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Three years after invasion, Iraqis now living in San Diego County differ in views of war


For Iraqis living in San Diego County, TV images of death and destruction are daily reminders of the toll being exacted on friends and relatives in their war-torn homeland.

"I cry every day when I watch the news," Shiite Muslim and El Cajon resident Aqel al-Hosiny said during a recent interview.

As the violence continues, al-Hosiny and other Iraqis in the county revealed starkly contrasting views on everything from the likelihood of a full-scale civil war to whether it was a mistake to oust Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam was a terrible man who killed thousands of people," said Iraqi native and Lakeside resident Hassan al-Maalaki, 48.

Another Iraqi native had a different view.

"When Saddam was president, there were no terrorists," said Nael Tito, 29.

The Chaldean view

While Iraq is a predominantly Muslim country ---- 97 percent of its population is Islamic ---- many of the Iraqis now living in San Diego County are Chaldean Catholics, a centuries-old offshoot of the Assyrian Church of the East integrated into Roman Catholicism in the 16th century.

Most of its 500,000 members live in Iran and Iraq, and Chaldeans make up about 3 percent of Iraq's population of 26.7 million people, according to the CIA's 2006 edition of "The World Factbook."

In El Cajon and the surrounding area, there are about 8,000 Iraqi Chaldeans, according to the Rev. Sabri Kejbo at El Cajon's St. Michael Chaldean Catholic Church.

On a recent afternoon, several young Iraqi men ---- all of them Chaldean Christians ---- were gathered outside of El Cajon Shish Kebab restaurant, smoking and chatting in the shade.

Several said they believe civil war is inevitable, and in regular talks with family members and friends in Iraq, they hear descriptions of a nation dominated by fear and uncertainty.

Some observers believe the country, invaded by the U.S. in March 2003, is already in a civil war.

Others say that while sectarian violence is rampant in the portion of Iraq controlled by Sunni Muslims, the situation in other parts of the country is less dire.

Several of the Chaldean men said they believe that removing Saddam Hussein from power may have been a mistake in a country where only a strong leader can control such divisions.

Tito said that life had been more secure under Hussein, and that life for ordinary Iraqis has worsened since his ouster.

"Now when somebody leaves home, they don't know if they are going to come back," Tito said.

Many of the best jobs that are available in Iraq involve working with the Americans as translators, Tito said.

But "you have to keep it a secret, or they will kill you or your family," he said.

Tony Korkes, 30, agreed.

"It's worse than before," he said. "There is no safety ---- (Now), everybody is afraid. Neighbors used to trust neighbors. Not anymore. You can't park your car in front of your house ---- people will think you are rich and come and kill you."

Korkes said people are not only afraid of leaving their homes after 6 p.m., they're afraid their children will be kidnapped during the day.

"We know people here whose family members have been kidnapped and they have to send money (to the kidnappers) or they will kill them ---- sometimes, even when they pay, they kill them," Korkes said.

The biggest mistake America made after the invasion was not moving immediately to install a government, Korkes contended.

"They waited too long," he said, adding that he believed a civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims is coming.

Shiites and Sunnis

While the two groups share many fundamental beliefs, Sunnis, who make up 85 percent of Muslims in the world, believe their religious leaders should be elected from among those who are best able to fill that role, according to the Web site,

Shiites believe their leaders are of the Prophet Muhammad's bloodline. The differences between the two sects have sometimes led to violent confrontations.

Saddam's regime was known to encourage Sunni loyalists to move into areas with Shiite or Kurdish populations. And the demise of his regime spelled possible trouble for Sunnis in a country where Shiites represent about two-thirds of the population.

Just before the first Iraqi elections in early 2005, Iraqi native and Fulbright scholar Hamdy Singary visited North County and said Iraqis had high expectations for their government.

In late June, Singary, now at the University of Arizona where he is working toward a master's degree in law, said he recently spoke with a relative in Baghdad who asked for money so that she could escape the violence and move to the Kurdish-controlled area in northern Iraq.

"She said the killing has gotten much worse, killing with no reason," he said.

