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How does Iran effect Assyrians in Turlock California ?
By Sabra Stafford
Friday, January 20, 2006
The political tug-of-war going on between Iran and the United Nations and the United States could end up directly affecting the Turlock community, according to some local Assyrians from Iran.
Recent statements and actions by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have led some to believe a conflict of some sort is inevitable.
Some of the Assyrians interviewed believe that if situations in Iran continue to deteriorate and UN sanctions are implemented, then an exodus of the small minority group in Iran is possible.
Because Turlock has a sizeable and vital Assyrian community, the belief is that these new refugees would join their friends and family here.
"They definitely are trying to come out," said Marona Aghasi, who has one uncle and two cousins living in Iran. "Assyrians have no power and no opinions in Iran because they have a small presence."
"It would definitely be a benefit to our community if they came," Aghasi said. "Assyrians have many highly educated people like doctors who could help a community."
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran has filled the UN and Western countries with unease because his push for nuclear technology and his antagonistic stance toward Israel.
"He is a fanatic and a nut," said one local Assyrian who did not want his name used.
"We don't like him at all," said Aghasi, who was born in Iran and left in 1984.
Recently, Ahmadinejad has referred to the Holocaust as a myth and met with leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to express his support for them. During the Iranian election, some former American hostages accused him of taking part in the 1979 take-over of the U.S. Embassy and kidnapping of Americans there. He has denied any involvement.
Since he assumed the presidency, human rights violations have risen according to the Human Rights watch organization.
Because Assyrians are Christians, they have been persecuted for decades under the hard-line Islamic rule of Iran.
The Human Rights Watch wrote in a recent report that "respect for basic human rights in Iran, especially freedom of expression and opinion, deteriorated considerably in 2005. The government routinely uses torture and ill-treatment in detention, including prolonged solitary confinement, to punish dissidents."
The culture of fear about speaking out against the government is still prevalent, even when people are thousands of miles away.
Numerous local Assyrians contacted for this story did not wish to make any statements on the record about Ahmadinejad out of fear of reprisals or repercussions.
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