Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman in Aotea Square. Photograph: Todd Henry

Golriz Ghahraman: This is not the New Zealand that welcomed me

History has shown us time and again how atrocity begins with cheap opportunistic hate speech against minorities. It has to stop in New Zealand, now, said refugee and MP Golriz Ghahraman in a speech at the Aotea Square rally on Saturday. Below, an edited transcript

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga karangatanga maha. Tena tatou katoa.

Our nation’s heart is broken. My heart is broken today.

But from the bottom of my Kiwi, refugee, migrant, heart, I want to thank you. Thank you for being on the right side of history today. It matters. It matters to our community.

We are hurt. We are in shock. And we are scared. They want us dead. Our Nanas, our Granddads, our Mums and Dads, our little kids. We learnt that on Friday for sure, but for some of us that hate that led to the violence yesterday in Christchurch, we’ve felt it out there on the street for years.

That hate, it isn’t the New Zealand who welcomed me and my family here as asylum seekers all those years ago. I will never forget that. I was nine years old. I remember the fear. It was palpable. Going down that escalator at Auckland Airport, we knew that if we were turned back the unthinkable was possible. We had escaped oppression of the worst kind. Torture. We’d seen a war. That is what refugees are made of.

But we weren’t sent back. We were welcomed here, and I remember now and will remember always that yesterday in that mosque a Syrian family, just like us, were gunned down after surviving the war in Syria. They survived that war, but they were killed in Christchurch, New Zealand.

That isn’t the New Zealand that welcomed me but it is New Zealand today. It’s part of who we are, and we have to fix that, starting by acknowledging that we have to fix it.

We owe them the truth. This was terrorism. It was an act of terror. And it was an act of terror committed by white supremacists. It was an act of terror that had been planned for some time by white supremacists. The killer had the words “UN Migration Compact” written on his gun.

I know that every time I walk into a room or on to the stage I do that as a refugee, as the first refugee MP in New Zealand, as a woman of colour, as a woman from the so-called “Muslim World”.

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From the moment I said I was going to stand as candidate, from the moment I said I might be someone who might deserve to take part in the democracy here I’ve been receiving the hate and violence online. I remember that they said “it’s time to load our shotguns” when I announced my candidacy.

I receive all of your love and it helps so much, but I do want to acknowledge that there’s also the hate and it always has been there. I said it in my maiden speech and I want to say it again here today. We have to hold people to account. From the trolls on the internet, right up to the people who sit in the House of Representatives with me, or on our TV screens. Every time they use the politics of hate and division and xenophobia we have to hold them to account.

Because we feel it out there on the street. We can’t shed our skin, so they have to stop and we have to stop them. Every time they weaponise the concept of “free speech” to lie about us, to scapegoat us, we know where that ends. We learned it on Friday, and history has shown us time and again how atrocity begins with cheap opportunistic hate speech against minorities. It has to stop in New Zealand, now.

I do want to say that the fact that you are all here today makes me believe that we will stop them. The fact that you are here today speaks to the strength and the goodness of New Zealand’s values. I thank you.


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