Quora Questions are part of a partnership between Newsweek and Quora, through which we'll be posting relevant and interesting answers from Quora contributors throughout the week. Read more about the partnership here.
Answer from an Anonymous former interpreter who worked for the U.S. Army in Baghdad.
I'm an Iraqi native, and back when I was just 18 (I'm 24 now) I was working as an interpreter with a US Army infantry unit based in Baghdad.
About a month after I started work, we had a couple of visitor "sociology experts" from Najaf, a city to the south-west of Baghdad, and since they were used to the somewhat friendlier environment of Najaf, they thought it was a good idea to go out in the streets, talk to people, and buy stuff from the stores! So shortly after their arrival, we went out with them in 5-6 Humvees, dismounted and started moving on foot in what used to be a very dangerous neighborhood in Baghdad called "Al-Adamiyah". We talked to a lot of people, bought a lot of different stuff, and finally entered a cosmetics store. I can still remember one of those guys laughing at a soap bar that was romantically called "Virgins Soap" in Arabic but mistranslated to English as "Virginity Soap"!
One of those experts stayed out and never entered a store, the other was so excited about buying stuff from them, but in that last store, they switched places, and the excited one stayed out waiting for us ... I still find it strange to this day.
I was inside the store with them translating, but I couldn't help whispering to my commander's ear, "We stayed here too long!" He quietly replied, "This is our last store, we're leaving", but only seconds later, we heard a gun shot. It wasn't loud enough so I thought to myself that it was just some kids playing with fireworks trying to scare the Americans, we got out of the store, and we found the other guy laying on the ground with blood all over his face! He was shot by a sniper in his cheek, the bullet then exited from the back of his neck.
I ran to my Humvee shouting "Man down, man down!", we quickly retrieved his body and left to a nearby army base, everything happened so fast, but I could still remember thinking to myself that I was next!
You see, back in 2003-2006, interpreters were nobody's friend, there were Sunnis that hated Shiites, and vice-versa, but one thing they agreed on, which is that they both hated interpreters for helping the US Army communicate with people, and since we weren't allowed to carry guns, wore a mask and sometimes different outfits, we were very distinguishable and were the primary targets of snipers, and so I felt like this was the end for me, I felt so helpless that I couldn't do anything to prevent my death.
Hope that answers your question.