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US: Seeking Nashville Kurds

Associated Press
December 31st, 2002

Kurdish immigrants in Nashville are among those being recruited in three cities to work as translators for Army troops and personnel in case of war in Iraq.

 

 Titan Corp., a major U.S. defense contractor based in San Diego, has been reviewing job applications and interviewing dozens of Kurds from Nashville for jobs as linguists. The international security firm has more than a half-billion dollars in contracts with U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

 

 "They are needed to help the U.S. Army in translation overseas," said Cheman Zebari, a program manager for Titan. Zebari said the company was seeking those with a knowledge of English and Arabic, Kurdish or Farsi. "The position is global."

 

 Nashville's Kurds said they know little more about the job, except that it requires a willingness to travel on short notice and offers a salary of as much as $70,000. Job notices were faxed and mailed to Kurdish community organizations in Nashville, Dallas and San Diego - cities with large Kurdish populations - within the past two weeks, they said.

 

 Kurds who have applied for the jobs say they welcome the chance to serve their adopted country and their homeland.

 

 "I'm ready to go and serve the American government and our government," said Diyar Mustafa, 32, an apartment maintenance worker who recently mailed his 17-page application to Titan.

 

 Mustafa and his brother, Idris, 35, a school district custodian, will head to Washington on Thursday for a weeklong job interview. Six other Kurds from Nashville will be on the same flight, they said. Their sister-in-law and several others flew to Washington last Thursday.

 

 "Most of the young people here are applying and hoping to go," Mustafa told The Tennessean newspaper.

 

 Nashville is home to more Kurdish immigrants than any other city in the United States, according to humanitarian aid organizations, with about 8,000 Kurds.

 

 Nashville Kurds say their capabilities make them ideal linguists. Many have learned English in Nashville and were forced to learn Arabic in schools under Saddam Hussein's regime, which banned the study of Kurdish.

 

 The Mustafa brothers were imprisoned together as teenagers for nearly two months in an Iraqi prison cell after their brother joined a Kurdish resistance group in 1987. After their release, they learned that Saddam Hussein had begun systematically burning Kurdish villages. They fled with their families to a Turkish refugee camp, where they lived for four years before coming Nashville.

 

 "We want him gone," Idris Mustafa said of Hussein.

 

 * The Titan Corp. in San Diego said Friday that the Postal Service awarded it a contract worth approximately $40 contract to provide eight electron beam systems to irradiate U.S. mail to destroy anthrax bacteria and other disease-causing organisms. Titan expects the first systems to be received by the Postal Service in the Washington area in November.





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