Posted by Sam.D. from proxy1.eburwd1.vic.optushome.com.au (220.127.116.11) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 at 1:18PM :
David Chibo and myself today were given the opportunity to put an Assyrian spin on Australia's involvement in the war on terrorism in a meeting convened by the Australian Democrats Party in Melbourne, Australia. Other speakers included:
Senator Lyn Allison
Mr. Michael O'Connor, Australian Defense Force Association
Anna Skarbek, Victorian President, Amnesty International
Mr. David Lyon, Consulate-General of the United States of America to Melbourne
Ms Nourie Salehi, Afghan Women's Association
We started with a tried and tested 'hello and thank you' type intro and a definition of who, what and where Assryians come from. We then moved on to issues such as burning of churches both here and the U.S. Of Assyrians being thrown off flights. Of racial profiling by our 'protect and serve' police force, including their increased interest in anyone remotely middle eastern in appearance(and thereby obviously a potential terrorist). Our guilt by association. We mentioned also that although many Assyrians had settled and had been living in Australia for many many years, some were being looked at on buses or trains as though for the first time. With the kind of prolonged stare we reserve for freaks or possibly even suspected terrorists. We spoke of our community's abhorrence to violence and terror, be it commited by radical religious elements..... or 'rogue super powers' (do you know of many of those?). We brought the argument around to the U.S. stand on Iraq and the 'axis of evil' threats by mister George 'dubya' himself. Actually the topic was first broached by Sen. Lyn Allison, but we saw that as not being reason enough not to re-surface the issue. We argued that if the intention was to revisit the horrors of the gulf war on the Iraqi people, even after starving and depriving them for the last 12 years, then we, as a participating nation, MUST fulfill our responsibilities to the orphans, widows and displaced peoples which will come about as a result of these actions. I am rather pleased to say that it appeared that not only is the political party's official stand on this issue most pleasing, but the feeling from the party faithful also gave hope that maybe not EVERYONE is the sucker the other two major parties, Labour and Liberal, take us for. There is the glimmer of reason and humanity which offers some hope yet.
Mr. David Lyon had his 15 minutes of glory with what amounted to a regurgitation of tripe already dished to us by the mainstream media about right and wrong, good and evil, thank you our good Aussie friends, blah blah.
Mr. Michael O'Connor from the Defence Force Association gave us a dictionary definition of 'terrorist' and then proceeded to say much about nothing. He then took the opportunity to kiss David Lyon's bottom most profusely.
Anna Sharbek from Amnesty International had her speel about humanitarianism and other stuff. To be honest, I sorta forgot exactly everything she said. She went on for a while. Something about a letter available from the Amnesty International website which we could circulate to all our political representatives detailing our displeasure with some of the liberty eroding bills being considered in parliament. And some other things like torture and things I forgot.
Ms Nourie Salehi, though, really surprised and impressed more than anyone. She gave an incredibly enthralling talk about Afghanistan, where and how it was before and what it had become now. She gave a timeline detailing who did what to whom and who helped do it. She didn't pull any punches in highlighting the U.S. involvement in much of the misery which befell her people and country, and of the abandonment thereafter. She also made mention of Osama's golden boy image to the United States while he was fighting the soviets and the subsequent backflip to demon when he turned on them. She spoke with passion unmatched by anyone else there. I must say I was most impressed by her. She has actually opened a technical school in Afghanistan teaching basic trade skills to her people to help get things happening again. This is REAL activism. We would do well with a few of he type amongst our suspicious and green eyed rabble.
Anyway, the overall result was most positive. I'm hoping this will be the first of many instances where we are able to take our views to the people and open their eyes. If we did nothing more today than make these people aware of who we are, then it is one step further than we were yesterday. I believe we acheived a little more though.
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