Golriz Ghahraman’s refugee past

New MP Golriz Ghahraman is described on the Green website:

Middle Eastern feminism, Green activism and work in international justice have instilled a deep commitment to defending democracy for the most vulnerable.

Golriz is an Iranian-Kiwi refugee, lucky to escape war and persecution as a child.

At 35 she is also relatively young for an MP, immigrating here from Iran with her family as a 9 year old in 1990.

Golriz is promoted as “the first MP to have entered New Zealand as a refugee”, and this is covered in a profile at The Wireless.

She has become widely known as the first former refugee to run for New Zealand Parliament and, at only 35 years old, has made a name for herself as an Oxford graduate and human rights lawyer, working on high-profile cases such as this recent family carers case.

Ghahraman and her parents came to New Zealand as asylum seekers, as opposed to quota refugees. Where quota refugees often have their status as refugees determined before they reach their destination, asylum seekers must first travel to their destination and go through a legal process in order to be able to gain refugee status.

“Basically,” Ghahraman says, “the standard for refugee status is that you have to prove that you have a well-founded fear of persecution, based on one of the grounds in the Refugee Convention, [some of which are] nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, or political belief. So it’s actually quite limited and the standard is really high in terms of persecution, like, it can’t just be discrimination or something like that, it has to be that you’re facing torture or death or imprisonment.”

It was the “political belief” ground on which Ghahraman’s family sought refugee status. They had been opposed to the regime in a rather vocal way, which had ended up becoming dangerous for the family. Ghahraman tells a story about her mother, who had studied psychology, applying for jobs but refusing to sit the religious exam, and being vocal about it being an unethical requirement for work.

“All I remember growing up is people talking about how we needed to get out, and how our phones were tapped. The repression was really quite real… My parents were in the revolution trying to overturn the previous regime, and then they ended up with this far more oppressive regime.

So it’s kind of a tragic situation having this entire population or generation of people who are really engaged with democracy issues, and then suddenly the lid is really violently put on their movement.”

There have been and are tragic political and social situations all over the world. Accepting victims of them as refugees is something we should welcome and accept in New Zealand, where we are lucky to enjoy political and religious freedoms that billions of people don’t.

Golriz is a welcome (by me) addition to the diversity in New Zealand parliament. It won’t be easy, like any new MP she has a lot to learn. I hope she learns well and does well.

43 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  15th October 2017

    Sounds like she or her parents could give a cautionary story to the Lefties’ would-be revolutionaries. But will they? They overthrew the Shah and got the Ayatollah. Then they escaped and left the rest of their compatriots to suffer the consequences.

    • Blazer

       /  15th October 2017

      how did the Shah attain power…Al?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  15th October 2017

        You need me to find wikipedia?

        Mohammad Reza came to power during World War II after an Anglo-Soviet invasion forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah. During Mohammad Reza’s reign, the Iranian oil industry was briefly nationalized, under Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, until a US and UK-backed coup d’état deposed Mosaddegh and brought back foreign oil firms. Under Mohammad Reza’s reign, Iran marked the anniversary of 2,500 years of continuous Persian monarchy since the founding of the Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great – concurrent with this celebration, Mohammad Reza changed the benchmark of the Iranian calendar from the hegira to the beginning of the First Persian Empire, measured from Cyrus the Great’s coronation. Mohammad Reza also introduced the White Revolution, a series of economic, social and political reforms with the proclaimed intention of transforming Iran into a global power and modernising the nation by nationalising certain industries and granting women suffrage.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  15th October 2017

      I think that Golriz Ghahraman’s father is Shia, while her mother is a Sunni Kurd. Given the sectarian divide in the Middle East a mixed marriage would be a good reason to emigrate.

      The overthrow of the Shah was by both secular and religious, probably more secular in the major cities and religious in the countryside, so had both lefty and righty elements. Looks like the righties won.

  2. Blazer

     /  15th October 2017

    this…’the Iranian oil industry was briefly nationalized, under Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, until a US and UK-backed coup d’état deposed Mosaddegh and brought back foreign oil firms.’
    we want your oil..and we will take it,by hook or by…crook.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  15th October 2017

      The Shah fought the communists and the ayatollahs and got swept away by the religious lunatics. A sad day for many.

      • Fight4NZ

         /  15th October 2017

        Right lunatics swept away by ultra right lunatic fundamentalists. A sad day indeed.

        • Trevors_Elbow

           /  15th October 2017

          Why is ultra fundamentalist Shiaism a right of politics thing? Seems you are grasping for straws…..

      • Blazer

         /  15th October 2017

        he was the multi national oil companies glove puppet.

  3. CHRIS

     /  15th October 2017

    I think it is wrong for this woman to say she is a refugee. Her parents came here as refugees when she was 8. She didn’t come here on her own, did she?

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  15th October 2017

      I think it is fair enough. They came as asylum seekers fleeing religious persecution after a revolution. That makes her a refugee for me.