Rent has skyrocketed in northern Iraq as more and more refugees from the Sunni Triangle seek a safe haven.

The Sunni Triangle is an area northwest of Baghdad with the city of Tikrit at its north end, Ramadi to the west and Baghdad to the east. Its population is predominantly Sunni, and some of the worst sectarian violence has occurred there.

On July 1, a huge car bomb exploded in Baghdad, killing 66 people and injuring about 100. A Sunni group took credit for the attack, saying that it was in retaliation for Shiite attacks on Sunnis.

Torture victim

Don't tell Shiite Muslim al-Maalaki about the benefits of Saddam's rule.

Sitting outside of the Islamic Center of Lakeside on a recent afternoon, the 48-year-old al-Maalaki pointed at twisted scars on the top of his feet, where he said Iraqi secret police had poured battery acid.

He also has scars on his arms, the result, he said, of being chained and hung from a ceiling fan and beaten incessantly.

Over a three-month period in 1979, he said, he was tortured for days at a time. When his wounds became so bad that his life was at risk, they would take him to a hospital for a few days of recuperation, before beginning the torture sessions again, he said.

When he could no longer bear the punishment, he agreed to sign what he called a phony confession to get them to stop, adding that he never knew exactly what the charges were against him.

At that point, he said, he was taken before a judge who sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Al-Maalaki, who came to the U.S. in 1994, said that if the Americans leave Iraq, another cruel dictatorship will quickly follow.

"I don't want the U.S. to leave Iraq ---- if they do, all of Saddam's friends will come back," he said.

Asked if he believed the United States will bring peace to his troubled homeland, Al-Maalaki said yes, but that he believed it will take years.

"All you can do is pray for Iraq."

Civilian deaths continue

Responding to calls by some Democrats for a timeline to gradually withdraw U.S. troops, Republican leaders have said that would worsen the conditions and all-out civil war would result.

Despite the June 7 death of Sunni extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. airstrike, more than 700 Iraqi civilians and security forces have died violently since his death, according to published reports.

Sitting in another El Cajon shish kebab restaurant, 43-year-old pharmaceutical technician al-Hosiny recalled a recent telephone conversation he had with his brother, who lives in Baghdad.

Al-Hosiny said he told his brother that he wanted to bring his family to visit in the coming months, but his brother told him he should reconsider.

"He said, 'Don't come now ---- you have three children, if someone knows you are from America, they will kidnap them.' "

He said that U.S. forces made a huge strategic error when they disbanded the Iraqi army.

If the U.S. had kept the army essentially intact, much of the sectarian violence could have been avoided, al-Hosiny said.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that the number of Iraqis who have died since the March 2003 invasion was "at least" 50,000 people, most of them civilians.

The numbers were arrived at by compiling statistics from the Baghdad morgue, the Iraqi Health Ministry and other agencies.

The reported toll surpassed the Bush administration's estimates that about 30,000 Iraqis have died since the start of the war.

'Hate overtaking love'

UCSD Medical School professor Wael al-Delaimy said that he speaks frequently with friends and family in Iraq, as well as other Iraqi natives living in San Diego.

A Muslim, al-Delaimy said he believes that most Iraqi people have a love-hate relationship with U.S. forces.

"But currently, the hate is overtaking the love," he said.

In the weeks after the invasion, people welcomed the troops for ending what most viewed as a brutal regime, he said.

"But three years on, I would say most or all (Iraqis) think it was a big mistake and not worth the price," he said, adding he knows two Shiite families in San Diego who had their parents kidnapped in Iraq.

"One of them is missing, the other had to pay a huge ransom," he said. "They were saying we were better off during Saddam's time, because now there is chaos, kidnapping and killing and nobody knows who is killing or why."

Asked whether he would like to see the U.S. leave, al-Delaimy said yes, but the exit should be gradual.

"For the sake of everybody, there needs to be a clear timeline for exiting, and that will relieve some of the tension," he said.




Who are the Christians of Iraq? 

