1.      President Bashar al-Asad is regularly denounced in our media, but beyond the clichés, what do we know about him?  U.S. academic David Lesch informs us in his book “New Lion of Damascus” that Basher al-Asad spent 18 months training as an ophthalmologist in London and was considered a highly intelligent and compassionate doctor. Rallies in Syria and Australia show that he remains a very popular leader. There is strong vocal support for the reform package he has introduced. The reforms ensure that Syria remains an independent secular country, not tied to any oil-rich Islamic Gulf monarchy or the US, and that the monopoly the Baath Party has had on power for many decades is broken.  Syria could become a democracy within the next 6 months, given a chance.

(Is there a more credible, compassionate, democratically inclined and popular leader waiting in the wings with a magic wand given to him/her by NATO, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or the US?)

2.      Former M16 agent and British diplomat, Alastair Crooke, has warned against the West’s use of radical Islamic insurgents in Syria, many brought in from outside the country.  Sheik Qaradawi, a very popular cleric based in Qatar who has a regular program on Al-Jazeera, issued a fatwa against the Syrian government in March.  The calls of such radical clerics to overthrow the Syrian government incite violence.  One chant at anti-government demonstrations has been, “Send Christians to Beirut and Alawis to their graves”.  There have been hundreds of brutal killings and abductions of people from all religious backgrounds, but particularly from the minority communities. (These stories are known by many Syrian Australians.) Can people inspired by the extremist clerics be tamed by the West?  What will the response of radical elements in the Australian Muslim community be to such calls?  Muslim extremists around the world are being emboldened by the support the West gives fundamentalist clerics.

(NB: Sheik Qaradawi has praised Hitler in the past. See reference list.

3.      The US, the UN, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany and Turkey are leading a ‘humanitarian war’ against Syria. Yet the rights of civilians killed by militia and soldiers killed and mutilated by men yelling out “God is great” are given virtually no attention by human rights organisations or our media.  The Syrian army and security forces must inevitably be guilty of human rights abuses, but there must be a much more thorough examination of the ‘war’ the army has been waging with armed men since March.  There are many innocent victims of this ‘war’ that are not being acknowledged and their killers are not being condemned by the outside world.  The UN’s latest body count for Syria is 3,500 dead.  There has to be scrutiny of the circumstances in which these people were killed. How many were civilians killed by militia? How many were soldiers killed by snipers, in ambushes, or in battle?  The UN figure is no justification for a war that will impact on 22 million lives.

4.      In this ‘media and humanitarian war’, unlike the lead up to the war in Afghanistan, scant attention is given the status of Syrian women and the rights and freedoms they have. Their lives are more comparable to those of women in Australia than to the lives of women in the Gulf countries which target Syria. War fuelled by an extremist ideology must put at great risk not only women’s lives, but also their rights and freedoms. Which generation will be able to retrieve these freedoms?

5.      A critical question in this discussion concerns where Australian journalists and politicians get their ‘trusted information’ on Syria. What determines their views: wide reading and in-depth analysis, the canvassing of many different opinions, or the stories of a few? A rally of Syrian Australians in support of President al-Asad and peaceful reform attracted hundreds of people in Melbourne last Sunday, but no media representatives attended. In contrast, a meeting organized the same evening by people opposed to the Syrian president attracted Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Libyan, and Somali Australians and a Victorian Greens MP. The MP spoke to the meeting and applauded the video which preceded her talk, a video which many dispassionate people would have considered crude propaganda. The opposition wants the Syrian Embassy closed. She advised the participants to write letters to their local MPs, to befriend them, to tell their stories.  She explained that three men from the Syrian Australian community had befriended her and she calls them whenever she wants “information” about Syria, which she duly passes onto people.  Are Senator Bob Brown’s statements on Syria determined by the stories and political views of three men?

6.      Amnesty International is at the forefront of the propaganda and humanitarian war against Syria. The recent appointment of Suzanne Nossel as the new Executive Director of Amnesty International USA should be raising eyebrows. Ms Nossel has worked for the US administration in the UN and Washington, and her paper on “Smart Power” apparently inspired Hilary Clinton in her 2009 Senate confirmation hearing. (One analysis of ‘smart power)  (Who is Suzanne Nossel?)

NB: Challenge to Amnesty’s lack of response to Islamic extremists who support misogyny and violence in the past.

