Archive for June, 2011

Iraqi Translator with US Troops

Iraqi Translator with US Troops



New Yorker magazine staff writer George Packer’s feelings about the way the U.S. government has treated the Iraqis who worked for it in post-Saddam Iraq are summed up in the one-word title of his play: Betrayed.

“Iraqis risked their lives going to work every day,” Packer said by cell phone while walking from the subway to his home in New York. “We could not have done a day’s work without them as interpreters and drivers and contractors. And yet their lives didn’t seem to matter beyond the services they provided.”

Betrayed will be performed at Stanford on Friday, May 20.

Packer reached his conclusion after interviewing three-dozen Iraqi translators during a 2007 reporting trip that took him to Sweden, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Many former translators had fled the country in fear for their lives, only to spend years as refugees in bureaucratic limbo, waiting for the U.S. visas they’d been promised in return for their services. Those still in Iraq were left to defend themselves and their families against religious extremists who wanted to kill them because they’d worked for the Americans.

“They had no one to defend them,” Packer said. “They didn’t have their own militia. They didn’t have the Iraqi military police, who often thought of them as traitors. And they didn’t have the Americans. Individual Americans cared, but institutionally, the U.S. government was washing their hands of this terrible problem.”

The 16,000-word article he wrote for The New Yorker magazine helped raise awareness in Washington, where the State Department started to expedite U.S. visas for Iraqis who had worked with the occupation forces. But Packer said he still had more to say, so he wrote his first play.

“This one came quickly and easily, because I had the pent-up feelings, and the vivid experiences were very fresh from that reporting trip. I was angry. I was impassioned. I thought these voices needed to be heard.”

While Packer emphasized that Betrayed is a work of fiction, he said he relied heavily on his interviews with Iraqi translators as source material.

“Roughly 20 to 30 percent of the dialogue was directly taken from transcripts of my interviews,” Packer said.

“It really did reach American audiences in a way that news stories just can’t, because it was the voices of the Iraqis that were talking to them, and for an hour and 45 minutes, they were put into their clothes and into their skins.”

Tickets are already sold out for the single performance of Betrayed at Annenberg Auditorium on Friday, May 20. If there are any unclaimed seats, they will be released at 7:50 p.m.

However, Packer is scheduled to give an on-stage talk, which is open to the public, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 19. He’ll be discussing the play with author and creative writing Professor Tobias Wolff and philosophy Professor Debra Satz as part of the “Ethics and War” series.

His visit to Stanford will be a homecoming for Packer, who grew up around the campus. His father, Herbert Packer, was a popular law professor who spent 16 years at Stanford, rising through the administrative ranks to the level of vice provost. His mother, Nancy, was a long-time professor of creative writing. Packer said he has many happy memories of those days.

“I loved going to Stanford football games and running onto the field,” he said. “I loved riding my bike with friends to Tresidder and getting a cheeseburger when I was 10. … It was a pretty idyllic place to grow up.”

That idyllic life was shattered after his father suffered a stroke and then committed suicide when Packer was 12, an experience he recounts in his autobiographical family history, Blood of the Liberals.

Packer angered many liberal fans when he confessed in his 2005 book, The Assassin’s Gate, that despite his many misgivings, he had initially been in favor of the invasion of Iraq, an opinion he says he did not publicly express before the start of the war. His many reporting trips to Iraq since have tempered his views, and he now believes that the war turned out to be a disaster and a tragedy.

But Packer warned that audience members who come to Betrayed expecting a liberal screed against the U.S. occupation may be disappointed.

“Audiences in New York that brought political views to the play were often flummoxed by it,” Packer said. “There were talk-backs afterward by Iraqi interpreters, and the somewhat simple views that Americans brought with them to the play were complicated by the stories and thoughts of the Iraqis.”


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Erol Dora, Parliment member in Turkey after 50 Years

Erol Dora, Parliment member in Turkey after 50 Years



Ankara – Erol Dora, an independent backed by the Kurdish Party for Peace and Democracy has won a seat in the parliamentary elections of Turkey.

Dora was elected in the southeastern district of Mardin and will become the first Assyrian and the first Christian to be elected in the Turkish Parliament since the 1960s. A lawyer in practice, the 47-year old is a former refugee who fled after the Turkish Army fought against PKK separatist in the 1990s. Dora has promised to rebuilt his village, which was completely destroyed in the war.

The Assyrian community in Turkey is estimated to be about 20,000.

The last Christian member of Turkish parliament was Berc Sadak Turan, an Armenian politician in the 1960s.  


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Archbishop Bashar Warda
Archbishop Bashar Warda

 ACN News ERBIL – A leading bishop has described how Christians in Iraq believe “there is no future” for them there but are afraid to flee abroad because of political uncertainty and crisis in neighbouring countries.

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in the Kurdish north of Iraq, described the people’s shock after father of four Arakan Yacob, an Orthodox Christian, was shot dead on Tuesday (31st May) in the nearby city of Mosul.

Mr Yacob’s killing is the latest in a series of attacks. According to Archbishop Warda, since 2002 more than 570 Christians have been killed in religiously and politically-motivated violence.

In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Warda said that since Mr Yacob’s death a number of the faithful had said they wanted to emigrate.

But he said emigration was difficult because of political crisis and uncertainty in neighbouring Syria and Turkey.
Both countries have already provided sanctuary to many thousands of Christians who fled persecution in the years since 2003, when religious violence suddenly escalated after the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Speaking from Erbil, Archbishop Warda told ACN: “The latest murder adds to the pessimistic view that there is no future.
“No matter how you try to convince people things are getting better they say look at these things that are happening.”
Describing renewed talk of emigration among Iraqi Christians, he went on: “Even the situation in neighbouring Turkey is not that good and with what’s going on in Syria at the moment a family thinking of emigration has limited choices.”
But he refused to be downcast. He said: “The message of hope is always there – life should go on – that’s the message.”
Archbishop Warda has, nonetheless, made no secret of his people’s suffering.

He has provided statistics showing that since the 1980s Christians in Iraq had plummeted from up to 1.4 million to as low as 150,000.

Amid reports of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing the country, he went on to state that between 2006 and 2010, 17 Iraqi priests and two Iraqi bishops had been abducted and were either beaten or tortured by their kidnappers.
Of those, one bishop, four priests and three sub-deacons were killed.

With no sign of an end to the violence, it has now emerged that Mr Yacob, the Mosul Christian who died this week, had been the target of two previous kidnapping attempts.

His death came three weeks after the body of kidnap victim Ashur Yacob Issa, 29, was discovered on 16th May.
Mr Issa’s family said they were unable to pay the $95,000 ransom demanded by his kidnappers.

As a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need has prioritised help for Iraq in line with a 2007 directive from Pope Benedict XVI to help the Church in the Middle East where he said “it is threatened in its very existence”.

ACN has provided emergency aid for refugees in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, food parcels for displaced Christians in northern Iraq, Mass offerings for poor and oppressed priests, support for Sisters and help for seminarians displaced to the north of the country.
Thanking ACN, Archbishop Warda said: “It is reassuring to know that people are praying for us


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