Journalist And Iraqi Interpreter Unite15:49
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Omar Fekeiki is pictured in a screenshot from a Washington Post <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/at-great-risk-they-helped-the-post-cover-iraq-now-theyre-remaking-their-lives-in-america/2013/07/18/76867d10-e7e5-11e2-aa9f-c03a72e2d342_story.html" target="_blank">video</a>.
Omar Fekeiki is pictured in a screenshot from a Washington Post <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/at-great-risk-they-helped-the-post-cover-iraq-now-theyre-remaking-their-lives-in-america/2013/07/18/76867d10-e7e5-11e2-aa9f-c03a72e2d342_story.html" target="_blank">video</a>.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran was Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post in 2003 and 2004. During that time, he hired several Iraqis to work as interpreters or drivers.

Many of them eventually came to the U.S.

If guys like Omar can go back, maybe they can accomplish what the United States military and the U.S. government so profoundly failed to do.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran

This year, which marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the war, Chandrasekaran set out to find the Iraqis who worked for the post during the war, to find out how their lives are going in America.

Omar Fekeiki was one of those Iraqis. He worked as an interpreter and special correspondent for the Washington Post in Baghdad from 2003 to 2006. He got the job by accident.

"It was a pure coincidence, actually," Fekeiki told Here & Now. "I was trying to get a phone to call my relatives in London to tell them that we survived the war, and the only way to do that was to try to get one of the journalists who were covering Iraq to lend me the phone. A few minutes later I found this foreign journalist, who happened to be Mary Beth Sheridon of the Post, trying to converse with Iraqis, but they didn't speak English, she didn't speak Arabic, and I volunteered to translate. And 30 minutes, 45 minutes later she introduced me to Rajiv who actually offered me the job on the spot, as a translator."

Today, Fekeiki lives in Landover, Maryland. He's an assignment editor for Radio Sawa, a U.S.-funded station that beams news and pop music across the Arab world.

He hopes to return home to help his country.

A group photo of the Washington Post's Iraqi interpretors, taken in November 2003 (click to enlarge). (<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/at-great-risk-they-helped-the-post-cover-iraq-now-theyre-remaking-their-lives-in-america/2013/07/18/76867d10-e7e5-11e2-aa9f-c03a72e2d342_story.html" target="_blank">Bill O’Leary/Washington Post</a>)
A group photo of the Washington Post's Iraqi interpretors, taken in November 2003 (click to enlarge). (<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/at-great-risk-they-helped-the-post-cover-iraq-now-theyre-remaking-their-lives-in-america/2013/07/18/76867d10-e7e5-11e2-aa9f-c03a72e2d342_story.html" target="_blank">Bill O’Leary/Washington Post</a>)

"This time when I go back to Iraq, I'm going to have an even bigger responsibility, because now I am going to be the American who is back to help Iraqis. And then my countrymen, Iraqis and Americans — funny to say that — will realize that we can co-exist and we can help each other and it doesn't have to be a failure, like it has been in the last ten years," Fekeiki said.

Chandrasekaran says he hopes other Iraqis living in America do the same.

"If guys like Omar can go back, maybe they can accomplish what the United States military and the U.S. government so profoundly failed to do in trying to rebuild that country," he said. "If Iraq is to really be rebuilt and to be back up on it's feet, its going to require Iraqis to do it — and Iraqis, some of them who have learned a thing or two outside the country, who have come to this country and have acquired skills and built new lives, but decide to go back and help their people."

Guest

  • Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post in 2003 and 2004.
  • Omar Fekeiki, worked for the Washington Post as an interpreter in Iraq from 2003 to 2006.

This segment aired on July 26, 2013.

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