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For immediate release
February 6, 2004
Contact: Laura Gross, 202-513-2304

NPR News returns to Iraq with one of Saddam Hussein's former translators

"A Translator's Tale" to be heard Feb. 16 on All Things Considered

WASHINGTON-In 1991, NPR Sr. Correspondent Jacki Lyden met a translator for Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Information. As an English translator and a Christian in a predominately Muslim country, he dreamed of defecting from this dangerous world in which he was secretly abused and tormented. After years of service to Iraq and in an act of frustration and courage, he publicly denounced the dictator in August of 1991, and was immediately forced to flee for his life. This past November the translator, Esho Joseph, returned to post-conflict Iraq for the first time since he escaped 12 years ago and fled to America. Lyden recorded this compelling journey as Joseph connected with members of his family, his former colleagues and the bloody reality of Iraq today.

This 22-minute segment is a chronicle of Joseph's transformation of memory, and of confrontation with the unfinished conflict. During the journey, he came to believe that Iraq is not safe, but not lost, either, and, for him, this cherished journey represents a triumph-the chance to walk the streets as a free man, instead of the government's translator. But this freedom came at the terrible cost of loss of country and identity. Lyden takes listeners on a look behind the headlines-in a story that goes far beyond what you might see in other media to discover what the legacy of this war means for individual Iraqis.

Before leaving, Joseph told Lyden, he had a bitter life. Joseph said, "I thought to myself: you are becoming like these hypocrites, these thugs. No way, that is not me. I was suffering every single moment. . . . Someone from [the] Intelligence [Department] came to me--one officer put a pistol to my head and said I'd be crushed like a beetle."

The story of this emotional journey, "The Translator's Tale" will be heard on Monday, February 16, 2003 on NPR's, All Things Considered (for broadcast times, please check local listings or log onto to find the NPR member station in your city).

"A Translator's Tale" was produced by Jacki Lyden, who is currently on leave from NPR to write a book, published Houghton Mifflin about Esho Joseph and other translators she has met along her journeys, and NPR's Julia Buckley. Esho Joseph is currently a teacher at the Defense Languages Institue in Monterey, Calif.

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