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NSW police issues apology statement to “Exercise Pantograph” (NSW Police)

NSW Police have apologised after a counter-terrorism simulation sparked uproar among Australia's Arabic community for their portrayal of ‘fake terrorists’ who were wearing Palestinian head scarves during the exercise.

By
May Rizk, Heba Kassoua
Published on
Monday, October 23, 2017 - 15:24
File size
2.94 MB
Duration
6 min 25 sec

Footage released by New South Wales Police of a counter-terrorist training exercise conducted at Sydney's Central railway station was heavily criticised on SBS Arabic24's Facebook page for portraying 'fake terrorists' wearing Palestinian head scarves. 

NSW Police Force Media Liason Officer, Tarek Al Issawi, told SBS Arabic24 police carry out these operations to keep skill levels current and to help people feel safe and secure.

"In no way were we trying to stereotype any members of the community, and any offence caused is unintended.”

 

In regard to the community feedback, they issued the following statement:

“In relation to Exercise Pantograph, there was a significant operational need for the officers involved to have their identity concealed. The apparel the officers were wearing was purchased from an Army disposal store a number of years ago as 'jungle and desert coloured' camouflage.

"We conduct these exercises to enhance the skills of our officers and help the community and commuters feel safe."

"In no way were we trying to stereotype any members of the community, and any offence caused is unintended.”

The footage showed officers posing as two terrorists running through Central Station acting as though they were stabbing victims and shooting them.

The 'fake terrorists' were shown wearing a ‘Palestinian Keffiyeh': a chequered black and white scarf worn on the head and neck, which is a well-known symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

The criticism from the community was swift.

One person who commented on SBS Arabic 24's Facebook page was Abu Sanad Munier, Head of the Palestinian Federation of Workers, who wrote: “We are for making Australia a safe country, but we reject the distortion of the Palestinian Keffiyeh, that is symbolic of the Palestinian struggle."

"We wonder if this step constitutes a prelude to the banning of the Keffiyeh, and what will the Australian society perception be if I wear it on the street?"   

Facebook follower Walid Alsaadi commented: “This is a distortion of the Arab and Islamic community."

"When wearing the Keffiyeh for a re-enactment scene this means that the government is against the Arabic community and are accusing us of terrorism. This is ultimate racism towards our community".

Following enquiries from SBS Arabic24 - Police confirmed they got many complaints about the use of the Keffiyeh.

Tarek Al Issawi says “Using the scarf was only to conceal the identity of undercover officers, we confirm we didn’t have any intention to defame or abuse any part of the society and if anyone felt offended we are sincerely apologetic. It definitely wasn’t intentional."

Listen to Tarek Al Issawi's full interview (in Arabic) with SBS Arabic 24 in the audio player above.

Listen to SBS Arabic24 live here.

Related:
Police conduct dramatic terror training at Sydney train station
Footage shows New South Wales Police practising for a major terror attack at Central station.