways. By late summer they had found her again. A note at her home, I have a copy of it which she gave me, told her to stop working with the Americans or she would be killed. But May would not, and I now think perhaps could not, stop. A few nights later she slipped her mother and kids into the Green Zone, buying off another family who had themselves received an eviction notice from the Iraqi government.

While driving through the city to see her kids, May was intercepted and kidnapped by Ansar Al Sunna. Their standard tools are the AK-47, rape, and the power drill (with which they torture their captives, drilling holes through body parts until finishing them off with a drill-bit to the head). The day before the e-mail, the police found the husk of my friend’s body in downtown Baghdad. Ansar Al Sunna had taken full credit.

People like Mayada Salihi are risking their lives to build a better future for their country.

They are working with UK forces and the least this government can do is offer them asylum in Britain.

This campaign has been going on since the summer and has involved people from all over the political spectrum. Lobbying MPs has resulted in a mean-spirited and half-arsed change of policy from the government. They will now offer exceptional leave or resettlement packages to Iraqis who have worked with coalition forces for over twelve months.

As Dan Hardie says, this is effectively playing a numbers game with people’s lives.

It is important to write to your MP to press for the government to fulfill its moral duty to its Iraqi employees.

Dan, the man behind the campaign, gives a list of talking points here.

On October 9th David Miliband announced that the British Government would assist former employees in Iraq, so long as they had worked for it after 1st January 2005 and for 12 months or more. That abandons several hundred Iraqis who have been targeted for murder because they worked for the British before that date- and in 2004 fighting between the Mahdi Army and the British was at its peak- or because they worked for less than that period, often leaving their jobs at the end of a British battalion’s six-month tour. The British Government must help Iraqi employees on the basis of the risk they face, not according to an arbitrary time stipulation. This only affects a few hundred Iraqis, whom we are well able to shelter, and for whom we have a direct moral responsibility.

Even those Iraqi employees who qualify for assistance are not being properly assisted. Iraqis in Basra are not able to apply via the British Army in Basra Interational Airbase, since it is ringed with militia checkpoints. Iraqi ex-employees in Damascus are being screened by Syrian policemen guarding the British Embassy and delayed by lengthy bureaucratic procedures when they apply for asylum, although many of them are illegally overstaying their Syrian visas and face deportation back to Iraq.  

A blogger called Dan Hardie is directly in touch with a number of Iraqi employees via email and phone. He is willing to brief MPs- as concisely as possible- either over the phone or via email. He can be reached at danhardie.blog@gmail.com.

You’ve heard this before, but it’s now more important than ever. The last lot of letters and emails got the Government to announce a change in policy: an inadequate change, badly implemented. The next lot of letters and emails will force the Government to announce another change in policy, one that will be properly implemented and will not be based on leaving people to die.

Your MP’s address is The House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA. His or her email address is probably SURNAMEINITIAL@parliament.uk (eg BROWNG@parliament.uk ).

Please use the talking points above to send an email and a print letter to your MP, and chase them for an answer. And be courteous: an insulted MP will not raise this matter with Ministers, and that will lead to more avoidable deaths.

Via Rachel North.

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2 Responses to “We still can’t turn them away”

  1. danhardie Says:

    Cheers, Max- that’s brilliant. Drop me an email at danhardie.projects@gmail.com if you want, and I’ll keep you updated on further developments- it’d be great if you did.

  2. Iraqi employees: fine words, shabby deeds « Max Dunbar Says:

    […] employees: fine words, shabby deeds The following is another update from Dan on the campaign to grant asylum to Iraqi employees working for the British […]

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