Iraqi family finds safety, peace in a California town

TURLOCK -- Samuel survived the ambush, but his attackers got rid of him just the same.

Hours after a round of bullets strafed his cab, Samuel and his wife decided to leave Iraq, joining an exodus of Assyrian Christians who no longer felt safe in their country.

"We suffered a lot in Iraq," said Samuel, 44. "I didn't want the same for my children."

Samuel and his wife, refugees who arrived in Turlock three months ago, spoke with The Bee through a translator on the condition that the paper not publish their real names because they feared for the safety of relatives in Iraq.

It took them more than four years to land in California since that January 2004 evening, when armed men shot up Samuel's Mitsubishi sedan on his way home from work as a taxi driver in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city. He sped through the trap and escaped without injury.

His city in northern Iraq has grown increasingly dangerous for Assyrian Christians since the war started.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees last week estimated that more than 13,000 of them -- half the city's Assyrian population -- fled Mosul just this month. Threats and attacks appear

aimed at driving the Assyrians out of the city, according to the refugee commission.

Some will find their way to Turlock, drawn there because of the city's nearly century-old Assyrian community.

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