TURLOCK -- Yonadam Kanna's push for a Democratic Iraq secured him a death sentence from Saddam Hussein and two assassination attempts since the dictator fell.
"This is the price of freedom," said Kanna, the only Christian in Iraq's parliament.
Kanna is visiting American Iraqis this week, drumming up support from emigrants and spreading a message that the country is becoming more stable because of improved security. Between 300,000 and 500,000 Christians have fled Iraq since the war started in 2003, according to United Nations estimates.
Kanna has a message for them.
"In this last one year, this is the real transition period," he said. "There is calm. There is a better security situation. We are calling on people to tell this to their relatives in Jordan and Syria. We are ready to take them back."
His trip took him to Turlock on Thursday, where he toured California State University, Stanislaus, and met with the school's president, Hamid Shirvani. Kanna plans to travel to Assyrian communities in San Jose and Los Angeles before heading to Washington, D.C., and then the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
It's not his first trip to the United States.
Kanna spent years in exile since 1984, trying to build opposition to Saddam's regime. He managed to return and live in northern Iraq after the gulf war, when U.S. planes protected that region from Saddam's soldiers.
His political activism obliged him to flee the country again in 2001. He continued fighting Saddam in the court of public opinion. Kanna said he went on U.S. television and radio programs on 37 consecutive days just before the war started to advocate for Saddam's ouster.
"Thanks to God we got rid of the Saddam Hussein regime, and we appreciate all the Americans and other friends who gave their support to get rid of this bad guy," Kanna said.
When he gets home, Kanna plans to resume work on Iraq's Constitution. He's trying to maintain amendments that protect the country's minorities.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.