      • Gezza

         /  15th October 2017

        I’m not going to nag about this. Today. But in last night’s spat with Mefro you were positively childish Al – and against all the odds, I like you – so I don’t say that lightly. Your children would be embarrassed to see that.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  15th October 2017

          Mefro has a bit of an ego problem, G, which s/he tries to salve by lecturing people. Have you sorted out your scrap with Corky or are you playing diversion?

          • Gezza

             /  15th October 2017

            Mefro has an ego problem?
            Sorry for delay. I fell off the sofa laughing & bumped my head on the occasional table, as I went doen, knocking the FiP off and onto my left hip. It seems to be working ok though.
            What scrap with Corky?

            • Gezza

               /  15th October 2017

              * no – wait – the e & the w seem to have reversed 🤔

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  15th October 2017

              Ok, diversion then. Luckily you don’t have children to embarrass. (Which of course is a parent’s ultimate revenge.)

    • duperez

       /  15th October 2017

      She came with her parents to a land she was too young to realise, was peopled with the sorts of foibles of human nature found anywhere there are people. While the particular vagaries and manifestations of them whence she came, to those in her new country may have had marked differences, the pettiness and hatred were nonetheless similar.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  15th October 2017

      Splitting hairs.

    • Gezza

       /  15th October 2017

      “All I remember growing up is people talking about how we needed to get out, and how our phones were tapped. The repression was really quite real… My parents were in the revolution trying to overturn the previous regime, and then they ended up with this far more oppressive regime.”

      I think she qualifies as a refugee, CHRIS. If it were you – remembering that from your childhood – wouldn’t you think so too?

  4. Interesting that this hagiography was penned by one of the Green Party’s comms people, so it’s hardly objective.

    The narrative of Ms Ghahraman’s refugee past will wear thin quickly. She’s already shown on Twitter she has little tolerance for any opinion other than her own, and like most of the Greens on Twitter, blocks people at will. She was also a vocal supporter of Metiria Turei, to the extent of almost wanting the self-confessed welfare cheat raised to some form of sainthood. That to me speaks of a new MP with very questionable judgment.

    • duperez

       /  15th October 2017

      “She has little tolerance for any opinion other than her own.”

      She’s come to the right country then, we do that well here. She’ll fit in well.

    • So, because they had enough money to afford airfares, her whanau flew to NZ to allegedly escape the Ayotollah. She’s only here due to the generosity of successive governments and the largesse of the long suffering NZ taxpayer. No government has ever seen fit to include her Party (Labour has considered it merely a joke and sooks easily sidelined into submission) while they baubled up a greedy Peters. Ghahraman and her mob will only ever be supplicant to a Labour who actively campaigned on wholesale migration reduction and Peters who openly hates them.

  5. Patzcuaro

     /  15th October 2017

    You might not agree with her politics but it is great to see how well she has done. Her parents must be of a more liberal bent.

    • I wish her luck Patz, because if she gets upset at criticism on Twitter, she will find Parliament a real struggle. Yes, being a refugee gives her a certain perspective, although given she migrated to New Zealand at age nine, one wonders how many of her memories of Iran are her own, and how many are stories that have been changed or embellished over the intervening years.

      I do however have a suspicion of MP’s who allow their identity to define their contribution as an MP; think of Georgina Beyer, Tim Barnett and Chris Carter, to name three. You were in no doubt their focus was on their sexuality, unlike someone like Christopher Finlayson who is an MP who happens to be gay, rather than a Gay MP. I hope for her own sake Ms Ghahraman will become known as an MP who happen to come from a refugee background, rather than a refugee MP.

      • David

         /  15th October 2017

        And given most of the Green caucus is of this ilk I cant see Winston going into government with them, too bloody precious and volatile.
        On the same note I would love to see a Blue Green government but just not the current Green party.

      • Patzcuaro

         /  15th October 2017

        Life is easy if you are mainstream, something that one takes for granted as opposed to someone from a minority. One just is mainstream, you don’t have conscious & unconscious bias to deal with. This bias may lead someone in the minority to wear their difference as a badge.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  15th October 2017

      For the down tickers if her parents were conservative she wouldn’t have been encouraged in her education and would have at the very least be wearing a head scarf. So liberal against conservative in the social sense.

  6. Corky

     /  15th October 2017

    ” Middle Eastern feminism.” Don’t quite get that .

    ”There have been and are tragic political and social situations all over the world. Accepting victims of them as refugees is something we should welcome and accept in New Zealand, ”

    Not Carte Blanche, Pete. Especially those who have little chance of integration. Don’t forget another way of looking at refugees is as political exiles under duress, not because they wanted to be here. Lebanese Australians are a classic example

    ”Where we are lucky to enjoy political and religious freedoms that billions of people don’t.”

    Correct. Lets keep it that way with balanced immigration and complete control of our destiny, in all respects.