New Zealand’s response to the March 15 terrorist attack was the opposite to what the gunman had hoped to achieve with his actions.
This statement was delivered in the High Court in Christchurch by Hashmat Lafraie? on behalf of the Muslim community, and was the last of 91 victim impact statements presented over three days at the sentencing of Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29. The terrorist will be sentenced on 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of committing a terrorist act.
Lafraie said the Muslim community was overwhelmed by the sympathy and humanity shown towards them after the March 15 shootings. The response of New Zealanders showed the community there was hope for a country devoid of racism and hate.
“He did not know us or our country.”
However, there were many negative consequences from the March 15 attack.
“Because March 15 was a racially and religiously motivated attack, people belonging to different faith communities as well as migrants and refugees of non-European background reported fear in carrying out everyday tasks, in being in public places, in having outward expressions of their faith, and in being in religious or cultural places,” Lafraie said.
Intense media attention placed even more pressure on the already traumatised community, he said.
While the full impact of the terror attack was still being studied, many organisations reported seeing a deterioration in the mental health of their communities.
Lafraie said teenagers and young adults were particularly at risk. Cashmere High School reported several students saw the live-stream of the shooting, some before they knew what they were watching.
There had also been an emboldening of white supremacist activity online and on social media, and Lafraie said a consistent stream of hate mail and death threats was directed to Muslim organisations.
The terror attack also had a significant financial impact on many communities, particularly regarding security and public and governmental engagement.
“It is difficult to quantify the impact but it will run in to tens of thousands of dollars,” he said.
Judge acknowledges victim’s courage
As Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah walked to the front of the court to deliver his statement, he looked at the gunman and said: “You know this face. The one who chased you out.”
Wahabzadah chased the gunman from the Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15, 2019, and threw a firearm the gunman had dropped at the terrorist’s car, shattering one of the back windows.
He repeatedly called the shooter a coward, saying he did not fear him on the day of the attack.
Wahabzadah said that when he threw the firearm at the gunman’s car, he saw fear in the gunman’s eyes.
“He gave me the finger and he said: I will f…… kill all of you.”
Before Wahabzadah left the podium, Justice Cameron Mander praised him for his bravery on the day of the terror attack.
“I have seen the video and I want to acknowledge your courage,” the judge said as other victims in court applauded.
Wasseim Sati Ali Daragmih and his daughter, who was 4 at the time of the shooting, were found with gunshot wounds on a footpath outside the mosque.
Daragmih was shot multiple times in his abdomen, hip and buttock.
He told the gunman on Wednesday that he and his daughter “fortunately survived because you don’t know how to use a gun”. The remark elicited a smile from the gunman.
Daragmih told the shooter his attempt to destroy the Muslim community had failed. They were stronger and more determined than ever.
“Your heart has led you to such a lonely and miserable place where you deserve to go,” Daragmih said.
“I actually came [here] today just to enjoy and laugh that you are sitting in the dock and [I am] enjoying my freedom. And that is where you deserve to be.”
Seham El Wakil was praying with her husband, Ashraf El-Moursy Ragheb, when the gunman entered the Masjid An-Nur and started shooting worshippers.
She ran outside, then to a nearby house when she saw the gunman emerge from the mosque and start shooting at people outside. There was no answer, so she hid in the garden with other women from the mosque. One held a hand over a crying child’s mouth as she feared the shooter would hear them.
El Wakil later found out Ragheb had been killed inside the mosque.
In a statement read on her behalf, El Wakil said she was told Christchurch was a peaceful and quiet city when she moved to New Zealand in 2014 but that all changed last year.
Sazada Akhter, 26, was left paralysed after being shot in the back during the attack. She became emotional while her statement was being read and had to be wheeled out of the court.
In her statement, Akhter described how she spent nine days in a coma, a month in intensive care, and six months in hospital. When doctors told her she would never walk again, she questioned if life was worth living. She could not close her eyes for weeks as she kept reliving the trauma of the attack all over again.
She said her injuries left her with numerous physical problems that she would likely have for the rest of her life. Her dream of having a baby with her husband, Mohammed Mashud, had been shattered.
