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WikiLeaks: 2007-02-27: 07IRANRPODUBAI7: Iranian Rep's Views on Regional Assyrian Community

by WikiLeaks. 07IRANRPODUBAI7: February 27, 2007.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 04:07 PM UT


Viewing cable 07IRANRPODUBAI7, IRANIAN REP'S VIEWS ON REGIONAL ASSYRIAN COMMUNITY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07IRANRPODUBAI7 2007-02-27 15:56 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Iran RPO Dubai
VZCZCXRO9057
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHDIR #0007/01 0581556
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 271556Z FEB 07
FM IRAN RPO DUBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0060
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHDIR/IRAN RPO DUBAI 0053
RHEFDHP/DIA DHP-1 WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0055
RUEHAD/USDAO ABU DHABI TC
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 IRAN RPO DUBAI 000007 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
LONDON FOR GAYLE, BAKU FOR HAUGEN 
BERLIN FOR PAETZOLD, BAGHDAD FOR GALBRAITH 
IRF FOR PINA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  2/27/2027 
TAGS: SOCI IR PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: IRANIAN REP'S VIEWS ON REGIONAL ASSYRIAN COMMUNITY 
 
REF: 2006 DUBAI 0058 
 
RPO DUBAI 00000007  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Jillian Burns, Director, Iran Regional Presence 
Office, Department of State. 
REASON: 1.4 (d) 
 
1. (S//NF)  Summary:  IRPOffs met with the Assyrian Majles 
representative Yonathan Bet Kolia (strictly protect) February 
22.  Bet Kolia will lead a delegation of Iranian Assyrians to an 
Assyrian National Congress meeting March 24-25 in California. 
According to Bet Kolia, there have been no recent changes in the 
status of the Assyrian community in Iran, but he said the 
situation for Assyrians in Syria, Iraq, and Jordan is very poor. 
 The MP indicated that during his upcoming planned visit to the 
US, he would likely meet with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of the 
14th district in California, who is of Assyrian descent.  He 
added that when he spoke with some officials from the Ministry 
of Intelligence and Security (Ettela'at) about the possibility 
of parliamentary exchanges between Iran and the US, they were 
receptive and encouraging.  End Summary. 
 
2. (S//NF) IRPOffs met February 22 with the Assyrian 
representative (MP) in the Iranian Majles, Yonathan Bet Kolia. 
(Note: Five seats in the Iranian Majles are designated 
specifically for religious minorities.  There is one 
representative each from the Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Assyrian 
communities, and two from the Armenian community. End Note.) 
The Assyrian MP was in Dubai to apply for a US visa in order to 
attend a meeting of the Assyrian National Congress, an 
organization that brings together representatives from Assyrian 
communities across the world.  He has attended similar meetings 
in the US in the past.  The meeting will be held in Ceres, 
California on March 24-25.  Traveling with Mr. Bet Kolia will be 
nine other members of the Assyrian community in Iran, 
representing various Assyrian organizations inside the country. 
The MP spoke about the current status of the Assyrian community 
in Iran, and also commented on status of Assyrians in Iraq, 
Syria, and Jordan. 
 
Assyrians in Iran 
----------------- 
 
3. (S//NF)  Prior to the Iranian revolution there were 
70,000-80,000 Assyrians in Iran, the MP said.  (Note:  Assyrians 
in Iran refer to their language as Assyrian, and describe 
themselves as Assyrian, rather than Chaldean, Syriac, or other 
similar names that have been used to describe this ancient 
Christian community.  This Iranian delegation to the Assyrian 
National Congress plans to promote the singular use of the term 
"Assyrian" to describe the members of this community worldwide. 
End Note.)  During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, many Assyrians 
fled the country, particularly families with sons who were 
eligible for conscription.  Families sent their sons to the West 
to avoid frontline military service, and then joined them as 
soon as they could.  Currently, there are no more than 30,000 
Assyrians in Iran, the MP estimated.  Before the Khatami 
presidency, religious minorities did not receive government 
funding on a regular basis.  Employers regularly discriminated 
against non-Muslims, calling for "Muslims only" in job 
advertisements, despite the constitution providing for equal 
employment rights to all recognized religious minorities. 
(Note: According to the Iranian constitution, Zoroastrian, 
Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious 
minorities.  End Note.)  When discrimination in the employment 
sector was brought to Khatami's attention the practice stopped, 
the MP said. Furthermore, a budget for religious minorities 
(providing funding for schools, cultural centers, sports etc.) 
was made into a necessary line-item in the government budget, 
and it would require an additional law to remove it.  Religious 
minorities (as a group, not individually) have received 
approximately $2 million annually from the government since the 
Khatami years, according to the MP. 
 
