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Ex-Afghan interpreters say French army abandoned them, demand visas

© François Marmouyet, FRANCE 24 | Former Afghan interpreters demanding French visas protest in central Paris on January 10, 2017

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-01-10

Former Afghan interpreters for the French army organised parallel protests in Kabul and Paris on Tuesday, citing death threats from Islamist insurgents and demanding visas.

Nearly 100 ex-interpreters gathered near the French embassy in the Afghan capital, holding banners calling for protection and solidarity from their former employer.

The protesters were nevertheless promptly dispersed by local police.

"Why are we still here in Kabul? Why were our demands rejected by the French government?" asked Khodadad Adib, 28, a representative of the interpreters.

Former Afghan interpreters for the French army hold a rally near the Invalides military museum in Paris on January 10, 2017 © François Marmouyet, FRANCE 24

"We were with the soldiers in sometimes dangerous places. Today we find ourselves in a difficult situation, but the army is no longer with us," Adib explained.

The interpreters said they are in danger after working with French troops deployed against the Taliban insurgency.

Habib, who lives with relatives in Parwan province north of Kabul, said he had received several anonymous letters threatening him and his family with death.

"Sometimes I have to wear a burqa to go out on the street and go to work. My father wears a mask to go to the mosque, my brothers do not go to school anymore," he said.

He said his visa application was refused in 2013, and again in 2015.

Labelled ‘traitors’

A similar demonstration by Afghan interpreters was held in the French capital on Tuesday.

Former Afghan interpreters for the French army hold a rally near the Invalides military museum in Paris on January 10, 2017 © François Marmouyet, FRANCE 24

Shafiq Ghorwaln, 33, a former interpreter who has been in France since June, said that in Kabul he and fellow interpreters were regularly called “traitors” and “infidels” by other Afghans.

Another man protesting in Paris and who asked to remain anonymous said he feared for the safety of his family back home.

Former Afghan interpreters for the French army hold a rally near the Invalides military museum in Paris on January 10, 2017 © François Marmouyet, FRANCE 24

“My brother who stayed in Afghanistan constantly receives death threats,” he told FRANCE 24.

A total of 70,000 French soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan between the end of 2001 and the end of 2014, of whom 89 were killed and about 700 wounded.

Some 700 Afghans worked alongside them in jobs ranging from mechanics to interpreters.

One hundred of these have benefited from a process of "relocation" in France.

Others have tried illegal – and often dangerous - emigration routes to France and Europe.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2017-01-10

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