Maiden speech – Golriz Ghahraman

A big maiden speech from Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, with strong references to immigration and patriotism and refugees.

She talks of hardships involving war that most of us who have always lived in New Zealand have very fortunately not had to experience or suffer.

My parents.

Both strong, Iranian feminists. You lost everything. You lost your friends, your family, your professions and your language, because you weren’t willing to raise a little girl in oppression.

Thank you.

Closing comments:

Mr Speaker.

I stand here as a child of revolutionaries, as a child asylum seeker, as a international human rights lawyer, as an activist, and as a Green, and my standing here proves New Zealand is a place where a nine-year-old asylum seeker, a refugee, a girl from the Middle East can grow up to one day enter Parliament.

It proves the strength and the goodness of New Zealand’s values.

We all should be grateful and proud that Golriz can become an MP in New Zealand, and speak openly and passionately about her past and about her passion to bring about positive change.

Full draft transcript:


Mr Speaker, I congratulate you, and I look forward to your guidance in this House. I acknowledge also that we stand on land that was neve ceded, so I have acknowledged tangata whenua.

I begin by acknowledging what a breathtaking honour it is to sit among this Green caucus. It’s a dream. I also acknowledge those who’ve sat among you before now, in particular Catherine Delahunty and Keith Locke—you spoke to injustice wherever it happened, and, to someone like me, that meant a lot. Mojo Mathers, you taught me and us all that we are far more than our labels. And Metiria Turei, for baring your scars to highlight the pain of others, I thank you.

But today I also want to acknowledge those who tell me every day that I don’t belong here, that I should go home where I came from, that I should have been left to die, or that I have no right to criticise any politician in the country or take part in public life, because this isn’t my home. Some of them call for rifles to be loaded—it gets frightening.

I’m numb to it because that actually is the reality for those of us in this country from minority backgrounds if we do stand up and become visible. I want it noted that it’s also the consequence every time someone in this House scapegoats migrants, every time a TV presenter is allowed to ask the Prime Minister when our Governor General is going to look like a Kiwi and sound like a Kiwi and that Prime Minister just laughs, every time we call refugees “the leftovers from terrorist nations” for our political gain. We feel it on the streets; we can’t shed our skin.

Patriotism that seeks to quash dissent and divide us is archaic. It’s dangerous for our democracy. We can’t tolerate that. It’s antithetical to our culture. I love this country, but a love of this country—patriotism—means expecting the very best for her. It means fighting for the country we know is possible. So I criticise leaders who fall short, I protest, and I fight for equality and justice, because that is what loves looks like in public—that’s Dr Cornel West; that’s not me. So today I stand here proud and determined because today is about democracy and equality—values that New Zealand embodies, stands up for so boldly.

I am a child of revolutionaries. My parents faced tanks for democracy, at gunpoint fought for human rights. They faced torture to take back their country’s resource from imperialists, from dictators, and from corrupt corporate interests and put it back in the hands of the people. The Iranian revolution was one of the biggest popular revolutions in modern history. Everyone was out on the street—students, communists, socialists, and Islamists—fighting against inequality.

But their revolution was hijacked, and ultimately my life was shaped by one of the most repressive regimes in modern history. Everyone knew someone that disappeared into a torture chamber for speaking out; everyone knew a woman flogged for disregarding Islamic dress—and that wasn’t our culture, even for those of us who were Muslim. Everyone feared their phones being tapped; that was my childhood.

But it was also just the backdrop to a bloody eight year war we fought against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. I remember the bombs and the sirens, running to a basement and just waiting, but mostly I remember kids my age who stopped talking from the shell shock. I still don’t know what happened to them. Then scarcity set in, because America was on Saddam’s side and we were sanctioned. We had to use coupons to buy food. Years later, we realised that the West had backed both sides of that war—sold weapons to both sides.

That is what refugees are made of.

I feel a kinship with first nations people, with tangata whenua, because we too have been alienated from our land and our resources by imperialism—by wars that we did not profit from. We share the same degradation and prejudice; I want us to work closer together. Migrants, refugees, Pasifika people, tangata whenua—we have far more that unites us than that which divides us. I want Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be a living constitutional document in this country, leading policy, even on immigration.

