By Cpl. Nicolas Girault
First published in
SFOR Informer#122, September 19, 2001
They are present everywhere in BiH and represent
an essential part of SFOR communication. Interpreters and translators
connect people together and serve as a link between military contingents
and the local population.
Travnik - June 6, Mirela Cosic-Spahic translates
alternately, without hesitation, the speech of a shoe factory
manager as well as a Dutch CIMIC teams' questions.
"I first worked as an interpreter for the British contingent
of United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Croatia and then
in BiH," she says.
Most of them wear the uniform of the nationality they work for.
In that way, they are identified as SFOR members and so get their
protection. Their presence is needed every time SFOR has to deal
with the local population. That means during patrols, Harvest
Operations, weapon storage site control, contact with Displaced
Persons and Refugees (DPRE) or returnees and more.
Sgt. Dan Haverson often goes on social patrols. "Generally,
when interpreters belong to the same community as the people we
deal with, there isn't any problem. Nevertheless, some difficulties
can interfere when we deal with inter-entity matters," he
Banja Luka - Miroslav Duric joined SFOR in 1996, after his demobilisation
from Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). "Despite the different
accents, especially between Sarajevo and South BiH, for example,
we speak the same language, he explains. I try to be professional:
when I work in the Federation, for people, I belong to the Federation."
At first, it was bad form to work for SFOR, "but since 1997,
people consider it a normal job."
but similar languages
- Translators do approximately the same job, but deal with written
scripts. In Sarajevo Coalition Press Information Centre (CPIC),
Fadil Dobraca translates press extracts and radio and TV shows
concerning SFOR. He first worked for the BiH presidency and UN
during the war, then IFOR (Implementation Force, from Dec. 1995
to Dec. 1996) and now SFOR. "I get paid every month, he says,
more than if I worked for public or private sector in BiH: however,
we work on fixed-terms contracts and therefore run the risk of
those contracts not being renewed."
"I'm pleased to work for SFOR. Without them, disorder would
probably still run BiH," admits Dobraca. Media Analysis chief
office, Polish Maj. Jerzy Krawczyk explains: "We try to be
impartial, but we can never be sure. Nevertheless we have never
received any complaints. We trust these employees and we care
about them. They must feel involved in SFOR."
Today language could be used as a weapon throughout BiH, and is
sometimes used to accentuate differences between the two entities.
Whatever nationalist views on the matter, "Croat, Serb and
Bosniac languages are 97% similar."
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