Supporters Of Iraq’s Assyrians Rally In SF Reporting

sf_assyrian_protest_0722091.jpgSharon Chin
E-mail SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) ― Click to enlarge1 of 1
Supporters of Iraq’s Assyrian population rallied at United Nations Plaza in San Francisco on Wednesday.
numSlides of totalImages A dozen protesters marched on United Nations Plaza in San Francisco on Wednesday to support native Assyrians in Iraq they say are being targeted, threatened and terrorized.

Eilona Betkolia of the Assyrian Universal Alliance said, “They feel like there’s ethnic cleansing going on. They’re forced to leave their homeland and their homes.”

The protesters say violence against the minority Assyrians is escalating with seven recent church bombings, as Iraqi security forces take over security from U.S. soldiers in Iraq’s cities.

Protestors say 59 churches have been bombed and more than 300,000 Assyrians have been forced to leave Iraq since the war started.

Assyrian American Ramseena Shallo said, “My dad has two brothers and sisters that live in Iraq. One of his brothers, now deceased, had to move to Syria because he was threatened.”

Assyrian-Americans, some draped in a flag representing Assyrian people, say this was one of several protests nationwide timed for the Iraqi Prime Minister’s visit Wednesday with President Barack Obama.

Robert Khnanisho, an Assyrian from Australia, said, “I just hope he looks on us with mercy and has compassion.”

The minority group has asked Iraq’s government for an autonomous region in northern Iraq. The protesters marched to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to deliver a letter, enlisting her help.

“There’s plenty of places there. We are the indigenous people there, so that’s the least we deserve, a place to call home,” said Khnanisho.