'People are anxious': University of Minnesota professor, Iranian native shares concerns over tensions with Iran

Parham Alaei is a medical physics professor at the University of Minnesota. He came to the U.S. in the 1980s, but still has family and friends living in his native country. (FOX 9)

Even though tempers have cooled, the situation in the Middle East remains unstable. The conflict is especially difficult for those who once or still call Iran home. 

Parham Alaei, a medical physics professor at the University of Minnesota and an Iranian native, estimates there are 3,000 to 4,000 Iranian Americans living in Minnesota.

"It’s taking a toll on many people,” said Alaei. “People are anxious. People are glued to their TV or glued to their phones actually watching the news."

Alaei hasn't stepped foot in his native country for nearly 40 years, but he worries how rising tensions between the United States and Iran could affect his friends and family back home.

"There is some uncertainty to what is going to happen,” he said. 

Alaei was born in Tehran and moved to the U.S. to go to college in 1982, but he chose not to return to Iran because he believed he would be persecuted for speaking out about human rights violations there.

He doesn't believe the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani will lead to a war with Iran, but he fears the Iranian government will use a proxy like Hezbollah or another terrorist organization to attack U.S. forces outside the country.

"He was probably one of the most hated people in the region,” said Alaei. “Not only in Iran, but across the region … From my interactions, no one is sorry he is dead. Many people think it was overdue that he was taken out regardless of the circumstances of how it was done."

Alaei believes sending more U.S. troops to the region is a good idea to keep the Iranian government in check and he hopes the recent events will eventually lead to a change in the country so many of his loved ones call home.

“At the end of the day, I hope it would help bring democratic government to Iran,” said Alaei. “That's our ultimate goal. A government that respects human rights that is democratically elected. Have the people have their say and people can prosper in Iran."