A young Auckland lawyer, who was a refugee as a child, is speaking at a United Nations event in Switzerland with a theme of ‘Children on the Move’.
Chapman Tripp solicitor Rez Gardi is Kurdish and was born in a United Nations refugee camp in Pakistan.
She will discuss challenges she faced in her journey to New Zealand and the participation of young people in their own protection in the Asia-Pacific region at the event. It marks the ninth annual High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges on 8 and 9 December at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
“Chapman Tripp has encouraged me and support me to pursue my passions outside of work,” Rez said.
“My parents were political activists – or freedom fighters, depending on which side you’re on.
“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.
“Then they illegally crossed the border of Iran in the back of cargo trucks, with my brother and sister who were toddlers at the time, into Pakistan where UN presence provided a beacon of hope.
“They were promised it would be six months before they were resettled. It was nine years."
The family was told they would be sent to New Zealand, and when Rez arrived, English was her fourth language and fourth alphabet. The family initially went to the Refugee Resettlement Centre in Mangere, before moving to West Auckland.
“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.”
Rez first visited Kurdistan in 2005.
“I became interested in learning more about what and where I’d come from, and I came to know all about the persecution and injustice the Kurds had suffered. I wondered, how could I possibly do anything to help?
“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. She works as a solicitor in Chapman Tripp’s Auckland litigation team.
“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.”
Her achievements to date are vast: she was selected as the New Zealand youth delegate for the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen and the OECD Forum in Paris, selected to be the New Zealand youth representative at the Global Refugee Youth Consultations in Geneva – the first time in history that so many refugee youths were gathered to voice their concerns and discuss the challenges they face, as well as being selected as the New Zealand youth representative at the annual UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva where the theme was “Youth: The Future is Now”, to name a few.