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Chaldeans In San Diego Worry About Family Members Fleeing In Iraq

Photo by Susan Murphy

Iraqis fleeing violence in Mosul arrive in the Kurdistan region, June 11, 2014.

As Iraq unravels, San Diego’s Chaldean community is calling on the U.S. to help fleeing refugees.

An estimated half-million Iraqis, many of them children, have become refugees almost overnight. They’ve been forced from their homes, fleeing with little more than the clothes on their back, as violent Islamic militants have captured their cities on their march toward Baghdad.

Obama On Iraq Security: 'We Can't Do It For Them'

President Barack Obama says Iraq's government must make a sincere effort to address sectarian differences, or else U.S. military help won't succeed in curbing the insurgency there.

"We can't do it for them," the president said.

Obama says the U.S. won't send troops back into Iraq. But he says he's asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options. He says he'll review those options in the coming days.

Obama says the risk posed by terrorists in Iraq could eventually pose a threat to U.S. interests, too.

A fast-moving insurgency in Iraq has taken over key cities, raising fears Iraq is slipping back into sectarian chaos following the U.S. withdrawal in 2011.

Obama spoke just before departing the White House en route to North Dakota.

— Julie Pace, Associated Press

"There is no safe haven for Christians or minorities in modern day Iraq. It’s a terrible situation," said Mark Arabo, president and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association, and a spokesperson for the Iraqi Chaldean community in San Diego County.

Escaping war and violence has become a daunting routine for the Iraqi people, who carry deep emotional scars from years of war—the most recent was the 2003 U.S.-led invasion in Iraq when millions fled the country; 35,000 resettled in San Diego’s East County, said Arabo.

Photo by Susan Murphy

Mark Arabo, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Chaldean community in San Diego County, says he worries about mass genocide of Christians and minorities in Iraq as violence continues to escalate, June 12, 2014.

Arabo said the difference this time is there’s no place for them to escape to. They're scared, hiding and desperate.

"It’s much worse, and the reason why it’s much worse is 11 years ago you didn’t have so many radical groups in the region," Arabo said. "Syria was peaceful. Before families would go to Syria and Jordan and then resettle to the United States or to Europe or to Australia. Now there’s no safe place to go to in the Middle East."

Arabo worries there will be mass genocide without U.S. intervention.

"I hope that the United states leads from behind with like-minded nations to make sure that these Christians and minorities all throughout the Middle East region, and specifically Iraq, have a mass exodus and a home to go to," Arabo said. "Something needs to happen because they have left their homes, their neighboring cities and the situation is getting worse by the minute. "

In all, nearly 80,000 Iraqis call San Diego home; the majority are Chaldean Christians, but many others are Muslim and Kurdish. Differences aside, Arabo says they're united in their hope for peace.

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