July = Tammuz

Three years after invasion, Iraqis now living in San Diego County differ in views of war July 9, 06

Kurdish Militia, Iraqi Police Terrorizing Assyrians in North Iraq July 6, 06

Kurdish Regional Government Needs Lessons in Democracy July 5, 06

An open letter to His Holiness Mor Zakka Iwaz July 3, 06

Writing Competition 2006 July 3, 06

USCIRF Testifies to Killing, Harassment of Mid east Christians July 2, 06

Seyfo’ Monument Design Competition July 2, 06

June = Khzeeran

Text of Rosie Malek-Yonan's testimony before the House Committee on International Relations June 30, 06

UK Assyrians Honour British MP June 30, 06

The forgotten Assyrian Christians of Mesopotamia June 28, 06

The Assyrian Empire revisited in China June 30, 06

Rosie Malek Yonan will Testify about Genocide before a Congressional Committee June 29, 06

The Plight of the Assyrians of Iraq June 28, 06

Living in the Grave Yard June 28, 06

Yes! Ashur Yousif is Dead but he Speaks June 26, 06

More Threats Against Basrawi Christians June 25, 06

Kurds Block Assyrians, Shabaks From Police Force in North Iraq June 18, 06

Iraqi Catholics in U.S. See Continuing Challenges in Their Homeland June 18, 06

Assyrian University Students Beaten By Iraqi Police June 18, 06

Assyrian leaders meet with Laura Bush June 17, 06

Assyrians in the World War I Treaties: Paris, Sèvres, and Lausanne June 16, 06

Iraqi Christians In Saskatoon Canada Want Peace in Their Homeland June 14, 06

Priceless Assyrian Relics Used for Target Practice June 14, 06

Kurd's Plan to Change the Demographics of Northern Iraq in their Favour June 14, 06

Questions assyrians would like to ask Turkey June 14, 06

Iraq's Minority Communities Look Abroad for Asylum June 13, 06

Assyrians Demonstrate in Washington, D.C.  June 12, 06

Turkey turns the confiscated church into a pornographic movie theatre June 12, 06

Continuing Persecution Renews Calls for Assyrian Safe-Haven in Iraq June 9. 06

Assyrian Demonstrations in Washington D.C. June 8, 06

Safety Zone Could Be the Answer for Iraq's Endangered Peoples June 8, 06

Assyrian Christians Object to Exclusion in Iraq Homeland June 07, 06

Welsh Members of UK Parliament Recognize the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide June 6, 06

Violence against the Assyrians in Iraq updated  June 4, 06 

New Book Release by Sargon Donabed June, 2, 06 

The European MP letter to the Syrian Embassy June 1, 06

Asking for Equal rights is considered racist by the Kurdish Regional Government June 1, 06

May = Ayar 

Australian Parliamentary Debate Focuses On Plight Of Assyrians May 30, 06

Kurdish Democratic Party Using Ishtar to undermine Ashur May 27, 06

New CD of Assyrian Songs May 25, 06

Kanno and Cardoz prepare for District 18 election May 25, 06

Kurd's Treatment of the Assyrians May 24, 06

Iraq's Christians face ethnic cleansing May 24, 06

Update inforamtion about Iran's Markers for none Muslim May 23, 06

British Museum joins puzzle craze as host to TV gameshow May 22, 06

The Relentless Kurdish Campaign to Undermine Assyrian Rights May 22, 06

Iran's Draft Law on Dress Has Many Worried  May 22, 06

Judge Sentences the Iraqi Christians to Six Months in Jail May 21, 06

Iran eyes badges for Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians May 20, 06