My mum was a child psychologist, but she never worked because she didn’t believe in taking religious exams, especially in a mental health field. My dad was an agricultural engineer who worked on research trying to extract energy from plant sources—Green to the core. So let’s remember that our values exist in all cultures. The Middle East, just like the West, has fierce feminism, environmentalism, Government selling us off to multinationals, and—yes—religious fundamentalism. I want us to amplify the voices in all cultures who speak of democracy and equality above those who would silence them.

When that repression got too scary, my family and I fled. We landed in Auckland Airport and the fear was palpable. I can still feel it now. I was nine years old. We didn’t know what would happen if we were sent back, but we weren’t; we were welcomed here. That warm welcome is my first memory of my homeland. New Zealand recognised our rights and our humanity; that’s what that was, though I didn’t know it then. My second memory is that this country was so green. Those two vivid first impressions are going to lead my work in this House.

I became a lawyer—I never intended to do that, but I wanted to make human rights enforceable. The criminal justice system leads on human rights in our system. The most frightening thing that I’ve seen in about 15 years of being a lawyer all over the world is the sight of a 13-year-old child sitting behind a very large table awaiting his trial for murder at the Auckland High Court. I was part of his defence team. He’d thrown a rock over an overbridge, tragically taking another young life. He was tried as an adult because our system requires it. He suffered from mental illness, as do most people that come through our justice system. He was brown. He was from South Auckland. His family was so poor that they shifted houses every so often just so that they could have electricity for a while. He didn’t have a lot of schooling, because of that, and his Child Youth and Family file was the stuff of nightmares. Our most vulnerable.

The front lines of our justice system is where I learnt about unchecked prejudice. That’s what turned me into a human rights lawyer, and I focused on children’s rights. But it was living in Africa, working on genocide trials for the UN, where I learnt how prejudice turns to atrocity. It starts with dehumanising language in the media. It starts by politicians scapegoating groups, as groups, for social ills—I think that every time I see it happen here. I saw it in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, and when I prosecuted the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia—holding politicians and armies to account for abusing their power, and giving voice to women and minorities, because we are always most viciously attacked by abusers. These experiences have instilled in me a commitment to human rights that I first got as someone who has seen the world without them.

Human rights are universal. We don’t have fewer rights because of our religion, because of where we were born, or because of who we love. We don’t have fewer rights because we had our children out of wedlock, or because we’ve been charged with a crime. We don’t have human rights because we are good, but because we are human—there is no such thing as the deserving poor or the good refugee.

Human rights are indivisible. We have a bundle of rights. We can’t realise one without the others—you can’t say we have a democracy or free speech unless we also have the right to education, and we don’t have the right to education unless the kids we are teaching have food and homes. For too long, for about 10 years now in New Zealand, our very democracy has been undermined because too many of our rights—our economic, our social, and our cultural rights—have been breached. I want to entrench those.

Finally—and of most interest to this House—human rights are enforceable against Governments. These are our obligations. This our mandate to govern. We can’t privatise them away. They are not charity—people don’t have to beg.

I want New Zealand to get back to a culture of expecting this from us, and none of that is inseparable from the environment. Protection of people’s rights and nature’s rights are intrinsically linked. Just ask the people of the Pacific—our neighbours—whose homelands are being drowned out because of waste pollution consumption that they have not participated in or benefited from.

One of the greatest threats to both human and nature’s rights right now is subjugation of our democracy to corporate interests. A rampant market on a finite planet cannot exist. New Zealand must lead by example on this, as we have done before. We’ve stood up against status quo interests on the world stage, and I want us to be that righteous little nation again.

I never intended to run as the first ever refugee MP, but I quickly realised that my face and my story meant so much to so many, so my fear of tokenism dissipated. I had such an outpouring of support from all over New Zealand and the world—even Trump’s America—and I remembered getting notes and emails from my female interns, mostly of minority background, back in the UN, telling me what it meant to them to have someone like them forging that path. Some of them are carrying that mantle right now. I realised then that it was important for that process to have a former victim of governance by repression and mass murder stand up in those courtrooms, which are normally dominated by Western men.

