Comments and Letters to the Australian Media regarding Syria

 

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TO THE ABC “INSIDERS”

 

On 29 July 2012 01:23, Susan Dirgham <susan.dirgham51@gmail.com> submitted a comment to ABC “Insiders“:

On 3 June, Stephen Smith said on ABC “Insiders” that “the United States’ presence in the Asia Pacific has been a force for ‘peace and stability and prosperity since the end of World War 2.” 
There would be millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who would believe that the US has brought anything but peace, stability and prosperity to the Middle East.  
And now in Syria, there are Islamist militia groups trying to overthrow the secular government there.  The fighters are principally armed and funded by US allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – but recently the US has announced it will also fund the fighters as well as continue the support it has been giving them. (NB: It is reported that the CIA has been training fighters.) 
Fatwas were issued against the secular Syrian government by extremist clerics as early as March 2011, and one of the most prominent clerics in the ME, Sheik Qaradawi, apparently said on Al-Jazeera later in 2011 that it is ok to kill 1/3 of the population of Syria if it leads to the overthrow of the ‘heretical regime’. These are rarely referred to in the western media and have never been condemned by the US or Australian governments, nor by Amnesty International or the UN. 
Jihadists from around the world are travelling into Syria to spread terror and destabilise the country, and while the complexity of the situation in Syria is not being reported, people within the Australian Muslim communities are being radicalised and are sending money to support the fighters.  Many of the militia groups are aligned with Al-Qaeda and Salafi jihadists. 
Islamist fighters intent on spreading chaos and causing disharmony between the different communities in Syria have forced tens of thousands of Christian Syrians from their homes in Homs. Many in the Syrian Australian community can tell of stories of the terror and fear these fighters spread in Syria through the most brutal killings and torture etc. 
The killing of these extremist groups didn’t just begin in recent months.  The uncle of a Melbourne man was killed along with his two friends (all of them farmers on their way to sell their produce at a market) by Islamist fighters in April last year.  Also, two young teenage nephews of a good friend of mine were killed along with their cousin and father on 17 April 2011 by armed men in Homs. Just a couple of months ago, the brother of a Melbourne man was killed in Homs because he had refused to leave the city when threatened by Islamist fighters. The father of a Hobart friend of mine was abducted a couple of months before Christmas in Homs. Relatives of a Melbourne friend were killed three weeks ago as they drove to Homs for shopping. 
Because Syria is a secular country, the army represents all communities so it remains mostly united. I met hundreds of well-educated, sophisticated Syrians in the classrooms of the British Council in Damascus, where I worked for two years. I believe that for most Syrians, reform is very welcome and overdue, but war is not seen as the instrument to bring about that reform. I would say that for the majority of Syrians (particularly the women), the Wahhabi brand of Islam that Saudi Arabia and Qatar follow would be as unwelcome in their country as it would be in Australia. 
It was reported in the US last year that the US ambassador to Syria was recruiting death squads in Syria. Whether this is true of not, from the perspective of most Syrians, the US is not bringing peace, stability and prosperity to their country. 
Should Australia be concerned that we are closely aligned with a country which condones the use of terror in a sovereign country and which supports the funding and arming of Islamist fighters?  If the US has no scruples when it chooses to attack and destroy a country, should we be aligned with it?  Might Australia one day be sending Australian soldiers to fight a war alongside Al-Qaeda in Syria?  
If America is abusing its power in the world and so not bringing peace, stability and prosperity to regions, is Australia able to take a courageous stand against it?  Is it in our interests to find the courage needed to work hard for peace rather than war? What will the repercussions be for Australia if we do not take a very well informed, independent and principled stand regarding peace and war in Syria, particularly when that war is emboldening radical Islam both in the ME and Australia?  
 
 
(Note: there is a correction to a typing mistake which was in the comment submitted to “insiders”)
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