I was having lunch with a friend of mine when news of the Sydney Siege hit the television screen.
My friend and I watched in disbelief at what was unfolding in Martin Place.
When I got home, I immediately threw on the TV and had the commentary going on in the background trying to make sense of this senseless act.
Tuesday morning I was up at 5am, unable to sleep for fear of what those poor victims were going through. It was then that I, and all Australians, learned that the siege was in fact over. I also learned that two people, plus the gunman, had lost their lives. The sadness I felt was awful.
As the day unfolded it became evident that the gunman was working alone. Whilst he called himself a muslim, his religious convictions seemed to be all over the place, calling himself a Sikh at one point, a cleric at another. The muslim community had long since washed their hands of him. And whilst he had called for an Isis flag to be delivered, it was clear that he had no affiliation with any terrorist organisation.
Yet Tony Abbott said that he was going to convene the Australian Security Commission. Why?
To garner fear.
This is what we know about Man Haron Manis, the gunman:
He was a 50 year old man who had a long history of violence. He arrived in Australia under political asylum in 1996 from Iran. He had been charged with 22 counts of aggrevated sexual assault, 14 counts of indecent assault, was out on bail over the murder of his ex-wife whom he and his current partner had set alight in a stairwell. And now two people are dead at his hands after the siege last night.
This is not the act of a terrorist. This is the act of an extremely violent man, who had been released into the general population.
Tony Abbott himself said that he wasn’t any terrorist watch list. That is because he wasn’t affiliated with any terrorist organisation.
Yet all the commentary about the incident on television and in the papers was aimed to whip up a sense of fear that we were under attack as a nation.
We weren’t and we aren’t.
These lone wolves are not terrorists in the mainstream sense of the word. They are men who are extremely violent. They are violent and unpredictable. And they exist in every society.
In the USA, it seems almost every year a lone gunman commits a mass shooting. They are not muslim, so they are not considered terrorists. In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed some 69 people in Norway, yet because he was an extremist christian, he wasn’t labelled a terrorist. When during his trial he was found not to be insane, he was said to have been delighted so that the world would know what he had done was with a sound mind.
And even so the Daily Telegraph, a paper owned by the fear mongering Rupert Murdoch, actually printed on the front page that Isis had taken 15 hostages in a death cult in the CBD.
I find myself asking two things.
Firstly, why on earth are we not focussing on how a deranged, violent man managed to get out on bail and acquire a gun. He had 36 counts of sexual assault against him and had murdered his ex-wife. His history of continued violence and clear mental instability was well known yet he was released. Who released him and why? Under what conditions? How on earth did this happen?
It happened because in this country domestic violence is not considered a priority. Between 2008 and 2010 over 122 domestic violent deaths were recorded, over 75 % of which were women. Domestic violence is the LEADING cause of death in women below the age of 45. Yet, this is not seen as a national crisis.
The cost to the country of domestic violence is around $13.6 billion. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey want to save us some money, how about passing laws that send a strong message that domestic violence is NOT okay.
Secondly, how is it that the press and politicians are at liberty to print and say what the hell they like even when it was made perfectly clear that this was not an attack affiliated with any terrorist organisation? Even during the siege the police commissioner was very careful to point out that this was the act of one lone man, that it was unclear if it was politically motivated and that they had little idea of his motivation, and when pushed to make a connection between this man and terrorism, she was quick to shut the journalist down.
Yet the terrorism fear mongering rhetoric continued.
Why is there no accountability? There is no accountability in how fear is struck in our hearts, there is no accountability for the release of a man who was violent and unpredictable.
We are not under attack as a nation from terrorism. We are under attack from a nation whose politicians are too weak to institute laws that will protect its women and children against violent crime. Who are too weak to institute laws that will send the clear message that if you beat and kill your woman-folk, you will be incarcerated, that violence is absolutely not acceptable. And it is because of that weakness that Man Horan Manis was released on bail. It is because the law was so weak that he was able to gain access to a gun and walk into the Lindt cafe and take hostage 17 people. It is because of this, and this alone that two people are dead.
Please, please do not buy into the notion that we are under a terrorist threat, not in this case.
The threat is in our own country. It is called domestic violence and it continues every single day and until we make a stand, pass stringent laws against it, it will continue and the possibility of what happened yesterday, whilst completely extreme and unusual, will continue.
Make a stand. Call for a change to laws on domestic violence and protection for women and children.