4. (S//NF) The Khatami presidency saw many improvements for 
recognized religious minorities in Iran, and Ahmadinejad has 
kept the same policies in place, the Assyrian MP noted. 
However, the Majles is attempting to decrease the budget for 
religious minorities for the upcoming year.  The budget bill is 
still under discussion in the Majles, so the outcome is not yet 
clear. (Note: The Iranian year 1386 begins March 21, 2007. End 
Note.) The MP inferred that the attempted decrease in the budget 
is a result of Iran's overall economic woes, rather than an 
action targeted against religious minorities.  Mr. Bet Kolia is 
attempting to have the budget for the Assyrian community 
 
RPO DUBAI 00000007  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
separated from the overall budget for religious minorities in 
the upcoming year.  The Assyrian community has separate schools 
but opens them to children of all religions.  They are permitted 
to teach classes in the Assyrian language, and also write their 
own textbooks, which the government then prints for them.  The 
government pays the salaries of the teachers, but the teachers 
are Assyrian.  The situation for Assyrians inside Iran is fairly 
good, particularly in comparison with the status of Assyrian 
community in nearby countries, the MP commented. 
 
Assyrians in Iraq 
----------------- 
 
5. (S//NF)  The Iranian Assyrian MP estimated that 250,000 
Assyrians have fled Iraq since the beginning of the war in 2003, 
also estimating a high number (NFI) of internally displaced 
persons among Assyrians in Iraq. The MP related one egregious 
case of a young Assyrian woman who was kidnapped for ransom. He 
claimed she was beheaded when the family was unable to pay the 
ransom and her boiled head returned to the family.  He described 
the current situation for Assyrians in Iraq as very poor.  The 
MP claimed there is a movement to promote the creation of an 
Assyrian homeland, to be located most likely in Nineveh province 
in Iraq, and hinted at desire for third country support.  The MP 
inferred it is not a separatist movement but one that seeks the 
creation of an autonomous region within the larger country.  He 
stressed that under no circumstances could the Assyrian homeland 
be under the control of the Kurds.  The Assyrians, he said, hold 
the Kurds responsible for a reported massacre of Assyrians in 
Iraq in 1933.   He also mentioned the assassination decades ago 
of the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church, although it was unclear 
whether he was insinuating Kurdish involvement in that 
assassination. 
 
Assyrians in Jordan and Syria 
----------------------------- 
 
6. (S//NF) The MP stated that there are an estimated 120,000 
Assyrian refugees from Iraq in Jordan.  He claimed Assyrian 
refugees in Jordan face extreme poverty, and a number of women 
and children are forced into prostitution in order to feed their 
families.  The Assyrian community in Syria, which the MP 
estimated at 60,000, faces government restrictions on their 
freedom to congregate.  When the MP approached Assyrian 
organizations in Syria to suggest that the larger Assyrian 
community hold a conference in Syria, they said it wasn't 
possible.  When he offered to go to the Syrian Embassy in Iran 
to request permission, they pleaded with him not to do so.  The 
MP also gave an estimate of the Assyrian community in Turkey as 
approximately 40,000.  He also said that SARG claims after the 
film "Passion of the Christ" that it would help support 
promotion of the Assyrian language came to nothing. 
 
Parliamentary Exchanges? 
------------------------ 
 
7. (S//NF)  The Assyrian Majles representative indicated that 
during his upcoming planned visit to the US, he would likely 
meet with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, from California's 14th 
congressional district, who is of Assyrian descent.  (Note: This 
is likely not their first meeting. End Note.)  The MP talked 
about that meeting in a strictly Assyrian context, but also 
discussed the broader idea of contact between members of the 
Iranian and US legislatures.  The MP said that he spoke with 
officials from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security 
(Ettela'at) prior to leaving the country to apply for a US visa, 
and mentioned the possibility of parliamentary exchanges between 
Iran and US.  The officials were receptive to the idea, he said, 
and encouraged him to pursue it. 
 
8. (S//NF) Comment: MP Bet Kolia underscored that the situation 
for Assyrians in Iran is largely unchanged and superior to that 
in Iraq or Syria, where old communities exist, and in Jordan, 
among the Iraqi refugee community.   While his view may be 
tempered by his official status, we have not seen any reports 
that suggest a deterioration of Assyrians' status in Iran. 
IRPOff broached with him the idea of meeting DRL officials while 
in the US; he took contact information but made no commitments. 
BURNS

 



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