“While you spend your life in prison, please think of what you have done to me and my community,” she said.
In a statement read on behalf of Mashud, he said he heard his wife crying at night and knew she would need help for the rest of her life.
He had not been able to work since the attack due to his own emotional and physical trauma.
“My life is now very different and it is very difficult for us,” he said.
Rahima Khatun, the mother of 36-year-old Mohammad Omar Faruk who was killed in the attack, had a statement read on her behalf. Faruk’s baby daughter was born after he was killed in the Masjid An-Nur.
“I miss not knowing who she is and how she is growing up. I miss not having my son able to tell me about his child,” Khatun said.
Jibran Safi, whose father Matiullah Safi was killed, spoke with anger as he called the gunman “a pathetic human being”.
Safi said the terrorist had only managed to make the Muslim community more visible to the world and had showed New Zealand how important a diverse society was.
He banged angrily on the podium as he called the shooter a “big, fat loser”.
“You will not be remembered. You are nobody. You will rot in jail alone. You will get what you deserve.”
‘Heinous acts’ brought community together
Zekeriya Tuyan was the 51st victim to die from injuries he sustained in the terror attack. His widow, Hamimah Tuyan, travelled more than 8500 kilometres in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic to see her husband’s killer sentenced.
Tuyan, who now lives in Singapore with the couple’s boys aged 11 and 5, spent two weeks in managed isolation before giving her victim impact statement on Wednesday.
“No amount of money can bring back the father of my sons and my husband. I am now forced to figure out how to forge ahead on my own,” she said.
“He was my bodyguard, my entertainer, my problem-solver, my comforter and my best friend.”
She said her 5-year-old son’s friends would ask him where his father was when they saw his mother picking him up from school. Tuyan told the court she saw the longing in her boys’ eyes when they saw their friends playing and laughing with their fathers.
“God says in the Quran whoever kills one innocent soul, it is as if he has killed the entire mankind. And you killed 51,” she told the gunman.
“Your heinous acts brought thousands of New Zealanders and millions of international communities together in solidarity with us, the affected families and survivors, vehemently denouncing your white supremacist ideology.”
She told the shooter it was his own fear and arrogance that led him to where he was today. She urged the court to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without parole so the gunman’s “last gasp” would be behind bars.
Victims tell gunman: ‘Hell awaits you’
When Khadra Ibrahim? spoke to her 3-year-old half-brother, Mucaad, on Facetime early last year, she promised she would soon travel from Australia to Christchurch to finally meet him in person.
She never got to fulfil her promise. Mucaad? Ibrahim was fatally shot when the gunman stormed into the Christchurch mosque where he was sitting with his big brother and father.
In a victim impact statement read on Khadra Ibrahim’s behalf, she said she was living in Australia and had only ever spoken to Mucaad over the phone and via video call.
Instead of flying to New Zealand to meet Mucaad in person, she did so to attend his burial.
Mucaad’s father, Aden Diriye?, was also shot multiple times in the attack. In a statement read to the court by his son, and Mucaad’s brother, Abdi Farah Aden Ibrahim, Aden said he would never forget how his son played in the mosque and made friends with every worshipper.
“Your atrocity and hatred did not turn out the way you expected,” he told the shooter. “Instead it has united our Christchurch community, strengthened our faith, raised the honour of our families and brought our peaceful nation together.”
The shooter sat expressionless as he listened to 28 more victim impact statements being delivered in court. He was told he “deserves to be buried in a landfill” and would suffer for eternity.
Haji Daoud Nabi?, 71, was standing at the entrance of the Al Noor Mosque on the afternoon of March 15 and welcomed the gunman with the words: “Hello, brother.” Then he was killed.
On Wednesday Nabi’s son, Ahad Nabi?, said his father was a strong leader and a great role model. “You physically hurt him but you gifted my father with becoming a martyr and he has now returned to Allah.”
Nabi called the shooter a “coward” and “gutless” and said he had not forgiven him. “Your father was a garbage man and you have become the trash of society. You deserve to be buried in a landfill.
“There is nothing heroic about shooting people from behind and those people not having a chance to defend themselves. While you are in prison, you will come to the reality that you are now in hell and only the fire awaits you.”
