Awareness Raising

We Are Here, Because You Were There: Afghan Interpreters in the UK

'We are Here, Because You Were There' encourages reflection on the deep entanglement between the UK and Afghanistan, which have shaped Afghan interpreters’ lives from childhood or early adulthood. Together their individual stories and images reflect the structural and lasting impact of Britain’s military deployment, foreign policy and migration laws.


The collaborative project between photographer and veteran Andy Barnham and researcher Sara de Jong (University of York) with the Sulha Alliance documents the experiences of Afghan interpreters who were resettled to the UK under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), launched in April 2021, through photo portraiture and interviews. By centering Afghan interpreters’ own stories, viewers are invited to engage with the people behind the headlines and numbers.


The portraits have been taken in hotels and houses and have been edited in a manner to help anonymise the newly arrived interpreters who have been at risk and who have family in Afghanistan still under threat. The individual portraits presented are a composite of up to a dozen frames which have each been blurred or pixelated and then overlaid to present a final portrait. This process can also be seen as inflicting trauma on the portraits, in acknowledgement of the experiences when serving with the British Army, other NATO forces and when escaping Afghanistan.


The quotes are from in-depth interviews, conducted by Sara de Jong, which cover the Afghan interpreters’ motivations to work for the British Armed Forces, their working alongside soldiers, the threats they faced in Afghanistan, their evacuation, early experiences in the UK and hopes for the future.


We are grateful for the funding provided by Capita and the Department of Politics, University of York, to support this project.


Photography and Design © Andy Barnham 2022

The art catalogue (minimum donation £10) presents the portraits and stories of 14 Afghan interpreters in England, Scotland and Wales, who arrived in the UK since the summer of 2021.

Scan the QR code to purchase the art catalogue (£10 donation)


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