Ninos Betyo & Khodada Petros talk to Modesto Assyrians
Modesto Bee article printed on September 14; Written by Suzanne Hurt
Local Assyrians should call on U.S. officials to help deter Iraqi military forces poised at the edge of a protected zone in northern Iraq, said the head of an Iraqi opposition party who is in the area this week to drum up support for his cause.
Speaking through an interpreter, Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) Secretary-General Ninos Betyo said Assyrians living in the no-fly zone feel threatened by the Iraqi troops that have been gathering for the last month along the 36th parallel, the border of a zone protected by U.S. and British aircraft.
"We will guide (Assyrians) to ask the American officials, now that this is an election year, to play a bigger role in protecting the region," Betyo said Wednesday.
The ADM was started in 1979 as an underground organization and is now one of five opposition groups that control the quasi- government in the northern region. The movement's goals in Iraq are to have Assyrians be recognized as a nation, have the right to political participation in the country, and be allowed to teach the language and culture, he said.
Betyo and another ADM leader, Khodeda Agha Putros, came to the United States to address the Assyrian National Convention held last week in Chicago. They are traveling to Assyrian communities in California and other parts of the country to ask Assyrians for political and financial support.
This weekend, they will attend a dinner and political rally open to all Assyrians. They hope to persuade people to support their political agenda, as well as give financial assistance through the Assyrian Aid Society and other philanthropic groups here.
"We expect Assyrians in this region, since they are Americans ... to play a role for the Assyrian cause along with the Iraqi people's cause," Betyo said.
The biggest problem people are facing in northern Iraq is having little or no electricity. The United Nations has sent generators for hospitals and wells that need electricity to pump and purify water. The ADM is seeking contributions to buy more generators.
The ADM delegation will head to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. officials.
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