So this is a victory for a nine-year-old asylum seeker. But it’s also a victory for everyone who has ever felt out of place, who has been excluded, or who has been told that she has limits to her dreams.

For getting me here, I thank the voters. You’ve humbled me for ever. You voted for diversity and fairness and nature this election when you voted Green.

I thank our Green activists and our staff, especially our Auckland staff. You worked harder and harder as things got harder this election. You will inspire me for ever. To my campaign team—especially Ron and Daniel, who are up there—and my second, political family, the Chalmers clan, I’m so happy you are here. Your support is life affirming to me.

My parents, both strong Iranian feminists—you lost everything. You lost your friends, your family, your professions, and your language because you weren’t willing to raise a little girl in oppression—thank you.

And to maybe the most political person I know, although a very large, loud white boy—my partner. Thank you for stopping me mid-rant—it seems like a lifetime ago now—when I was lamenting the loss of activism in politics and some of my favourite MPs. I was saying, “Who’s going to be the candidate that will stand up to the GCSB? Who’s going to be the candidate who will be the new Keith Locke?”, and you said, “You will be that candidate.”—and I was. We’re both political, we are both adventurers, but you are also patient. I thank you for that, and for love, but mostly courage, on that day and every day.

I stand here as a child of revolutionaries, as a child asylum seeker, as a international human rights lawyer, as an activist, and as a Green, and my standing here proves New Zealand is a place where a nine-year-old asylum seeker, a refugee, a girl from the Middle East can grow up to one day enter Parliament. It proves the strength and the goodness of New Zealand’s values.

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Leave a comment

59 Comments

  1. chrism56

     /  November 15, 2017

    I notice Ms Ghahraman shows her partisanship, blaming the US for supporting Iraq when most of its support came from the Soviet Union. But then, that is what we come to expect.

    Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 15, 2017

    Another lawyer immersed in political theory with no experience of trying to run a commercial operation to create jobs. Beware.

    Reply
  3. I’m not fond of this woman – just saying

    Reply
    • She’s shown a bit of inexperience and naivety campaigning, but I think it was a very good speech and I’m prepared to give her time to see how she goes.

      Reply
      • Yes, I am biased, but I saw several excellent speeches yesterday from the Nats camp. The candidates were pretty all exemplary. Not so much the guy King from up North or ever do dull Lawrence Yule, but the following were notable:

        Denise Lee – a deeply sad back story to her involvement in politics – passionate, lost a two yearly son in his sleep
        Erica Stanford – Blue/Green, family, career driven and passionate.
        Hamish Walker – Clutha Southland
        Chris Penk – highly accomplished (joined Navy before taking up Uni studies)
        Simeon Brown only 25 – Pakuranga
        Andrew Falloon – engaging and intelligent
        Tim Van der Molen – Waikato

        All of these people had similar stories of growing up with two loving, sacrificing caring parents, values, hard work, not a lot of money, but rich with love anyway type of thing. I must be getting old but I had tears in my eyes listening to some of them. The calibre of new incomers is very high and the government should be concerned with the depth of accomplishment and talent.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  November 15, 2017

          A good looking Iranian Shelia; and a refugee to boot, trumps a Kiwi, no matter how good their back story and accomplishments. You can’t outwit the gods of PC, Traveller.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 15, 2017

            My dental hygenist is an Iraqi. Gorgeous, Lovely person. Gave her hubby the boot. Bet he bloody deserved it.

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 16, 2017

            What a load of tripe Corky. Nothing trumps a Kiwi with a good backstory & accomplishments. I dunno what to make of this lass. That speech seemed more rehearsed & crafted than heartfelt to me. But I imagine some of that is true, some of it is genuine, & as long as she doesn’t try to change the character of this country or fill it up with Muslims, I don’t give a toss. She’s in & that’s all there is.

            Reply
    • It goes without say ing that you would dislike her, traveller (you’re so transparent!

