The creation of 'terrorists'


The Cutting Edge: The Raid
SBS Television
Tuesday, October 3, 8.30pm (8 SA)
Reviewed by Jenny Long
The debate around flag burning, and the implicit questioning of the rights of East Timorese to demonstrate against the Indonesian occupation of their country, have raised a number of issues of democratic rights and multiculturalism. In this climate, Barbara Chobocky's film on events surrounding the raid on the Iranian embassy by a group of protesters in 1992 is timely and pertinent.

On April 6, 1992, what was to be a peaceful demonstration by a small group of Australian Iranians, many of whom were political refugees from the Khomeini regime or the previous US-backed shah, got out of hand. The protesters entered the embassy, ransacking the building and clashing with embassy staff.

Media reports, and comments by politicians and judges turned the incident into something it was not. Reports of "a major terrorist attack" by "mujahedin extremists" grossly exaggerated the event. Government leaders branded the incident as un-Australian political violence. The crown prosecutor, Ian Coghlin QC, opposed bail for the 11 people charged, describing their actions as political violence imported from overseas.

The Raid examines in detail the reasons for the demonstration — an Iranian bombing raid on a camp of dissidents in Iraq, initially reported to have killed 1500 people — which were totally overshadowed at the time. She looks at the response from the police, the media, politicians, and the judiciary, which involved racial and religious stereotyping, attacks on the democratic and human rights of migrants and refugees and Australian government collusion with the embassy of the Iranian regime, with which Australia has a significant trading relationship.

Best of all, the film interviews many of those charged giving the background of their experiences at the hands of either the shah's or mullahs' regime. By allowing us to "meet" the people involved, the whole notion of multiculturalism becomes more than a Labor Party buzzword. As the lawyer representing the protesters, Terry O'Donnell, explains, it is absurd to expect migrants and refugees to disown their experiences — including jail and torture — and concerns about family and friends remaining behind. Not to be missed.