Mustafa Boztas?, who was shot in his leg inside the Al-Noor Mosque, told the shooter he was not human and not even an animal “since animals are beneficial to the world”.
Boztas previously told Stuff about the moment the shooter stormed into the mosque and how he lay still and pretended to be dead while he heard the shooting and screaming around him.
When he finally got up, he managed to break through a window that had a bullet hole in it, cutting his hand badly. Once outside, he saw a ladder leaning against a wall. He climbed over it, fell down the other side and hurt his shoulder as well.
The ordeal made Boztas decide to become a police officer to help others. His initial application to enrol for training was declined after police told him he was medically unfit because of the trauma of the shooting.
On Wednesday, Boztas said that while the shooter managed to get his name known, he would be remembered as nothing but “an insignificant killer who is lonely, scared and left behind to suffer for eternity”.
Night terrors, no sleep from the pain
Rahimi Ahmad?, 40, was struck by a bullet in his right hip as he ran to the entrance of the mosque during the attack. His 10-year-old son was with him at the mosque.
He had multiple surgeries to remove a bullet and shrapnel from his spine and spent a week in intensive care.
In his statement, which was read on his behalf on Wednesday, he said he experienced terrible pain for months after the attack and still had numbness in his right leg. He often went without sleep for days because of the pain. He had to learn to walk again and uses crutches to move around.
“I feel guilty that I brought my son to the mosque that day and I blame myself that he had to experience what happened,” Ahmad said. “I worry how this will impact him for the rest of his life.
“Sometimes I feel anxious that it might happen again when I am out in crowds. I returned to Friday prayers but not at the mosques because I feel that it could happen again. I only went back to the Deans Ave mosque once after the shooting but could not go back again, because it led to bad dreams and my wife said I scream out during the night.”
Sara Qasem?, 25, spoke in a strong, steady voice. “I am the daughter of a hero, the daughter of a shining, glimmering man, daughter of a light in our lives. Daughter of a martyr, Abdelfattah Qasem?. Remember that name.”
Abdelfattah Qasem was killed at the Masjid An-Nur, leaving behind his wife, Siham, and three daughters Dana, “Lulu” Rawan and Sara.
Sara Qasem said her father stayed at the mosque during the attack to help others rather than flee. “I wonder if he was in pain, if he was frightened and what his final thoughts were. And I wish more than anything in the world that I could have been there to hold his hand and tell him that it would all be OK. But I could not do that.”
Looking at the gunman, she told him she pitied him. “I urge you to take a look around this courtroom and ask yourself, who exactly is the ‘other’ here right now? Is it us or is it you? I think the answer is pretty clear.”
Hasmine Mohamedhosen? had a photo of her brother, Mohamed Moosid Mohamedhosen,? who was killed during the terror attack, in court with her. Looking at the gunman she said: “I want you to bring his face into your mind and have that stay there until the end of your life.”
Mohamedhosen described her brother as peaceful, generous, selfless and humble. In contrast she described the shooter as “the beast”.
She said her family had still not come to terms with the fact that her brother had been killed in New Zealand, a country they considered peaceful and safe. She finished her statement with strong words for her brother’s murderer: “Son of the devil, I wish you rot in hell in between the four walls of your cell for eternity.”
Wedaad Mohamedhosen?, Mohamed Moosid’s niece, called the shooter a “monster, a murderer, an ignorant, violent bigot and a person full of hate”.
She spoke about the last time she saw her uncle when she visited him in Christchurch a few months before the attack. “Today is about setting the record straight,” she said, looking at the shooter. “If you think you were torturing us mentally, guess what: We are all strong here and none of your tricks worked.”
Osman Ahmed?, a Somali father of three, was shot in the back during the attack and will always have fragments of the bullet in his body. In a statement read on his behalf, he said he had been unable to work since the attack which has caused significant financial hardship for his family.
He told the court how he heard gunshots and huddled with other worshippers in a corner of the mosque in fear. He remembered the pain and heat of the bullet hitting his back. “I saw a child die in the arms of his father. My brothers, who had moments before stood with me in prayer, were now lying lifeless on the floor.”