Brenton Tarrant stands in the dock during his initial appearance in court in 2019. Photo by Mark Mitchell / POOL / AFP
On March 15, 2019, Brenton Tarrant murdered 51 people and injured 40 at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. Now, over a year later, he’s facing the victim’s families at the city’s High Court.
On Monday, the very first family members had a chance to face Tarrant and deliver their victim impact statements. Initially, court officials expected a little over 60 victims to address Tarrant, who has dismissed his lawyers and is representing himself from behind a pane of plexiglass. The first few statements were delivered quietly and timidly, but as the days have gone on the statements have become increasingly animated. The final number will be over 80 as more people have felt emboldened to speak.
To illustrate how this atrocity affected the lives of those who lost sons, brothers or fathers, we’ve collated some of their statements. These are not complete transcripts but excerpts from just some of the addresses heard over the past few days: from the furious, to the forgiving.
Ahad Nabi lost his 71-year-old father Haji Mohammed Daoud Nabi at Al Noor Mosque
“Your actions on that day displayed what a coward you are… There’s nothing heroic about shooting people from behind and people not having a chance of defending themselves… I do not forgive you for what you have done… A peasant like you will never change the human race. Your wish is to make this world a racist cult of one colour but you’ll never succeed… I ask that he be put in mainstream prison and stop wasting taxpayer money by giving him special protection…. Coming back to this maggot: 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 for only 10 minutes of your whole life.”
Sara Qasem’s father, Abdelfattah Qasem, was murdered at Al Noor
“My name is Sara Qasem. Daughter of a hero. Daughter of a shining, glimmering man…daughter of a martyr. Of Abdelfattah Qasem. Remember that name.
I’d never really known what the meaning of a broken heart was until then. I want to go on more road trips with him. Smell his home cooking, his cologne, to hear his deep belly laugh. I want to hear him tell me more about the olive trees in Palestine. I want to hear his voice.
I pity you; your coarse and tainted heart and your narrow view of the world. You would have to be so utterly miserable to be so close-minded and yet live in such a beautiful diverse world. 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’s pretty clear.
Our hearts may be broken but slowly and surely we are reassembling each crack with a lining of gold. The gold is the love, the aroha, the New Zealand community, our friends and neighbours, the flower wall, the government.”
Aden Diriye’s three-year-old son was one of the youngest victims at the Al Noor Mosque
“You have killed my son and to me that’s as though you killed the whole of New Zealand. I will never forget how he would play in the mosque and make friends with every worshipper who entered, young and old… I don’t know you. I never hurt you, your father, your mother or any of your friends. Instead, I’m the type of person who would help you and your family with anything. But I will never forgive you for what you have done.”
Janna Ezat’s son, Hussein Al-Umari, was murdered at Al Noor Mosque
“I decided to forgive you Mr Tarrant because I don’t have hate. I don’t have revenge. In our Muslim faith we say . . . we are able to forgive, forgive. I forgive you. Damage was done and Hussein will never be here so I have only one choice to forgive you.”
Janna Ezat’s daughter, Aya Al Umari, also stood up to describe how her brother’s murder had affected the family
“There are no words that do justice to explain what it’s like to go from having lunch with your brother one day to burying him in another…He would give up his time and money and effort if he knew someone was in trouble. He would sacrifice his own well-being for the good of the people…Hussein was my guardian, not only to me but to the mosque as well. He is a hero society deserves to have.”