Victims of the Christchurch terror attack. (Photo: RNZ)

You have not broken us: The voices of the Christchurch mosque attacks

The victims and families of those who died in the Christchurch mosque shootings tell their stories. Compiled by Tim Brown for RNZ.

Warning: This story includes eye-witness accounts of the March 15 Christchurch mosque shootings.

On March 15 2019, evil entered two mosques in Christchurch and in just 15 minutes, 51 people lay dead or dying.

Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends were among them.

Their loss resonated around the world as they left behind 34 spouses, 92 children and more than 100 siblings – those who had to pick up the pieces of lives shattered and changed forever.

These are their stories

“I don’t go to the mosque so much now because I’m too scared to go there. It’s just too hard for me now because of the gun shooting that day and my best friend being shot dead there in front of me. This has changed everything in my life. I miss my best friend Matiullah – he was like a brother to me.”

Taj Kamran, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“Burying one dead friend is heartbreaking but imagine burying a one of a kind. A one of a kind that is my son Ata and 49 beloved brothers and sisters in one go. No words can describe what my heart experienced at that time and is still experiencing.”

Mohammad Alayyan, whose son Ata Elayyan was killed on 15 March 2019

“You took away not just the most amazing son, but the best father, husband, brother, friend, relative, neighbour, employer, team member, motivational speaker and a pious Muslim.”

Maysoon Salama, whose son Ata Elayyan was killed on 15 March 2019

“Eternal happiness only exists in the hereafter in the highest heavens where one day my daughter and I will be reunited with our beloved Ata. Until then I will carry the heavy weight of our dreams and daydream about the uncompleted trips and plan the goals I wanted to achieve with my love. Our daughter will live in the shadows of her beloved father. She will know him through her eyes, as she has his, through our love and the love everyone has for him. His legacy will live forever.”

Farah Kamal, whose husband Ata Elayyan was killed on 15 March 2019

“The first shots I heard made me turn and see the gunman enter. I witnessed fellow peaceful worshippers innocently gunned down. The gunman and I looked into each other’s eyes. I saw the moment when I was the target of his gun. I was shot nine times.”

Temel Atacocugu, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“Syed left behind myself and three children, all under five years of age.”

Amna Ali, whose husband Syed Jahandad Ali was killed on 15 March 2019

“We always celebrated our birthdays together, which are one day apart. I’ll never be able to wake up to his cheeky gifts or contagious smiles again. My best friend was executed in cold-blooded murder out of hatred.”

Aya Al Umari, whose brother Hussein Al-Umari was killed on 15 March 2019

“It was extremely painful to feel so helpless while watching your soulmate breathe his last breathe.”

Saira Patel, whose husband Musa Patel was killed on 15 March 2019

“The day of the shocking mosque shooting at Linwood Mosque was like living a nightmare with everything coming to a stop and life revolving just around that one phone call I received and those messages from my mum saying ‘We are about to die and love you all’.”

Irfan Patel, whose father Musa Patel was killed on 15 March 2019

“When I first got the news of the events of 15th March 2019 I was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. We were heartbroken and clueless as we did not have any information on him. Once on the news we even saw a picture of someone on a stretcher wearing the same jacket as the one Ozair had. Those moments were the most difficult ones in our lives.”

Kadir Habib, whose son Ozair Kadir was killed on 15 March 2019

“My parents and brother were the source of all emotional support, happiness and comfort for me. I used to visit my parents and stay with them in Pakistan regularly. The sudden death of all of them has really jolted me.”

Mariam Gul, whose parents, Karam Bibi and Ghulam Hussain, and brother Muhammad Zeshan Raza were killed on 15 March 2019

Mohammad Shamim Siddiqui (Photo: Stuff / Pool)

“You killed 51 people and injured so many who were there to attend Friday prayers. We have grieved as a community. We have cried along with those families that have lost loved ones and yes we are stronger and defy your actions of hatred. We still find New Zealand to be one of safest countries to live.”

Mohammad Siddiqui, who was shot on 15 March 2019

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what transpired and what took place was unjust, unfair and there was no right for anyone to interfere in our place in our peaceful prayer time. My brother’s three children now yearn for their father and continue life without their daddy.”

Zahid Ismail, whose brother Junaid Ismail was killed on 15 March 2019

“After the events of 15th March 2019 I don’t feel I have to hide my faith at work anymore. This has been a positive outcome for me. I have been more open in practicing my faith in the workplace … which was supported and respected by my colleagues.”

