Born in a United Nations refugee camp in Pakistan, Rez Gardi
and her family eventually found themselves in New Zealand. Now the Kurdish Chapman Tripp
solicitor is speaking at a United Nations event in Switzerland, sharing her story and how young people participate in their own protection in the Asia-Pacific region.
At the ninth annual High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges running 8 to 9 December at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Gardi will detail her family’s experiences as they left Iraq, reached Pakistan where she was born and, after years, were resettled in New Zealand.
“My parents were political activists – or freedom fighters, depending on which side you’re on,” Gardi explained.
“With the Iran/Iraq tension, Saddam Hussein’s campaign against the Kurds, and all vestige of Kurdish existence banned in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, the 80s were a dangerous period for Kurds. My family fled Iraq due to the Baath regime, where my grandmother was killed, and my parents were forced to escape or risk death,” she continued.
According to the young lawyer, who’s now part of Chapman Tripp
’s litigation team in Auckland, her family then illegally crossed the border of Iran in the back of cargo trucks. Her brother and sister were still toddlers then, she said, and the UN presence in Pakistan gave her parents hope.
It would not be an easy journey, however. It also took quite some time. Her parents were promised they would be resettled in six months, but they ended up waiting for nine years.
Nonetheless, the family eventually ended up in the Refugee Resettlement Centre in Mangere, then in West Auckland where Gardi had to learn English, her fourth language and alphabet.
“The biggest shock for me was when I first went to school here. I was shocked as to how the teachers were so nice – I was used to learning by being beaten in Pakistan,” she recounted.
Gardi, who says she has always been supported by Chapman Tripp
to pursue her passions outside of work, has since been back to Kurdistan, travelling there in 2005 to learn more about where she came from.
“I came to know all about the persecution and injustice the Kurds had suffered. I wondered, how could I possibly do anything to help?” she said.
“I realised that I was quite good at writing, reading and public speaking, so I thought maybe a career in law could be my way of making a difference.
“I felt that Chapman Tripp
took a genuine interest in who I am and my background – I could be myself and there was no mould to fit. I have been given the opportunity to learn and try to become the best lawyer I can be, amongst the best in New Zealand.”
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