SHAFAQNA – Sydney University, one of Australia’s most prestigious universities, witnessed in Sydney, on 18th-19th of April, the “After the War on Syria: Imperialism, Independence, & Human Rights”, organized by The Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies and the Political Economy Society (CCHS).
The Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies (CCHS) was formed in early 2016 after concern that many western academic bodies constrain, censor and marginalize counter-hegemonic or anti-imperial research and discussion, due to their close ties with government and corporate sponsors. The CCHS is managed by an Editorial Board whose members support the aims of the Centre and occasionally contribute with research and discussion Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Dr. Tim Anderson being the center’s director.
The two-day conference explored self-determination and imperialism in Syria and the wider region, corporate media presentations of the war, the ‘humanitarian war’ narrative, the geopolitical repercussions and the roots of the war on Syria at the New Law School campus. Several prominent speakers, academics, researchers and human rights advocates took part in the “After the War on Syria” conference. The participants had submitted earlier on March 15, 2017 their abstracts and those who were granted preliminary acceptance were asked to take part in presenting their future plan of work during the two-day conference.
The first day of the conference featured several prominent speakers and contributors like Jay Tharappel (USyd) who spoke about “Syria & the Confusion of the Western Left”. Mr. Tharappel’s paper sought to address the popularity of the “Syrian Revolution” by large sections of the organised western Left betrays prejudices that are firmly rooted in the political cultures of societies with a history of being the colonisers. Dr. Hatem el Zein (CQU) also presented his proposal about “The Conflict over the Future of Syria from Hezbollah’s Perspective: The Axis of Resistance at Stake” which aimed to review the reasons that embody a pretext for Hezbollah to engage in the Syrian war.
Karim Pourhamzavi (Mq U) was took part in the 1st session as well presenting a paper entitled ‘Trump’s administration and the future of jihad: the role and future of ‘Political Islam’ in the region’. Mr. Pourhamzavi’s paper focused on the geo-political rivalries between global and regional powers seem to have benefited the jihadist movements.
Maram Susuli and Paul Antonopoulos were also amongst the contributors in the 2nd session who respectively spoke about the “Balkanisation and ethnic cleansing in Syria and Iraq” and “Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman Imperial Ambitions on Syria”. Ms. Susli’s presentation examined how balkanisation plans benefit neo-colonial powers, how the plans are being implemented while side stepping the international laws protecting the integrity of sovereign borders, and finally the impact it is happening on the population of these countries. While Mr. Antonopoulos’s proposal explored the role that Neo-Ottoman imperial avidity has had in motivating and guiding Turkey’s Syria policy, and whether this is aligned with US ambitions in Syria and the wider region.
Marisa Della Gatta (Macquarie University) then finalized the 2nd session with her “Politics of fearfulness on Syrians: fears of sectarianism, Islamism and Islamophobia” paper outlining how sectarian feelings are formulated and implemented and what they represent in the power games of the Syrian conflict.
During the 3rd session of the first day, Nicholas al Jeloo (UMelb) presented a paper proposal about ‘After the War: Effects on Syria’s Cultural Diversity’ which dealt with issues pertaining to the human rights of Syria’s minorities, and the effect their self-determination would have on the country’s stability and territorial integrity, as well as the Syrian Opposition’s interaction with this diversity. I also had the opportunity to present my accepted proposal as a university instructor at (LIU) focusing about the ‘Transformation of the Axis of Resistance at the Syrian Crossroad’. Ultimately my paper endeavours to discuss the evolving visions and long-term plans of the axis of Resistance given that international negotiations have failed to establish a path forward for ending the war on Syria.
The 4rth session on the conference’s second day began with the prominent Dr. Drew Cottle (UWS) who presented the proposal of a paper which he will co-write along with Angela Keys (CSU) entitled ‘The Syrian war and the Strategic Logic of US Imperialism’s drive for global domination’. Dr. Cottle’s paper focused on the war by proxy waged by the United States against Syria cannot be understood in isolation and how it must be analysed in the geostrategic context of US imperialism’s quest for global domination. Dr. Cottle later in his presentation emphasized that whatever may be the final outcome of its proxy war on Syria, the US drive for global hegemony continues and reaches beyond the Middle East. Its proxy war against Syria is a regional component of its escalating confrontations with Russia and China for the conquest of the resource-rich Eurasian landmass.
Dr. Tim Anderson (USyd) was next to present ‘The human rights industry during humanitarian war’ paper which focused on how the humanitarian war, based on the neo-imperial doctrine of ‘the responsibility to protect’, has helped drive an expansion of government and corporate funded human rights NGOs. Dr. Anderson reiterated that these groups are mostly embedded with the diplomatic arms of western states and have helped market the human face of recent Middle East wars, particularly the proxy wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
In the last and 5th session Suzan Hanna presented her paper about ‘The mirage of sovereignty and the ‘white man’s burden’: The role of media in the modern imperialism of Syria’ which focused on the media’s narrative on Syria ignores Syria’s legal right to sovereignty, ignoring the legal complexities of the crisis, the media propagates the Western narrative. Ms. Hanna was then followed by Dr. Therese Taylor (CSU) whose paper focused on the ‘Syrian Gay Girl Blogger – the politics of a cyber-hoax’ explaining the origins of the hoax and the tactics used both by the perpetrator and those who discovered him and the creation of internet identities, the use of female figures as ideal victims, and the infiltration of propaganda into cyber-media information networks.
A young student from (ANU) Tianna Sukkarieh made a special impact with her paper: ‘How have the western and corporate media presented this war? Western Media and the Syrian MacGuffin’. Being an 18 year old student, Tianna turned heads for her spectacular presentation about how the corporate media landscape has deceived and manipulated the majority of Western discourse regarding Syria, particularly through the ‘lenses’ of; ‘selective sentiment’, with a case study on the liberation of Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army.
It is also worth noting that the first day of the conference featured Pola Fanous also a 19 year old student who presented an ‘Overview of the war and a poem’ speaking to “Mr. War” and discussing ‘ignorance’ as a weapon of mass destruction in contemporary warfare while focusing on the role of propaganda in maintaining public ignorance, and the foremost propaganda tactic being utilised by western media: subversion and substitution.
The conference, which had attracted negative Australian media over the course of the last couple of weeks prior to the conference resulted in a notable number of attendees which obliged the organizers to book a larger room for the 3rd session of the 1st day.
The Syria conference then concluded its activities on the evening of Wednesday April 19 with the following four resolutions:
- Attendees support the self-determination of the Syrian people; only they can determine the fate of Syria,
- Attendees call on the Australian Government to withdraw all military presence and action from Syria, without request from and permission of the Syrian Government,
- Attendees demand that the Australian Government drops all economic sanctions on Syria, as they only exacerbate the suffering of the Syrian people,
- Attendees demand that the corporate and state media tell the truth about Syria.
The conference finally called for a social media site, to be called Australians for Syrian Sovereignty in support of the independence and sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.
By Marwa Osman for Shafaqna