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Iraqi Americans keeping an eye on conflict

IRAQ-UNREST-DISPLACED

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Iraqi displaced people, who have fled violence in Iraq's northern Nineveh province, walk past the wreckage of military vehicles upon their arrival in al-Hamdaniyah, 76 kms west of the Kurdish autonomous region's capital Arbil, on June 18, 2014. Saudi Arabia warned of the risks of a civil war in Iraq with unpredictable consequences for the region, after Sunni militants seized large areas from Shiite-led government forces.

Years of conflict in Iraq has sent many Iraqis fleeing across borders, to other countries in the region, and to the US. Today, as the latest fighting continues, Iraqi Americans are watching the situation closely.

One of them is Yousef Baker, an Iraqi American who currently teaches international studies at California State University, Long Beach.

"In Iraq, people are very keen on having Iraq's national integrity remain intact, so the idea of splitting Iraq into three parts based on sectarian identities ... I think that idea is more popular amongst those in DC and experts appearing on 24-hour American news programs than on the streets of Iraq," Baker told Take Two on Monday. "There is a strong sense of national identity. That identity, unfortunately, is being chiseled away one crisis at a time."

That sense of identity still remains strong in Southern California, as Baker notes that the Southland's Iraqi population showcases some of the diversity in the Middle East.

"In California, a lot of our community members are very connected to what's going on in Iraq. Modesto, for example, has one of the largest populations of Assyrian Iraqis there. Modesto saw one of the earliest immigrations of Iraqis there," he said.  "In San Diego, there's a large population of Chaldeans, which is another Christian sect of Iraqis, as well as many recent refugees from 1991 that are both Shia and Sunni. So, just in Southern California, we see the diversity that Iraq has."

Baker also still has his ears to the ground in Iraq through friends and family, but he told Take Two that what he hear's isn't always good. 

"I'm in contact with some friends that I developed when I was there and family, and I think if I was to describe the emotions of what Iraqis are going through, I would say that's probably three words: Despair, disempowerment and struggle," he said.


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