Fallacy of a Kurdish Intelectual May 19, 06

Continuing Kurdish Denial of Iraqi Assyrians and Their Plight May 18, 06

Kurdish Mob Attacks Assyrian School Children in North Iraq May 18, 06

Jameel Rafael Reply to the Chladean Church Patriarch May 18, 06

Bringing Security To The Chaotic South Iraq May 17, 06

Dutch Assyrian MP Raises Issue of Assyrians in North Iraq May 17, 06

Kirkuk Christians Fear Rising Violence May 17, 06

Excluions of ADM from the northern Iraqi Government May 16, 06

Tourism could tear page from history books May 16,06

Lost Page in History, Finally Discovered May 15, 06

Violence Robs Iraq of Christian Heritage May 14, 06

Turkey Bombs Christian Village in Northern Iraq May 13, 06

Was the Assyrian 'Rimu' mistranslated as unicorn? May 13, 06

Kurdish Selective Amnesia & the Endless Genocide of the Assyrians May 11, 06

Assyrians Face Escalating Abuses in "New Iraq" May 11, 06

Who will save Iraq's Christians May 10, 06

Iraqi Police Station Set Up Near Mosul Church May 9, 06

What Arab Civilization? May 9, 06

Seyfo 1915: Lecture about The Missing Chapter of Ottoman History May 7, 06

Assyrian Village in Syria Under Siege by the Security forces May 6, 06

Lamassu, ancient Assyrian Evil repellent May 6, 06 

An in-depth profile of Narsai David the food guru May 5, 06

"Ninavah al Hurra", Arabic For "Free Nineveh" May 4, 06

Assyrians Face Escalating Abuses in "New Iraq" May 3, 06 

The Dangers of Being Christian: Religious Freedom in the Islamic World May 3, 06

Iraqi Christians seek asylum here May 3, 06

No Talabani! Assyrians are an imprtant part of Iraq's roots May 2, 06

April = Neesan

The Friodil Institute and the Assyrian Seyfo April 30, 06

Threats Force Cancellation of Assyrian Genocide Conference in Holland April 29,06

European Parliament Meets Assyrian Politician on Assyrian Question April 28, 06

The West vs. Christianity? April 28, 06

Teenager charged with shooting murder of the Assyrian April 28, 06

Assyrian Geoncide Seyfo Monument in Sweden  April 28, 06

Northern Iraq city's fragile ethnic mix perseveres April 27, 06

Angered Copts March to Break Their Long Silence April 25, 06

Stolen Away: Girls of Iraq Gone Missing April 25, 06

Islamists Down Under April 25, 06

Assyrian Delegation Visits Iraq  April 21, 06

Assyrians hope to dispel myths April 21, 06

`Idol'-style contest spotlights music for a new generation April 21, 06

Assyrian Dutch politician Gamri visits the Assyrian's in Iraq during Ha b Nisan. April 20, 06

A Day Dedicated to St. Ephrem the Assyrian April 18, 06

Iraqi Christians brave violence to celebrate Easter April 17, 05

Iraqis Find Respite in Faith, Priest Says April 16, 06 

US Colonel Offers Iraq an Apology of Sorts for Devastation of Babylon April 14, 06 

Unesco intends to put the magic back in Babylon April 14, 06

Christian Killed in Islamist Raids on Egypt Churches April 14, 06

Shore Senior Center chooses 7 directors April 14, 06

Assyrians of Australia Divided By Fear After Shooting Death April 12, 06

County Legislators Endorse Assyrian Candidate April 12, 06

The Shattering of the Syriac Orthodox Church! April 12, 06

Islamizing American Schools April 10, 06

Cry unheard - Genocide and Me April 9, 06

Should We Constantly Be Victims? April 7, 06

European Parliament Report; Iraq: Situation in prisons and the Assyrian community April 7, 06

Assyrian new Year in the Advance News paper Australia April 6, 06

Neglect of Iraqi Christians by President Bush  April 6, 06

Ignoring Christians and Ethnic Minorities in Arab Muslim Countries April 6, 06

Iraq's Greatest Treasure to Start World Tour in Washington April 6, 06

Lifetime Detention of an Assyrian in Syria Violates Human Rights April 5, 06

Substitution of Civilizations Is the Real Risk: European MP April 5, 06

Assyrian New Year Celebrations in Sweden April 5, 06

A Tribute to Nuri Kino April 4, 06

Outside View: Condoleezza's Folly April 4, 06

Petition aksing for Assyrian Territory in Iraq April 4, 06

Killings Stoke Fear Among Assyrian Shopkeepers April 4, 06

The West Versus Christianity? April 3, 06

Assyrian New Year Celebrations in Iraq April 2, 06

The Ghost in the Baghdad Museum April 2, 06

Conversations with the Assyrians of Mardin April 1, 06

Turlock's Assyrian community rings in year 6756 with dinner, dance April 1, 06

Italians find ancient Ur tablets April 1, 06

March = Addar (a's as in Art) 

