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WikiLeaks: 2005-02-11: 05ANKARA800: Assyrian Christians in Iran: Looking for a Way Out

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 04:01 PM CT


Viewing cable 05ANKARA800, ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS IN IRAN: LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05ANKARA800 2005-02-11 13:17 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Ankara
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS ANKARA 000800 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV CVIS IR
SUBJECT: ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS IN IRAN: LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT 
 
1. SUMMARY.  Two deacons of the Assyrian Christian church in 
Iran told Conoff that although Assyrians in Iran do not 
experience outright harassment, most of the small Assyrian 
community that remains seek to emigrate due to the lack of 
economic opportunities.  END SUMMARY. 
 
FEW ASSYRIANS REMAIN IN IRAN 
---------------------------- 
 
2. The two deacons - from Orumiyeh (the traditional center 
for Assyrians in Iran) and Tehran - were interviewed in 
February after receiving immigrant visas to work at a branch 
of the church in the US.  Each described their respective 
congregations as consisting of around 1,000 people who 
attend on major holidays, with 50-100 regularly attending 
services on Sunday.  Overall, they estimated that 15,000 
Assyrian Christians remain in Iran, down from 32,000 listed 
in Iran's 1976 census.  Other estimates available in the 
press place the number of Assyrians in Iran at 10-11,000. 
 
NO HARASSMENT, BUT ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES LIMITED 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
3. The deacons stated that they personally had never faced 
harassment from the police or authorities, and had not heard 
of any stories of harassment of Assyrians.  The greatest 
concern for the community is the lack of employment 
opportunities within the government.  The economic situation 
of their congregations varies widely based on the type of 
work in trade and light industry they are able to find.  The 
only problem related to religion they mentioned was that 
regular church attendance is low because Sunday is a workday 
in Iran. 
 
4. The deacons were uninterested in Iranian politics and 
neutral towards their political representation in 
parliament.  They felt that their representative was trying 
to advance the position of Assyrians in Iran, but that he 
was not effective.  In December 2004, Yunaten Betkolya, the 
Assyrian representative in the Majlis, was quoted praising 
the treatment of religious minorities in Iran and 
criticizing the US human rights record in Iraq. 
 
LITTLE HOPE FOR THE FUTURE 
-------------------------- 
 
5. When asked about their communication with Assyrian 
communities outside Iran, they said they are in active 
communication, particularly with groups in Australia and 
Canada, but receive little support.  Again, they were 
pessimistic that financial aid or other support could do 
anything to improve the status of Assyrians in Iran. 
 
6. They stated that most Assyrians in Iran are interested in 
leaving the country, and that those who have not left have 
not pursued refugee status because they don't have the 
financial resources to do so.  Overall, they had little 
identification with Iran as a whole and stated that they 
consider themselves Assyrians first, then Iranians. 
 
EDELMAN


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