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  November 15, 2017

        As far as I know her children are hetero, Robert

        Reply
        • robertguyton

           /  November 15, 2017

          S/he’ll be terribly disappointed then, Gezza! Sympathies.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 15, 2017

            Robert,
            1. Are you eventually going to settle on caps or no caps for your name? One of these could be an imposter?

            2. Do you ever wonder if you might be going a little over the top?

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  November 15, 2017

              (Unlike myself, of course)

            • I’m not sure about the caps/no caps thing gezza 🙂
              Over the top? Never unintentionally, I can assure you.
              I note your skill in walking the fine line; I don’t suppose you’ve ever been banned from anything! . I can’t claim the same, sadly. I’ve an appalling history of getting the boot. Seems I’m irritating…

            • Gezza

               /  November 16, 2017

              Aww … I’ve had a few wee slaps on the wrist from The Dad of this blog!
              I sail a bit too close to the wind sometimes I gather! Mostly probably Corky’s & a few other people’s fault, imo. Just pays to try & keep things a bit real in a sea of unreality, maybe? Remember, some of these people are hurting. And some of the people you’re backing are maybe a bit … well … wobbly? We’ll see. Hang about though, eh, Robert. I like you! 👍🏼

            • patupaiarehe

               /  November 16, 2017

              I like Robert too G. I disagree completely with his opinions, but he seems to annoy Corky, which is great. I reckon we should extend him enough rope to hang himself on, just for ‘shits & giggles’…

            • Corky

               /  November 16, 2017

              As long as he hangs around when the country is tanking, I will tolerate him. What’s the chances of that? Not great. He has a habit of running when the going gets tough.

            • Gezza

               /  November 16, 2017

              👍🏼
              Greater love hath no man for another Corks! 😀

          • robertguyton

             /  November 16, 2017

            “He has a habit of running…” pleeeeeeease Corky! Running? Nah, not me; I’m a busy guy and try to attend to your every need, but I have to prioritise. I’ll try harder. The going here, btw, never gets “tough” – it’s a doddle really, being on the up, as we Lefties are now, all pumped up with testosterone and chutzpa, so, Corks, ol’ cork, bring it on! Tanking? Nah!!! Were’re heading for a socialist heaven, and Jacinda is our Queen; all hail Jacinda!

            Reply
  4. Denise Lee – excerpt.

    “My daughters Sydnee and Makenna, your world is not the one I grew up in. I spent weekends rat shooting at the Paeroa dump, you navigate the virtual world, streaming mass international content 24/7 under the watchful eye of the Google and Facebook empires.

    It is your world that will rapidly change what we do here in these halls and I am proud to have two incredibly talented young women to guide me in how to think ahead. I love you.”

    Loved that she shot rats at the Peroa dump…

    Reply
  5. Corky

     /  November 15, 2017

    There are things I disagree with her about.. Especially not being able to see that the Islamic revolution was not a separate issue from Islam the religion.

    However, I don’t want to appear churlish. :

    As Pete says:

    ”She talks of hardships involving war that most of us who have always lived in New Zealand have very fortunately not had to experience or suffer.

    That’s something needing to be nailed through the indulgent brains of the many Kiwi prats who whine incessantly about being hard done by.

    Also her countenance is one reason why the burqa and headscarf should be outlawed in New Zealand.

    Reply
    • She’s a looker.. However she has that virtue signalling about her that I find hard to stomach. I’m getting too cynical for sure.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  November 15, 2017

        Nothing wrong with being cynical. Its a great survival mechanism.

        Reply
      • Blazer

         /  November 16, 2017

        shes young and beautiful,you are not..you are …jealous.

        Reply
        • High Flying Duck

           /  November 16, 2017

          We can’t all be beautiful and buxom like you Blazer.

          Reply
        • “shes young and beautiful,you are not..you are …jealous.”

          Full of grace and charm, overflowing with kindness and good will. One who never resorts to ad hominem, especially with zero knowledge of the person they pillory. Seriously have no more reason where such a mindset comes from.

