March 15 House statement by Golriz Ghahraman

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Al Salaam Aleykum.

We remember the day three years ago, when our nation’s heart was broken. My heart was broken.

The wound is still fresh, as we remember the 51 shuhuda, all those still living with harrowing injuries, their whanua and loved ones. We wrap our arms around the survivors, our Muslim community across Aotearoa, and the Ōtautahi Christchurch. As we did then, at vigils, we held our little ones a little tighter as we remembered that little Mucad Ibrahim at three years old, the youngest victim.

We recall that the city of Dunedin ran out of flowers that Saturday. They were all at the mosque.

That is the New Zealand which welcomed me and my family when we fled oppression, the risk of torture, after we had lived through war.

And I want to thank every single New Zealander who held true to our values of love and inclusion, more than ever over the past three years. You are on the right side of history. It matters to our frightened communities.

I will never forget that a Syrian refugee family were among the victims of this terror attack. Like my family, they escaped the unthinkable and found freedom here. They came here to be safe. They died in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The terrorist who murdered them hated refugees, hated them as Muslims.

We owe those victims more than remembrance. We owe them the truth. And we owe them after all this time, action. Changing our gun laws was a good start, but that ignores that this was a hate crime- particularly targeting a marginalised group. There are systemic causes at play and we know them now.

Since then we have had a Royal Commission inquiry.

Here’s what we know.

We know this was terror. It was committed by a white supremacist. It went unchecked because police and our national security agencies didn’t prioritise white nationalist threats as real or urgent enough. The SIS certainly continues to fail in that. Our justice system and policing still operates to target Maori far more than Far Right violence.

We know, that begins with hate speech, as it did, allowed to spread here online. History, and this terror attack, has taught us that hate speech begets atrocity and we are behind in protecting against that.

We know our Muslim and ethnic communities had been reporting hate crimes for years, without recourse- because ‘hate crimes’ aren’t in our Crimes Act. Even real threats of gun violence targeting race, gender, religion – go unchecked.

I know it as my daily truth, as a politician perceived to be Muslim, known to be a refugee. I’ve spoken about the threats I receive, of gun violence, death threats, calls for shotguns to be loaded. Every minority in New Zealand knows this truth – from our Muslim whanua, Maori, our East Asian and Pasifika communities as the racist Covid scare hit, to our Rainbow community, trans women, our disability communities and women in online spaces- snapping eventually into real life violence.

As leaders, we have to stop, and listen.

The truth is that this is a global phenomenon – disinformation deliberately spread, eventually radicalising and making us all unsafe – we can no longer depend of the good will of online platforms to police themselves. Facebook doesn’t care about hate speech that hurts our marginalised communities. Twitter doesn’t care. Google and YouTube only removed his video of terror when they were forced.

The violence and vitriol of the recent protests outside Parliament – with elements of far-right hate, with signs of White Supremacy, taking advantage of disillusion, grifting disinformation – is a perfect example of that.

The Royal Commission told us we need hate speech laws, we need hate crime defined. NZ Police wants that.

That work is overdue. It is time our government acted as it promised to do. That is what compassion looks like.

We know too that what allows hate against our Muslim community, our ethnic and indigenous communities, is more insidious. It’s in media portrayals. It’s even in our own response as politicians when war or crisis happens. In who we sanction, who we shelter and help.

Our refugee quota has been mostly closed for the duration of pandemic. Refugees and the family reunification programme have not been fulfilled as the crises around the world have waged.

Today we call on our Government to commit to filling our refugee quota- including the numbers left behind since 2020, including families ripped apart by war and oppression in the name of the March 15 Shuhadah.

As we rightly fight to help Ukrainian refugees displaced by war – and it’s good to see the opposition support this one group of refugees – let’s remember to act evenly for Afghanistan, Palestine, Myanmar, Yemen, Syria, and Hong Kong. They too have been the victims of extremism, racism, war, and oppression. Covid has only made the plight of refugees, including refugees of colour, more difficult.

So, Aotearoa says once again: Refugees are welcome here. That is what inclusion could look like.

The truth is that we, as politicians – and I mean on both sides of this House – are responsible for humanising our ethnic communities.

Our most vulnerable communities are hurt.

The people at those incredible vigils, three years ago, are watching. They will hold us to account. Their acts of love, their resolve, is the standard we have to hold ourselves to from now on.

We must show the rest of the world that love, peace, and compassion is a far stronger force than the forces of hate and division. We must shine the light into the shadows of racism and hatred that exist in pockets of our society- and act, really act against them. We must weave the incredible outpouring of love for our Muslim and migrant communities that we have seen over the last few year into the enduring fabric of our society.

Kia hora te marino.

May peace be widespread.

Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana.

May the ocean become like pounamu.

Aroha atu, aroha mai.

Give love, receive love.

Tātou ia tātou katoa.

Let us show respect for one another.

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