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‘Stop calling Triple Zero’: Police investigate SA road incident which left Syrian family terrified

Radwa Alobaid with her family (L), and her alleged attacker reaching towards the car (R) Source: Radwa Alobaid

South Australia Police are investigating a traffic incident where a man attempted to gain entry into a Syrian family’s car before they were told by an emergency operator to “stop calling” in the event’s aftermath.

Syrian-Australian Radwa Alobaid says she was "succumbed with fear" during an incident in Adelaide where a man hurled racial abuse at her and her seven children before attempting to enter the car they were travelling in. 

The incident occurred on the night of September 25, while the family travelled along the busy Salisbury Highway.


Highlights:

  • South Australia Police are investigating a traffic incident where a man attempted to enter the car of a Syrian family.
  • The family says they called Triple Zero three times for help.
  • A police operator tells the family to "stop calling" Triple Zero, according to an audio recording.

Noticing a Toyota sedan behind them sounding its horn, Mr Alobaid says she continued until stopping at a red light in a right turning lane.

It was then when she says two men got out of the sedan and began hurling abuse at the family.

In a video of the latter stages of the incident taken by one of Mrs Alobaid’s daughters, which has been seen by SBS Arabic24, two men can be seen approaching the family’s vehicle, before one man attempts to gain entry. 

"If it wasn't for my eldest child's quick thinking by locking up the car, he would've been able to open my door," Mrs Alobaid says.

One of the men can be heard uttering the word "Muslim" before Mrs Alobaid drives away, and she believes her family was targeted because some members wear the Hijab.

She says the incident left the family feeling "stressed and very afraid" but the ordeal wasn't over.

Mrs Alobaid suffers from arthritic medical conditions which affect her nerve cells and trauma caused by the war in Syria, and she was unable to continue driving following the incident and decided to pull over. 

She says her daughters made three calls to Triple Zero.

In an audio recording of the third call heard by SBS Arabic24, Mrs Alobaid’s daughters explain to a police operator that they were “scared” and “hiding” and that they required assistance as their mother was unable to drive home. 

The operator explains that the police were “very busy tonight" tending to "other people who have emergencies”, before indicating that the family “needs to be patient” and to perhaps drive themselves home.

The two-way dialogue begins to deteriorate as the operator asks the distressed children to “calm yourselves down”, before indicating that she was “hanging up” before instructing them to "stop calling" Triple Zero. 

An ambulance took Mrs Alobaid to the hospital, where she was joined by her husband.

The following morning, she attended a police station to file an incident report and says the attending officer made an unexpected comment.

While explaining what had transpired the night before, she says the officer said: "Why are you so upset? Muslims kill Christians where you come from all the time.” 

"I was left speechless, but my daughter had a response for them. She asked if they had seen this with their own eyes and know it for a fact? They said no," the mother explains.

When SBS Arabic24 contacted South Australia Police, a representative said both the road incident and the officer's comments were under investigation.

"I thought Australia was a multicultural country and I didn't expect to be treated this way. I wasn't going to sit there and take it and that's why I went to speak with [Salisbury deputy mayor] Chad Buchannan," Mrs Alobaid says.

Cr Chad Buchanan, Deputy Mayor of the City of Salisbury.
Cr Chad Buchanan, deputy mayor of the City of Salisbury.
Cr. Chad Buchanan

Mr Buchannan tells SBS Arabic24 that his LGA is a diverse and multicultural community.  

"We are fortunate to have a diverse CALD community, and by and large we are a tolerant and understanding community. Unfortunately, there is a minority of individuals who are unfortunately intolerant and sometimes blatantly racist," he says.

"Radwa is a natural community leader and an inspiration, not only for her community but the wider multicultural community. When Radwa informed me of her situation, I was horrified and really felt for her. As a local representative, I believe it’s essential for our migrant community to be able to have trust and faith in SAPOL.

"There should be stronger penalties for racial abuse and hate crimes. We are a nation built in migration and multiculturalism and we should have laws that protect our diverse community."

SBS Arabic24 reached out to one of the men identified in the video for comment but has not received a response.

Mrs Alobaid says in the end, she feels safe again because she was able to speak up about this incident and demand her rights.  

"I didn't succumb to the fear that was taught to us back home. Australia really is a country of justice and I hope other Arabs like me won't fail to instil this lesson on their children."

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