Email Correspondence with Senator Bob Brown’s Office re Syria

From: Susan Dirgham

Sent: Friday, 9 March 2012 12:39 PM
To: ………………………(List includes Senator Bob Brown)
Subject: FYI re Syria

Dear All,

Hope you have a chance to consider the implications of these articles in regard to Syria.
Kind regards,


Email from Senator Brown’s office on 20 March 2012 15:30

Dear Susan

Thank you for your e-mail and for drawing our attention to this material.

For your information I have attached copies of Hansard records of occasions on which Senator Brown has recently either asked questions or moved motions related to current events in Syria. You can find these at;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=syria%20Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%222010s%22%20Party%3A%22ag%22;rec=3;resCount=Default ,;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=syria%20Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%222010s%22%20Party%3A%22ag%22;rec=2;resCount=Default and;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=syria%20Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%222010s%22%20Party%3A%22ag%22;rec=0;resCount=Default respectively.


John Dodd

Office of Senator Bob Brown


26 March 2012

To: John Dodd, Office of Senator Bob Brown

Dear John,
Thank you for your response to the email I directed to Senator Brown. I am sorry it has taken so long for me to find an opportunity to respond to your email.
I’ve read Senator Brown’s questions to Senator Conroy and also his call for President Assad to step down. My response is that Senator Brown is extraordinarily misinformed in regard to Syria. It greatly saddens me because I have supported Senator Brown’s stands on Iraq and and have respected his courage in publicly standing up to two US presidents. I expected similar courage to be shown by Senator Brown in regard to the US ‘game plan’ for Syria.
For my understanding of what is occuring in Syria, you can go to the report I wrote after a visit there in April ’11, as well as the flyer that was handed out at a rally in Hobart in January this year.
And for more analysis, I would direct anyone to the extensive reference lists on <>.

I believe Senator Brown may be misinformed about Syria for a combination of reasons which would include the following:
1.  Trust in Syrians who have knocked on the doors of MPs, such as Colleen Hartland’s.
Last year, I attended a meeting of the local “Syrian opposition” held in Brunswick Town Hall. Victorian Greens MP Colleen Hartland attended the meeting as a guest speaker. I took notes at the meeting.  This is what I noted Ms Hartland said to the meeting.  (I will be paraphrasing much of what she said, but you would be able to check with her regarding the message. There were several other interested observers present at the meeting, including Dr Fiona Hill who spoke to Ms Hartland during the meeting, I believe.)
Ms Hartland encouraged those at the meeting to get their message to politicians and the media. She said the best way to do that was to
  • send a 2 page briefer with links to books etc
  • ask for a meeting with politicians
  • have 2-3 people attend meetings, making sure there is a woman included
  • work with all political parties
  • write letters to politicians, not ‘formulaic letters’ but personal ones
  • create your own media; use digital media, social media
  • form friendships with politicians (Ms Hartland explained that she has been befriended by two or three men whom she knows are ‘trustworthy’ so if she wants information about Syria she can rely on them and pass on the information to others who want to know what is happening in Syria
  • the more personal you make the story, the more the local member will try to help you
  • tell your story; don’t get caught up in what the ‘others’ are doing.
2.  Trust in the opinions of individual journalists such as Robert Fisk re Syria.

In regard to Robert Fisk’s writing on Syria, I would like to refer you to a comment I wrote after a recent Late Night Live interview of George Joffe:
 I am not a fan of Robert Fisk though, like most of his ‘fans’, I support his blanket condemnation of the US and UK etc war in Iraq; his condemnation of Israeli policies re Palestine and Lebanon; as well as his strong criticism of Tony Blair and George Bush.

However, in regard to Syria and Lebanon over the years his writing has often been very cryptic as well as unpredictable in regard to which ‘angle’ he will take. He, like Joffe, can also mislead by making very general, authoritative-sounding statements without presenting support for them and without presenting the wider context. And like Joffe, he usually omits key elements to a situation; you need to dig deep in his writing to put the pieces he does provide together. He may be able to say to you, “But I wrote about the problem of the Salafi jihadists in northern Lebanon in an article last year”; however, he has not given updates and told us of the violence and terror the Salafis are responsible for in Lebanon and Syria now. Yet, for Lebanese and Syrians, the Salafis are among the critical players in the continuing terror in Syria and the armed conflict that has occurred in northern Lebanon in recent months.

In my opinion, he is influenced by Walid Jumblatt, someone whom Fisk has written about his “favourite nihilist (and dinner host)”. Jumblatt, the Druze ‘warlord’,is notorious for switching sides in a very opportunistic manner. Some months ago he publicly supported Syria; now he supports the Saudi Lebanese political figure Saad Hariri, whom many people in Syria have included on their list of people to blame for the funding of militia and smuggling of weapons into Syria. One can only wonder why Jumblatt is a yo-yo in regard to his political affiliations. If Fisk is indeed a close friend and Jumblatt perhaps a ‘stringer’, Jumblatt’s fickleness would make writing on Syria and Lebanon extremely difficult. Blair and Bush etc are always easy, reliable targets, but Syria and Lebanon are constantly changing pictures … painted by whom? Not the majority of Syrian people who strive for peace, security and reform – the whole package without the interference or the dissembling of outsiders.

