Mirwais Waziri had been falsely labelled for years as a ‘terrorist’ by his racist work colleagues, due to his Afghani decent and Muslim faith, but now he was facing a real terrorist in court.
The Christchurch shooting survivor was preparing to read a victim impact statement at the sentencing of Brenton Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian white supremacist, who has admitted 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a terror charge over massacres at two Christchurch mosques.
But after watching the proceedings over the course of the day, Mr Waziri decided to put his statement down and speak off the cuff.
Tarrant had shown no remorse, he said, and the survivor did not want to show the killer how much he had suffered.
Instead, he turned to face him in the dock, and gave a message of thanks.
“Today you are called a terrorist, and you prove to the world that I was not,” he said.
“You took that name from me.”
The court immediately erupted in applause from victims watching on in the public gallery.
The former refugee, who was inside Al Noor Mosque when the gunman began his rampage, explained he had been falsely labelled as a terrorist for 17 years by people he worked with. It had begun ever since he moved to New Zealand from his native Afghanistan.
“I say to the people of New Zealand that ‘terrorist’ does not have religion, race and colour. Any colour, any race, any face could be a terrorist, and we are not terrorist,” he told the court.
“We have suffered but we are strong. My brothers and sisters suffered, but we are stronger than before.”
He then vowed to continue to stay in New Zealand, despite all the horror he had faced here.
“I came as a refugee to this country and I will not be going from this country anywhere, so you are the loser, and we are the winners,” he said.
“Apologies for not reading [my victim impact statement]. Instead these words were in my mind, and this will give me relief and relief to my fellow Muslim community who were brutally murdered and injured, thank you.”
The thanks from his community was immediate as the court erupted in applause once more.
The sentencing continues.