The Syrian civil war raises national security concerns for Australia, not only because a number of citizens have joined the insurgency (leading to the recent proscription of Jabhat al-Nusra) but because of local violence by supporters of both sides.
To help gauge the extent of this local violence, here is a list of the incidents reported in the media so far. These are the 17 reported incidents referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald today.
I’ve intentionally included as many incidents as possible to be as comprehensive as open sources allow. Most of the events involve serious violence (arson, assaults and shootings), but not all. Also, as this list is of events reported in the media, not proven events, it may turn out in a couple of cases that the reported incident did not occur. Some of the events may turn out to be regular criminal violence that was wrongly attributed to Syria-related sectarian tensions.
However, list also likely misses several incidents. Many crimes in general are not reported to police, many crimes reported to police do not get covered in the media, and many journalists have found that victims of this Syria-related violence have been afraid to talk. For these reasons I suspect the true extent of Syria-related violence in Australia is somewhat greater than this list suggests, particularly in Sydney.
The incidents are divided by the city they occurred in, then by the side of the conflict the perpetrator was likely on, and within those categories they are listed in chronological order.
Canberra. Pro-rebellion, February 2012: Up to forty men forcibly entered the Syrian Embassy and damaged property. [ABC]
Sydney. Pro-rebellion, February 2012: A Sydney man was shot immediately after a Facebook debate over the Syria conflict. [Global Mail; The Age; SBS; Sydney Morning Herald]
Sydney. Pro-rebellion, July 2012: Suspicious fire destroyed a Bankstown chicken shop, with the owner believing he was targeted because he was a Shia Muslim. [Global Mail; The Leader; Sydney Morning Herald]
Sydney. Pro-rebellion, August 2012: A fight outside a Sydney train station hospitalised an elderly supporter of the Syrian government. [ABC]
Sydney. Pro-rebellion, November 2012: Two men were arrested after alleged threats to a Shia mosque during Ashura. [Daily Telegraph; Adelaide Now]
Sydney. Pro-rebellion, throughout 2012: A Shia man who owned a juice shop, that was targeted in the Facebook page “Boycott Tyranny”, was assaulted and extorted. [Global Mail; Sydney Morning Herald]
Sydney. Pro-rebellion, April 2013: A Sydney man was assaulted on ANZAC Day by men he believed to be followers of convicted terrorist Belal Khazaal, who had been his neighbour. [Today Tonight]
Sydney. Pro-rebellion, May 2013: Jamal Daoud, an opponent of the Syrian insurgency, was punched in front of Today Tonight cameras. [Today Tonight]
Sydney. Side unclear, August 2012: Four shootings in quick succession were reported as having possible links to the Syria conflict. [ABC]
Melbourne. Pro-rebellion, March 2012: A petrol bomb attack was carried out against a Turkish Alawite centre in North Coburg. [Global Mail; The Age]
Melbourne. Pro-rebellion, date unclear but early to mid 2012.: An Alawite man was attacked in the street by six men. [The Australian]
Melbourne. Pro-rebellion, date unclear but early to mid 2012: Suspicious fire destroyed an Alawite prayer room in Greenvale. [The Australian; The Australian]
Melbourne. Pro-rebellion, November 2012: Armed men confronted and chased the Alawite owner of shop in Thomastown, telling him “we’re going to shut you down, you Alawite dog.” [The Australian; Today Tonight]
Melbourne. Pro-rebellion, date unclear: An Alawite Muslim’s house was firebombed. [Today Tonight]
Melbourne. Anti-rebellion, date unclear: Arson attack occurred against the car yard owned by the husband of Sonya el-Abbas, whose brother had died in Syria. [The Australian]
Melbourne. Anti-rebellion, date unclear: Another arson attack occurred against the car yard owned by the husband of Sonya el-Abbas, this time caught on tape. [The Australian; Today Tonight]
Melbourne. Anti-rebellion, date unclear: Drive by shooting attempt against the house of Sonya el-Abbas. [The Australian]
Feel free to send any incidents I may have missed, with sources.
Pingback: Check out my new piece co-authored with Phillip Smyth at Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel: ” The Vocabulary of Sectarianism” « JIHADOLOGY