middlemen_280In 2007, under increasing public pressure, the British government pledged assistance to its locally engaged staff in Iraq. These ordinary people, working as interpreters, drivers and other administrative staff, were viewed as ‘collaborators’ by the fundamentalist militia who had obtained a political and psychological hold over the disorientated population of post-invasion Iraq. The Iraqis who had worked with the coalition forces since the 2003 invasion were subjected to brutal reprisals: threats, kidnapping, torture and murder. Their situation went largely ignored by the British press until a series of articles by Times journalist Deborah Haynes revealed the truth.

Under the Locally Engaged Staff Assistance Scheme (LESAS), applicants could either resettle in the UK or apply for financial aid to help them move to more stable regions of the Middle East. The scheme was active for just over three years before the British government began to wind it down, parallel to the withdrawal of its military presence in Iraq. As of 12 noon Standard Arabian Time on 16 January 2011, no further applications were accepted.

I worked closely with three former Iraqi staff who successfully applied for the LESAS, collaborating with them and with the Scottish Middle Eastern Council (SMEC) to produce a photographic portrait of their new lives in Glasgow. These families face an uncertain future as they try to adapt to a culture very different from their own. They have left their friends, family and history behind them, in a volatile country to which they may never be able to return.

Sarah Amy Fishlock