A few months ago I wrote about Maya Hess and her big “Red T” education effort. Maya has set up a page on Facebook. “The Red T raises awareness of the plight of translators and interpreters working in conflict zones, detention camps, and prisons,” she says.
Maya believes that the profession is under siege, and “its practitioners face extreme distrust.” Her advocacy is driven by years of interpretation for national security and law enforcement.
“In Iraq, while interpreting between troops and local populations, interpreters wear face masks to avoid being recognized, denounced as traitors, tortured, or killed when they return to their communities. In Afghanistan, letters are slid under translators’ doors threatening the execution of their families. In the United States, linguists for alleged and convicted terrorists have been accused/convicted of aiding and abetting terrorism themselves.”
Big problem, big mandate. What to do?
The Red T mission:
– Redefine conflict zone linguists as official humanitarian aid staff by extending them protected status
– Unite translator/interpreter initiatives launched by individuals, groups and trade associations under a common cause
– Create and maintain a central data registry for translator/interpreter incidents and compile statistics
– Track policy progress by country (re legal developments, asylum grants, insurance protocols, etc.)
– Raise awareness of the Red T, its logo and its cause in order to secure worldwide recognition
– Conduct information campaigns to alert linguists to new and present case law
– Formulate policy proposals to mitigate the legal vulnerability of translators/interpreters (e.g., by modifying the section on linguists in the Bureau of Prisons’ Special Administrative Measures)
This is also a hot-button issue for International Association of Conference Interpreters. Eduardo Kahane reports on the Council of Europe declaration last April which called for:
– Better protection for interpreters during and following conflicts;
– Assimilating interpreters into other categories of staff mentioned in the Geneva Conventions;
– Emphasis of the neutrality and impartiality of interpreters
“This is the first international document that publicly recognizes the difficult circumstances under which interpreters work―far from the gaze of the media or society ―and signals a political will to take action. This is the first step on what remains a long road ahead,” says Eduardo.
Readers, any comments and links to related efforts gratefully appreciated.
Anyone else working on this?