7.      In regard to the Arab League, the countries pushing the suspension of Syria – oil-rich Qatar and Saudi Arabia – appear to have corrupted the League’s decision-making process. While countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Brazil, India, South Africa, Russia and China maintain support for Syria, it appears that in Australia, many journalists and politicians have decided we are at war with Syria as there is virtually no serious debate about the isolation of 22 million people.  Yet, a war in Syria would inevitably impact on Australia. Already, tension, fear, and acts of aggression have been reported within the community. In the long-term, if nothing is done to curb the rhetoric of war and prevent the war itself, hundreds of thousands are likely to be killed and countries around the world will have to accept millions more desperate refugees.



·          “The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar Al-Asad and Modern Syria”, by David Lesch (2005)

·         “Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East” by Patrick Seale, University of California Press (1988)

Articles (online):

  • Press TV report on Sibel Edmond, FBI whistle blower, claim, “US training Syrian rebels in Turkey”, 9th December 2011  (NB: documentary on Sibel Edmonds,

  • Ibrahim al-Amin, “A Revolution against Resistance?”, Al-Akhbar English, 4 December 2011                                                                                                               

Youtube Videos:

  • Cleric Al Qaradawi, President of International Union of Muslim Scholars, gives support to Syrian National Council (opposition outside Syria; his support effectively encourages jihadists to go to Syria to fight army, which is what is happening)
  • Propaganda in the American press, “How to brainwash a nation”; the work of Edward Bernays, CIA and coups, terror campaigns                            

Interviews with President al-Asad

John Simpson, January 7, 2008
Charlie Rose, 27 May 2010,

Rear Vision
ABC Radio National, Rear Vision, “Democracy in Iraq?” 23 November (A useful resource as it is a reminder of the complexity of the region and the difficulties faced by governments and people trying to fast-track ‘democracy’)

360 Documentaries
Inside Syria, a report by Reece Erlich inside Syria, 10 December, 2011. (This has the voices of Syrian people expressing different views so it is valuable for that reason alone. However, Erlich does not give attention to the killings of soldiers from beginning or the terror of the ‘militia’. These things must have been referred to by many of the people interviewed; they are the main topic of conversation in the Australian Syrian community who learn about the killings, abductions and terror from their family in Syria and satellite TV.  Nor does Erlich refer to the fatwas of extremist clerics and their implications for the conflict. The introduction to the report also presents the official US and allies view: “4,000 demonstrators killed by the military”.)

Australians For Syria requests that the 46th ALP National Conference:

1.     Condemns

  • ·         Violence against innocent civilians in Syria whether it is perpetrated by members of the army, security forces or jihadists, militants or armed rebels
  • ·          The fatwas issued by radical clerics, such as Sheik Qaradawi, against the Syrian government

Such fatwas incite violence and they encourage jihadists to travel to Syria to kill soldiers and civilians in the most brutal of ways; the fatwas can lead to genocide against Syrian minorities, particularly Christians and Alawis.  The fact that these fatwas are not condemned encourages extremism in our communities

  •         Any attempt to pressure through violence or intimidation the significant population of Syrian Christians to leave their homeland
  • ·         Outside interference in Syria’s affairs, including the support of violence against the Syrian government and inevitably against its people
  • ·         Conditions which can lead to the creation of a failed state and a decades’ long civil war and the resultant refugee problem
  • ·         Sanctions against Syria which strangle the economy and significantly increase hardships experienced by millions of families in Syria
  • ·         Sanctions which physically isolate the country and so make travel in and out of Syria extremely difficult, thus stranding hundreds if not thousands of Syrian Australians in communities which have either already experienced terror or which have reason to  fear it.

2. Supports

    • ·         A  peaceful transition to political reform in Syria
    • ·         On-going serious dialogue between the Syrian government, political parties in Syria,  and representatives of opposition groups
    • ·         Resources to be allocated to an open investigation of the crisis facing Syria and of the Syrian Australian community’s response to the crisis
    • ·         A group of Australians with ‘an open mind’ (eg Kerry O’Brien)  to visit Syria as soon as possible so as to investigate the crisis first hand and report on it

Note: There are hundreds of Syrian and Lebanese Australians who are very active in the Australian Labor Party who support peaceful reform in Syria and strongly object to the interference of outsiders in the affairs of this sovereign nation. Many of these people have family or friends in Syria who have been affected by the violence of militants in Syria.  The young uncle of one of our members was killed in April by militants, but Al-Jazeera reported that the army was responsible for his death. We hope delegates to the Labor Party National Conference are encouraged by our information sheets to make a serious effort to discover the complex truths of Syria.  Understanding Syria today and voicing our concerns can help Australia tomorrow.

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