Al Jazeera Blogs


Asia

Syria tensions spill over to Australia

As fighting continues in Syria, tit-for-tat crimes within the Syrian community in Australia are becoming more frequent.
Last modified: 25 Jan 2013 04:30

Thank God for CCTV. 

Local newspapers in suburban Melbourne have, over the last few months, reported a number of minor attacks in the northern suburbs of the city.  

Compared with some of the horrors of the world, none seemed too serious; a man throwing a glass bottle of petrol – rag fuse lit - over a fence into a car-yard.  It did not properly explode. A car reversing at speed into the locked gates of a car-yard.  They failed to bust through the lock. One man prowling around his "target’s" house with what was reported to be a gun. He ran off when spotted by a neighbour who shouted.  

In the great scheme of things these are low-level skirmishes rather than examples of serious crime. Ordinarily, they would go largely unremarked, dismissed, mostly, as vandalism.   They would remain local newspaper stories. 

But I was intrigued by the pattern of these incidents, and reports of the tensions behind them.  

What I heard was that behind the string of tit-for-tat attacks were believed to be different factions of Australia's Syrian community, bringing to Australia the same rivalries and disputes that lie behind the civil war back home.

The trouble for making a TV report was that none of the attacks had left much of a permanent mark. What, on television, could I show? 

It was only when I went to see him that the owner of the car-yard mentioned that the most recent attack had been captured in full on his security cameras. The footage was the visual illustration I needed to be able to tell the story of intra-Syrian conflict in Australia. 

And there's another way in which the ripples of the Syrian are causing concern; Australia's security forces are increasingly concerned about Australians travelling to Syria. 

In some cases, it is suspected, to fight. 

How many is very hard to say. People do not declare at Sydney airport exactly where they are heading to or why. And most of the 100-300 Australians thought to be in Syria are probably there to help with humanitarian projects rather than to fight. 

But if any are there fighting, what are they learning? And who are they learning it from? The ripples of the Syrian conflict may travel. The Australian government does not want to wake up to an attack on home soil that began on foreign shores.