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Iraqi Refugees in Oakland Say Violence Rivals Back Home

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"perpetrated by gangs rather than political militants"

Within four years from the start of the Iraq War, an estimated four million Iraqis were displaced, the largest exodus since the mass migrations associated with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Fifty of the thousands of Iraqi refugees who have migrated to the United States since the war have been relocated by the International Rescue Committee to East Oakland. In a San Francisco Chronicle report published Wednesday several of those refugees say the violence they witnessed back home is comparable to what they see in Oakland:

"It wasn't long before Al-Sharif said he learned that there were parts of Oakland where violence rivals what he escaped in Iraq.

One night, he decided to walk home alone. Two men attacked him, bashing him in the face with a metal object and robbing him of some money, his cell phone and his ID. He was left screaming on the ground, his face gushing blood.

He said the police never identified his attackers.

Al-Sharif, 40, is one of more than 50 Iraqi refugees who have been moved to East Oakland by the International Rescue Committee. The nonprofit's officials say they won't settle refugees in unsafe neighborhoods, but Al-Sharif and dozens of other Iraqis blame the organization for exposing them to an unfamiliar type of violence - one perpetrated by gangs rather than political militants."

Another refugee in the story, Hariath Al-Kiate, says he is grateful for the urban lifestyle, public schooling and ability to find work in Oakland, but hasn't forgotten a nighttime gunfight outside his home that left his car riddled with bullets.

The Chronicle spoke with several Bay Area Iraq refugees who say while rescue group's have granted them jobs, homes and escape from their wartorn homeland, safety has not been guaranteed. Oakland has affordable housing, efficient public transportation and a welcoming multicultural society, but also one of the country's highest crime rates, according to federal statistics and other studies.

"There are a lot of places you shouldn't be," said Al-Kaite.

Do you think crime in has reached out-of-control levels in certain American cities comprable to chaotic war zones abroad?

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