Letter to Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister
Although this letter (actually emailed to Mr Rudd) was written in November 2011, the message is as relevant today as it was then.
All images on this page are of people who have attended Melbourne rallies in support of peaceful reform in secular Syria.
14 November 2011
Dear Foreign Affairs Minister,
I believe this is an important moment in our history when there is a chance for individuals to shape world events. This may sound like hyperbole, but millions of Syrians would agree with me.
Last night, I watched Syrian television and saw hundreds of thousands of people in streets across Syria rallying to support the president and to oppose the Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria from the League, a decision which could presage foreign intervention in Syria and so a brutal, bloody war that could have a body count exceeding both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reporters went into the crowds and interviewed people, including many women, those with hijabs and those without (a reminder that Syria is a secular society and women are free to dress as they like). The people were united in their defiance of the Arab League and their belief that the League’s decision was illegal as it was not a unanimous one; neither Iraq nor Lebanon supported it. They were also united in their determination to resist any attempt by NATO or other forces to interfere in Syrian affairs. They were people I recognized: I met hundreds of Syrians in classrooms at the British Council in Damascus.
While Syrians were showing their support for their president (not their support a brutal regime), a reporter on Al-Jazeera was interviewing an “activist” Mohamad Abdel Mageed who was claiming that the Syrian government was forcing those employed in the public sector to protest the Arab League’s decision.
Last week, Phillip Adams interviewed Robert Fisk on Late Night Live. Robert Fisk had recently returned from Damascus. He reported on the funeral of young soldiers, killed by snipers, and thought it credible that over 1,150 soldiers have been killed in Syria since March.
Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report published in the last week gives little credence to the killings of soldiers since the beginning of the crisis, and suggests that soldiers have only been targeted in recent weeks, and justifiably.
Amnesty (and most of our media reports) also avoids giving attention to the terror that civilians have suffered in Syria at the hands of militia. Killings, abductions and torture have been reported for many months, but the public outside Syria is barely aware of this.
I interviewed a Syrian Australian who experienced the fear that has gripped people across Syria. She related how doctors in Homs were fainting at the sight of the mutilated bodies and body parts brought to the hospital.
Yesterday, a friend sent me the following article with a plea for people to pray for the Christian community in Syria, particularly in Homs, where they are being terrorized by extremists.
Miranda Devine and Fr Paul Stenhouse have alerted us to the danger of extremists in Syria.
The decision of the Arab League was pushed by oil rich Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Qatar is home to Al-Jazeera and extremist imam Qaradawi, said to be one of the most influential imams in the Middle East, and someone who has been calling for the overthrow of the heretical regime in Damascus since March (if not earlier). To know what the people in Syria are facing, one must know Qaradawi and other extremists making similar, sometimes more grotesque, calls for armed conflict in Syria.
http://globalmbreport.org/?p=5237 (This site provides some information about Qaradawi and his connection to Qatar and the Syrian opposition)
In a recent article on Afghanistan, Michelle Grattan writes, “As distinct from the support at its start, the Afghanistan conflict is now a war that belongs to the politicians, not to the Australian people. But there is no political path to turn sharpening public concern about it into real pressure on the government.”
Syrian people tell me they fear another “Afghanistan” in their country. While our soldiers make sacrifices to help the nation building in Afghanistan, Syrians fear their nation will be torn apart by war brought to their door by outsiders.
I pray that you can give this matter attention before you speak to President Obama this week. I have cc-ed a long list of people (I wish it could be longer); many people on the list, I do not know and have had no contact with. However, I believe the Australian public should be aware of a possible decades long conflict looming in Syria; if war does eventuate there, it will have repercussions on our shores. Already, there are divisions within the Arabic community in Australia and radical elements are feeling empowered.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a hero of yours. This is another moment in history for heroes. http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/rudd-has-got-to-live-up-to-his-words/2006/12/05/1165080941257.html
Images of Aussie supporters of peaceful reform in Syria