A book just published in France details the tragic story of how hundreds of interpreters employed by the French army during its operations in Afghanistan were refused safe sanctuary after it pulled out of the country, abandoning them and their families to threats of retaliation by the Taliban and other groups. While France is not the only country previously engaged in Afghanistan to have subsequently betrayed its interpreters – called tarjuman in the Dari language – the investigation by journalists Brice Andlauer and Quentin Müllern offers a rare insight into the hypocrisy and cynicism of governments, far removed and insensitive to those involved in waging their war on the ground. Mediapart publishes here a telling extract from their book Tarjuman, une trahison française (‘Tarjuman, a French betrayal’).
Nearly 100 ex-interpreters gathered near French embassy in Kabul holding banners calling for protection and solidarity from former employer.
A total of 258 local civilians, mostly interpreters, who worked for the French army in Afghanistan applied to resettle in France before the last of its military left the country in 2014. Just 73 were granted permission. The remainder, considered as traitors by the Taliban, live in fear of their lives, and those of their families, amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation. After a protest demonstration by the interpreters in Kabul in March, a group of French lawyers, scandalised at their plight, launched a vigorous campaign to help the rejected candidates resettle in France, backed by pressure from Members of Parliament. The French foreign ministry has now finally agreed to reconsider relocation applications, but the outcome remains uncertain. Lénaïg Bredoux reports on the plight of the rejected interpreters, and speaks to one living in hiding in Kabul. “Why did the French friends leave us in danger?” he asks, “I don’t find the answer.”