Mortar Shell Kills Three Women in Baghdad Assyrian Market March 31, 06

Creulty of Nations and the Hollier than thou preaching  Mrch 31, 06

Violence Spreads in Turkey's Kurdish Region March 30, 06

Iraqi Commander Says, 'We Didn't Find a Mosque' March 30, 06

Brussels Prosecutes Immigrant Priest for Islamophobia March 30, 06

Iraqi Chaldean Prelate Says Christians Feel Desperate March 28, 06

Press Release about ASSYRISKA: the Movie  March 29, 06

Who will save Iraq's Christians? March 28, 06

Leader of the Assyrian Democratic Organization summoned to apear in Court March 27, 06

Therefore Jews call their script 'ketuv Ashuri'; Assyrian script March 27, 06

The Future of the Assyrians of Iraq: A Safe Haven vs. Self-Administrative Region Mach 27, 06

A Child in need of help March 26, 06

3 Years of War Wither a Family's Seed of Hope March 26, 06

Kurd's - Persian New Year and its Assyrian - Babylonian origin March 26, 06

US government report on Syria's human rights March 25, 06

Turkey to Renovate Churches and Synagogue  March 25, 06 

When Islamic Laws Contradict the Universal Declaration of Human Rights March 23, 06

The Foolishness of imposing Oppressive Arab Nationalism on None Arabs March 23, 06 

Afghan Man Faces Death for Being a Christian March 21, 06 


Human tragedy of the Syrian citizen Yacoub Hanna Shamoun March 21, 06

The Treasure Hunter March 19, 06 

Kha b'Nissan Assryian New Year Celebrations in Los Angeles

The American Premiere of ASSYRISKA: A National Team Without A Nation March 18, 06

Sectarian divides and violence distress Many Bay Area Iraqis March 18, 06

Trouble in Kurdistan March 17, 06 


Investigating Assyrian canals across time, from space March 17, 06

Turkey Should not Deny the Truth if it wants to be believed March 16, 06

Assyrian Genocide on The Liberal Party's Agenda in Sweden March 15, 06

Turkish Large-Scale campaign Project 2006 - so called "The Lie of the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide." March 15, 06

Announcing the American Premiere of ASSYRISKA: A National Team Without A Nation March 14, 06

Turks' planned demonstration in Berlin stopped March 14, 06

US government report on Iraq's human rights Iraq, Politics March 13, 06

Another Priest attacked in Turkey March 13, 06

Assyrian Elected President of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences March 13, 06

In Syria's prison without cause for More than 20 Years  March 12, 06

Muslim's Blunt Criticism of Islam Draws Threats March 11, 06

An Interview with Rosie Malek-Yonan by March 11, 06


Will You be an Assyrian Actor? March 8, 06

In Turkey Assyrians/Syriacs are being robbed of property they owned for thousands of years March 8, 06

Iraqi Women Attacked for Removing Headscarves, NGO Says March 7, 06

Car bomb in Turkey injures Assyrian March 6, 06


"Christians do not wants to leave Iraq for good" March 4, 06

Iraqi Catholics Donate to Rebuild Samarra Mosque March, 3, 06

Relatives and friends gather at store where 2 were slain March 3, 06

A Preliminary Investigation into Assyrian Identity March 3, 06

Firodil Institute Meets The Christian Fair Trade Group March 2, 06 

UNESCO funding reconstruction of destroyed mosques but not Churches March 2, 06

Christian Churches in Iraq Subjected to Synchronized Terrorism March 1, 06




January- February 06



















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