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Chaldo-Assyrian Iraqi lawmaker speaks to backers in El Cajon

By Anne Krueger
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

February 7, 2006

Baghdad is more than 7,700 miles away, but Yonadam Kanna knew that some of his most important constituents were in a meeting hall in El Cajon last night.

Kanna is the only Chaldo-Assyrian, a Christian minority, who was elected to Iraqi's new 275-member National Assembly. Almost half of the votes he received came from Iraqi expatriates like those who cast their ballots in El Cajon and other polling places outside Iraq.


He came to the Crystal Ballroom last night to thank his supporters and assure them progress is being made in Iraq since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein.

"We are in much better conditions than in Saddam's time," Kanna said.

Kanna, 54, is the leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and was a member of the exiled opposition during Hussein's regime.

He was invited to visit the United States to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and meet with officials there.

As part of his 10-day trip, he's meeting with Iraqis around the United States to give his viewpoint on the prognosis for his country. San Diego County has the third-highest population of Iraqis in the country, behind Detroit and Chicago.

"The picture you have here is not correct," he told about 300 people. "Today Iraq is free without Saddam and even small Saddams."

Although he couldn't give a timetable, Kanna said he believes that U.S. troops will soon not be needed to provide security in Iraq's major cities.

"For sure in the coming weeks or months, you will see the withdrawal of forces," Kanna said.

He said economic conditions have improved in Iraq, noting that police officers and teachers who used to be paid only $30 per month now receive $300 monthly.

"We are on the way as a free economy," he said.

Kanna said he hopes to set up Iraqi consulates in Chicago, Detroit and San Diego, and help Iraqis who fled their homeland recover property confiscated under Hussein.

Said Sipo, president of the Chaldo-Assyrian Syriac Council of San Diego, said Kanna is the main political representative for Chaldo-Assyrians.

Between 600,000 and 1 million Christians live in Iraq, a small minority of the country's population of 27 million.

Based on the population of Chaldo-Assyrians in Iraq, they should have had seven or eight seats in the National Assembly, Sipo said.

"He's the one who's been asking for our rights," he said. "He's a bridge between us and the Iraqi government in general."

Farouk Gewarges, an insurance agent in El Cajon, said he attended to hear firsthand about conditions in Iraq.

On Tuesday February 7 starting at 8:00 p.m. Kanna delivered a similar message to an audience at a banquet in his honor at the Assyrian American Association of Southern California in Los Angeles.


The audiences were eager to hear about the present state of the Christians of Iraq who have suffered during the last two years because of terrorism.

During his short stay in the US Kanna will meet with President Bush, other political leaders and will visit various Assyrian communities.

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Who are the Christians of Iraq? 

February = Eshvadt 

Chaldo-Assyrian Iraqi lawmaker speaks to backers in El Cajon Feb. 8, 06

For Iraq's Persecuted Assyrians, a Safe Haven is the Only Solution Feb. 8, 06

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