I am guilty here of making statements without offering support. But there is support for them, and it can be found at

It is hard work to discover what is happening on the ground in Syria. But for many reasons that work calls out to be done.

P.S. re Jumblatt and Hariri, you might be amused by this skit on Lebanese TV.

3.   Trust in Al-Jazeera reporting of the crisis in Syria.
Ref: March Updates on <>

RUSSIA TODAY  14 March 2012  Video interview with former Al-Jazeera reporter.

‘No independent journalism anymore’ – ex-Al Jazeera reporter

Television channels have turned into political parties, pushing the agenda for some outside forces, former Al Jazeera correspondent in Beirut, Ali Hashem, told RT. Hashem has come in spotlight after resigning from the television citing its bias.

In emails leaked by Syrian hackers, Ali Hashem vented his anger over Al Jazeera’s one-sided coverage of Syria and its refusal to cover the events in Bahrain. In an exclusive interview with RT, the former Beirut correspondent Hashem refrained from discussing his resignation, but stressed that these days, independent media is a myth. ….

THE REAL NEWS  March 20, 2012

Al Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage

Ali Hashem: Al Jazeera has become a “media war machine” and is “committing journalistic suicide”

(Video interview with Ali Hashem)

RUSSIA TODAY  12 March 2012

Al Jazeera exodus: Channel losing staff over ‘bias’

Key staff from Al Jazeera’s Beirut Bureau have resigned citing “bias” in the channel’s stance on the conflict in Syria.

Bureau Managing Director Hassan Shaaban reportedly quit last week, after his correspondent and producer had walked out in protest.

A source told the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar that Al Jazeera’s Beirut correspondent Ali Hashem had quit over the channel’s stance on covering events in Syria. “… his position [which] changed after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh [implying a regime loyalist],” a source told Lebanese press.

Ali Hashem was also infuriated by Al Jazeera’s refusal to cover a crackdown by the King of Bahrain while twisting its Syria angle. “[In Bahrain], we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the ‘Gulf’s oppression machine’, and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game,” he said.…..

5.  Trust in Amnesty’s stand on Syria.
  • Franklin Lamb, “Amnesty International’s Flawed Libyan and Syrian ‘Hospitals Investigation”, Opinion Maker, Oct 2011

 Ref:   Please see comments on Amnesty Australia page.  Members of Australians for Syria have met Amnesty Australia officers in Melbourne and Amnesty Australia has sent a report to the Amnesty London office but the London office has yet to publish and condemn any of the atrocities of the militia against individuals, nor has Amnesty condemned the fatwas of extremist clerics or the call of Shiek Qaradawi on Al-Jazeera to his followers to destroy the ‘heretical’ Syrian government even if it means 1/3 of the population are killed.
John, I trust that the above is helpful.  It would be good to see the Greens develop a much greater understanding of the crisis facing the Syrian people.  There are Syrian Australians in Senator Brown’s electorate whom I am sure would be happy to meet him to discuss Syria and to tell him personal stories of how their families have been affected by the terrror in Syria. They have spoken to Mr Wilkie, however, I believe they have avoided Senator Brown because of his strident stand on Syria up to now (though I have tried to inform his office).  But I don’t think the ‘stories’ themselves are sufficient. Ms Hartland’s stand on Syria shows the problem with a simple reliance on a few stories.  Research is needed and there must be regard for the bigger picture, including that of  the fate of the 22 million Syrians who confront terror and fear on a daily basis.
Kind regards,


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2 Responses to Email Correspondence with Senator Bob Brown’s Office re Syria

  1. Australian Syrian says:

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for your insight into the current situation in Syria. Syria is made up of lovely people and is dear to much more than the 23 million people who recently lived in it. I myself am a proud Syrian. I agree that more research into the situation is warranted, however one sided research from one side or the other based on stories does not qualify for sound research. I can see your criticism of various sources in your above blog. I would be interested to be directed to the resources from which you and the Australians for Syria obtain information. I would also like to add that basic human rights violations have been taking place in Syria for a long time. Although some of these have recently been reformed (e.g removal of the emergency law which allowed the government officials to arrest and lock away any one whom they felt was a threat to the government without conviction), many of them are still in existence. An example of this is the fact that students are prohibited from completing their Islamically obligated prayers at the public universities. This is a basic religious right that any person belonging to any faith group is entitled to.

    Thank you

  2. peter lee says:

    Although this letter is full of truth, it took too long to make a point and in the end may have been ignored. Next time you message politicians you may state your opinion up front “the information you are recieving about Syria is biased. Most of the population supports the President and you must know by now that there is no formal opposition. What is called an opposition is several warring factions held together by outside forces. I can prove to you what i am saying is true.

    now list your evidence.

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