October 2020 | By Yasmeen Altaji | Photo from @EricTrump on Twitter
CHICAGO — Assyrians for Trump, a political call-to-action group, hosted the son of US President Donald Trump in Phoenix on Sep. 23, less than two months outside of November’s presidential election, in a bid to raise the national profile of Assyrians during an election season.
“The significance of having Eric Trump come to Arizona wasn’t just for Arizona, and it wasn’t just [for] the Assyrians here,” said Mona Oshana, the Arizona-based co-chair of Assyrians for Trump. “It was a validation that Assyrians are, in fact, a vital and significant electoral. We wanted to showcase that the Assyrians are active voters and we are, in fact, an untapped constituency that needed to be approached.”
The event preceded this year’s first presidential debate, which took place Sep. 29. Organizers provided hand sanitizer and temperature checks as well as provided face coverings, but did not require them, per Arizona state guidelines.
Events like this one help bring the Assyrian name to the forefront of national politics, Oshana said, and it’s something which proves that attempts at becoming “seen and heard” are successful.
“[Assyrians] are a stateless nation that has been broken, that has been scattered, that has been persecuted…in our own ancestral homelands,” she said. “Here we are, in an adopted country of America, having the son of the President of the United States of America come close to us and hug us and say we matter.”
Part of Trump’s appeal to many Assyrian-Americans is his commitment toward preserving religious freedom, Oshana said. In December of 2018, the President signed a resolution “to assist religious and ethnic groups targeted by ISIS for mass murder and genocide in Syria and Iraq.”
But following Iraq’s agreement to accept deportees in 2017, the Trump administration ramped up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids around the country.
Steve Oshana, executive director of A Demand for Action, said it appeared that ICE raids ordered by the Trump administration have deliberately targeted Iraqi Christians.
“ICE had been keeping tabs on [Iraqi immigrants],” Steve Oshana said. “It was a little too ironic to think that it wasn’t deliberate. Why Sunday? Why outside of the church? This is where we’re always targeted.”
Organizers behind Assyrians for Trump plan to continue rallying efforts during the election and beyond the next four years. The non-profit, which operates alongside similar organizations directly under the Trump campaign, aims to capitalize on the momentum sparked by events such as Eric Trump’s visit to Phoenix, according to Mona Oshana.
“Our job is just now beginning,” she said. “We need to unify and take advantage of this newfound unity, this newfound zeal. Now that we have the validation that the Assyrians are a force to be reckoned with, what we need to do is build on that. Now, we’re standing on a platform. Now, we have the voice of the President of the United States. So this doesn’t end with Donald Trump; it starts with Donald Trump.”