Raesha Ismail, whose brother Junaid Ismail was killed on 15 March 2019

“The shot went through my right underarm and fortunately back out again. I was screaming to Ibrahim and Mostafa to get out, as they were at the front of the mosque. I remember seeing the defendant spray his bullets at the men sitting on the seats at the rear of the prayer room and as you can imagine this was so traumatic for me.”

Salwa El Shazley, who was shot on 15 March 2019

Motasim Hafiz Uddin (Photo: Stuff/Pool)

“When the shooting started I remember I tried to get through a doorway into another room. It was then that I felt something, like a shudder, in my leg. I reached down and I saw and I felt the blood and the hole, and I knew I had been shot. I fell down. Someone else fell down near me and I saw people falling and being shot. I heard people calling for help.”

Motasim Hafiz Uddin, who was shot on 15 March 2019

My son now leaves this temporary world as a martyr. That’s a blessing that connects me more to God and helps me through life as I’m missing my son. I too was present in the mosque when so many lives left this temporary world by your hands. My survival comes as a great blessing and when I reflect on that day I’ve decided that I will live my life doing great things for our people and our community.”

Noraini Milne, whose son Sayyad Milne was killed on 15 March 2019

“As a parent no matter how old your children are they will still be your babies forever. Our children bring out the best and worse in us. Two days later I went with my wife Rosemary to the mortuary to view Tariq’s body and to identify him. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Tariq was lying on the table lifeless. I couldn’t hold back my tears even though I was trying so hard to be strong for my wife. The tragic sudden loss of my son Tariq has taken a huge toll on me. I couldn’t function properly for a long time.”

Rashid Omar, whose son Tariq Omar was killed on 15 March 2019

“I’m so proud to have him as my son. It’s good to remember the positives in Tariq’s life and not his tragic death and the circumstances surrounding that. But at times it’s very difficult to see any positives and even have the will to live.”

Rosemary Omar, whose son Tariq Omar was killed on 15 March 2019

“He was three or four metres from me when he went and shot at me, missing my head by one inch and it went into my shoulder. I didn’t move, I didn’t make any noise. It took all my strength to continue to play dead even though I had been injured. The shooter seemed to think I was dead and left me alone.”

Hazem Mohamed, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“My 71-year-old dad would have broke you in half if you challenged him to a fight, but you are weak. A sheep with a wolf’s jacket on.”

Ahad Nabi, whose father Haji Daoud Nabi was killed on 15 March 2019

Mustafa Boztas (Photo: Stuff / Pool)

“You will be remembered as a scared killer and nothing more. And, yes, without even your name. Just an insignificant killer who’s lonely, scared and left behind to suffer for eternity.”

Mustafa Boztas, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“As a family our lives have changed because now my wife has to do everything. Everyone relies on her and she is also worried about our financial situation because we don’t know how long ACC can cover me financially.”

Rahimi Ahmad, who was shot on 15 March 2019

Sara Qasem gives her statement (Photo: Stuff / Pool)

“I no longer feel safe in my own home, in my own country and I was always carry this heavy stone in my heart for a tragedy that was one tragedy too many. Though that aside with the aroha the beautiful people of Aotearoa have given us I can find pockets of hope and temporary freedom from this terror, this nightmare that we aren’t awakening from and I will always return to the reality that my beautiful father, Abdelfattah, is someone I can no longer speak to, hear or hug. All a daughter ever wants is her dad.”

Sara Qasem, whose father Abdelfattah Qasem was killed on 15 March 2019

“I have forgiven you Brenton. Even though you murdered my 14-year-old son Sayyad. Not a single bullet hit me. I wasn’t even there, but there was a huge hole in my heart which will only heal when I meet Sayyad again in heaven. I hope to see you there too Brenton and if you get the chance I would love you to say sorry to Sayyad. I’m sure he’s forgiven you too.”

John Milne, whose son Sayyad Milne was killed on 15 March 2019

“I want you to know you have not broken our society. You have made us even more visible as a Muslim community. You have made us even more visible globally on the map. You have shown New Zealand how important multiculturalism is. We are not broken because of your actions.”

Jibran Safi, whose father Matiullah Safi was killed on 15 March 2019

“You put bullets into my husband and he fought death for 48 days, 18 surgeries until his last breathe. My eldest son has only five years’ worth of memories with his father. My wee one much less, not enough.”

Hamimah Tuyan, whose husband Zekeriya Tuyan was killed on 15 March 2019

The terrorist who murdered 51 innocent worshippers on 15 March 2019 will be sentenced in the High Court today.

Where to get help:
Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Daily wellbeing actions from the Mental Health Foundation
Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing resources

This article first appeared on RNZ



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