          Reply
  6. patupaiarehe

     /  November 16, 2017

    Virtue signalling, and attractive too. FFS, I have to laugh at all the ‘cynical wankers’ who accuse her of being in parliament for the money. A woman as attractive as her, could earn in an hour, what I get paid for a week at work, simply by lying on her back & pretending to be interested. She has my attention, & my respect (but not for the reasons I just mentioned, LOL)

    Reply
    • This woman is all class, Harete Hipango. The first Māori woman elected in a general seat.

      Contrast with GG could not be greater.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  November 16, 2017

        token honkie=kaupapa…prefer the Governor General,at least she is a real neo lib..no smokescreen.

        Reply
        • Diismissive evaluation of someone who is fully fluent, fully immersed in Maoritanga and whose female forebear was one of only 5 Māori women who signed Te Tiriti. This woman is accorded the respect if both sides of her culture and is at least not deserving of your bile.
          Disgusting and disrespectful to the core.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  November 16, 2017

            wheres her ..moko?

            Reply
            • That’d be virtue signalling

            • robertguyton

               /  November 16, 2017

              Moko kauae is “virtue signalling”?
              Don’t be as dfuffer, traveller.

            • “Moko kauae is “virtue signalling”?
              Don’t be as dfuffer, traveller.”

              You’ve manipulated this discussion. I’m interested in an exceptionally accomplished woman’s maiden speech and the fact she’s the first Māori female MP elected to a general seat. I couldn’t care less about your and blazer’s point scoring over whether she’d be more acceptable with a moko.

              He aha te kai ō te rangatira? He Kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero.

  7. Zedd

     /  November 16, 2017

    Did anyone notice the maiden Speech of Chloe Swarbrick ? (the other Green newbie)
    She spoke about her time as a Radio interviewer (Politics) then as a Akld City Council candidate. Her battle with depression (now champions mental health issues) in her youth. She has now stepped up to become a Green MP.
    “Good onya Chloe & Golriz”
    Im sure you are both worthy of the role !

    Reply
    • Zedd

       /  November 16, 2017

      Also.. there was Maiden Speeches, yesterday by 3 Labour newbies too ! 🙂

      Reply
    • Zedd

       /  November 16, 2017

      Golriz is a Green MP not a ‘Beauty contest’ entrant… just saying :/

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  November 16, 2017

        Glad you cleared that up for us, Zedd. Maybe you need to put out a press release for her.

        Reply
        • #blazer. Do you know the word hirsute? Fortunately Middle Eastern women are now very well served by the plethora of waxing shops all over NZ. #hirsute

          “Just know that, for the most part, whenever you see an Iranian woman who is seemingly hairless with perfectly shaped eyebrows and all, what you are actually witnessing is hours of hard work, stalwart dedication, immense strength and a tolerance for pain that is matched by few human beings. So if I can’t take pride in being hairy in of itself, perhaps I can take some sort of pride in what the hair allows me to discover about myself.

          But I’d still like to hear “I Like Hairy Girls, And I Cannot Lie” ”

          There is a joke Iranian men just love to tell: “What do you call three Iranian girls taking a shower together? Gorillas in the mist.” (They’re heavier themselves the men, but hey !)

          https://www.xojane.com/beauty/no-country-for-hairy-women

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  November 16, 2017

            Reply
          • robertguyton

             /  November 16, 2017

            Hey, traveller! Your comments (above) are disgusting. You slights and implications in the comment you’ve made here are foul; have you no shame?

            Reply
            • That is an article written by an Iranian woman. Can I suggest you sometimes read something offered and click links before you rush to judgement.

        • Corky

           /  November 16, 2017

          I didn’t know that…Green Party MP, eh. The things you learn on the job.

          Reply
        • Zedd

           /  November 16, 2017

          whatever AW

          Reply
      • High Flying Duck

         /  November 16, 2017

        Right Zedd – the Greens are all about the issues

        Reply
  8. sorethumb

     /  November 17, 2017

    It will all come out in the wash. Gloriz claims she has been made to feel she isn’t Kiwi enough; meaning, the inherited identity dominates over diversity – manufactured identity.
    http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/yassmin-abdelmagied-on-becoming-australias-most-publicly-hated-muslim-20170816-gxxb7d.html

    Reply
  1. Maiden speech – Golriz Ghahraman — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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