"Betrayal" of Iraqi interpreters comes to NY stage

Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:44am EST
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Iraqi doctor turned film-maker Omer Salih Mahdi had the strange experience of seeing his life portrayed on stage this weekend at a preview performance of "Betrayed," a play about Iraqis who worked for Americans.

"It's really unbelievable to see this in the heart of New York," he said afterward during a discussion on stage with playwright George Packer, a New Yorker magazine reporter.

"I watched part of my life flow in front of my eyes."

The play is a fictionalized story of three Iraqis who worked for U.S. authorities after the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Initially full of hope for the future, their faith in America is tested as they find themselves threatened by militants on all sides, and unwelcome in the United States.

Packer said the three were composite characters with elements drawn from many interviews he conducted with Iraqi interpreters who worked for Americans, risking their lives.

One of those was Salih Mahdi, a doctor who worked as an interpreter for Packer in 2005 and eventually gave up medicine when it became too dangerous to go to work.

He turned to journalism and his film "Baghdad Hospital: Inside the Red Zone" will be shown on HBO on Tuesday. He won a scholarship and is now studying journalism in Indiana.   Continued...