Golriz Ghahraman

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Golriz Ghahraman
Golriz Ghahraman (cropped).jpg
Ghahraman in 2017
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Green party list
Assumed office
7 October 2017
Personal details
Born1981 (age 40–41)
Mashhad, Iran
Political partyGreen
Domestic partnerGuy Williams (2016–2020)
Alma mater
WebsiteGreen Party profile
New Zealand Parliament profile

Golriz Ghahraman MP (Persian: گلریز قهرمان; born 1981) is an Iranian-born New Zealand politician, member of Parliament, and author. The former United Nations lawyer was a child asylum seeker, and became the first refugee elected to New Zealand's Parliament.[1] Ghahraman is a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives for the Green Party.

Early life and education[edit]

Ghahraman was born in Iran in 1981.[2] Her family lived in Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, where her father, an agricultural engineer, worked for the Ministry of Agriculture on the research and development of plant-based alternative fuels.[1] Her mother studied as a child psychologist but was ethically opposed to "psychologists having to pledge allegiance to a religion" so refused to sit the Islamic examinations required for her to practice and never worked as such.[3][4] Her father was Shia and her mother a Kurdish Sunni, though neither parent was religious.[5][6]

In 1990, following the end of the Iran–Iraq War, nine-year-old Ghahraman and her family left Iran for Malaysia, ostensibly for a holiday.[7] From Malaysia they booked flights to Fiji, with a stopover in Auckland, where they sought political asylum and were accepted as refugees. Her parents later set up a restaurant and a gift shop in Auckland and did not work in their earlier areas of expertise.[3]

Ghahraman attended Auckland Girls' Grammar School.[8] She has a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Auckland,[9] and a Master of Studies (MSt) degree in International Human Rights Law with Distinction from the University of Oxford.[10]

Professional life[edit]

Ghahraman entered legal practice in New Zealand working as a junior barrister specialising in criminal defence, describing it as "the most frontline human rights area of law you can work in practice in in New Zealand; every day you are applying the Bill of Rights Act and you’re dealing with unlawful detention, searches and discrimination."[9][11]

Ghahraman worked as a lawyer for the United Nations as part of both the defence and prosecution teams with the tribunals in Rwanda, Cambodia and The Hague.[12] She had worked on tribunals such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, volunteering as an intern; and was assigned to the defence team. Her work on the defence teams of accused and convicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadžić and Simon Bikindi, has caused her controversy, although she has claimed transparency throughout.[13][14][15]

Ghahraman returned to New Zealand in 2012 and worked as a barrister, specialising in human rights law and criminal defence. She appeared before the Supreme Court of New Zealand in a case which ultimately led to the police overhauling their rules about undercover operations.[16][17][18]

Political career[edit]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2017–2020 52nd List 8 Green
2020–present 53rd List 7 Green

Ghahraman was selected as a Green party list candidate in January 2017 for the 2017 general election. On the provisional results on election night the Greens did not attain a high enough party vote for Ghahraman to enter Parliament, though a slight increase for the Greens in the special vote would see her allocated a seat.[19] After the Greens gained 0.5% of the vote in special votes she was duly elected to Parliament, in so doing becoming New Zealand's first refugee MP.[20]

In November 2017, it was revealed that, along with prosecuting war criminals, Ghahraman had also volunteered as an intern for the legal defence team of accused war criminals such as Radovan Karadžić, as part of her work with the United Nations.[21] She defended her role in this work, claiming that her role was necessary to "maintaining a fair and robust trial process," that she was "proud to have been involved in that tradition of fair and transparent international justice," and that, given the choice, she would "do it again".[21]

In early March 2019, Ghahraman submitted her Electoral Strengthening Democracy Bill that proposes lowering the country's mixed member proportional (MMP) threshold from 5% to 4%. Both Winston Peters of the governing coalition member party New Zealand First and Simon Bridges of the opposition National Party criticised Ghahraman's bill as opportunistic.[22] Ghahraman has also advocated giving prisoners the right to vote and banning foreign donations to political parties as part of her bill.[23][24]

During the 2020 New Zealand election that was held on 17 October, Ghahraman contested Mount Roskill, coming third place behind Labour's Michael Wood and National's Parmjeet Parmar.[25] She was re-elected to Parliament on the party list.[26]

In mid–May 2022, Ghahraman's member's bill, the Electoral Strengthening Democracy Amendment Bill, was drawn from the ballot. Her bill proposed several changes including allowing Māori voters to switch electoral rolls at any time, giving all prisoners the right to vote, reducing the electoral threshold for entering Parliament from 5 percent to 4 percent, and lowering the voting age to 16 years.[27] In early August 2022, Attorney-General David Parker expressed concern that the Bill's donation cap could potentially breach the right to free speech.[28]

Views and positions[edit]

David Seymour controversy[edit]

In mid-May 2019, ACT Party leader David Seymour generated widespread criticism when he stated in a radio interview that Ghahraman was a "menace to freedom in [New Zealand]". This statement drew immediate responses from all sides of the New Zealand Parliament and the general public in strong condemnation of Seymour. The consensus among opponents of Seymour's statements appeared to be that the implicit equating earlier in the interview of Ghahraman with authoritarian figures such as Adolf Hitler and Mao Zedong was completely spurious.[29]

Human rights[edit]

Ghahraman spoke out against United States President Donald Trump's travel ban, saying in 2017: "I wouldn't travel to America right now. I wouldn't want to face what people are facing – held in handcuffs and being interrogated by security forces, [...] I wouldn't want that [border detention] for anyone."[30]

She believes representation for women and minorities in politics is important: "Ultimately the sinister face of populism is what really pushed me over the edge to run as a candidate. The hate speech became scary. I knew that representation is important. I knew that to stop the very real attacks against minorities and women, we had to get really active, to support each other, and forge paths. We have to become leaders ourselves."[31]

In early March 2019, Ghahraman suggested that the New Zealand Government cooperate with any potential Kurdish and United Nations process to bring home captured New Zealand Jihadist Mark John Taylor, who had joined the Islamic State in 2014.[32]


In mid-July 2019, Ghahraman was accused of anti-Semitism by New Zealand Jewish Council spokesperson Juliet Moses after she published a tweet on 11 July describing Mary and Joseph as Palestinian refugees. Moses alleged that Ghahraman was denying the Jewish connection to the land by not recognising Jesus was Jewish. Ghahraman apologised that her comments had offended the Jewish community, thanking the Jewish community for their support for refugees. A Green Party spokesperson responded that Golriz had apologised for her "poorly worded remarks" and said that Ghahraman was going to work with Jewish communities to improve dialogue.[33] In response, left-wing blogger Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury defended Ghahraman and the Green Party from accusations of anti-Semitism, arguing that this was an attempt to deflect from Israel's "occupation" of Palestinian land.[34]

In December 2020, Ghahraman joined fellow Green MP Teanau Tuiono and Labour MP Ibrahim Omer in pledging to form a new parliamentary Palestine friendship group to "raise the voices of Palestinian peoples in the New Zealand Parliament" during an event organised by the Wellington Palestine advocacy group to mark "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians."[35]

In response to the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis, Ghahraman criticised what she regarded as the New Zealand Government's slow response in issuing a statement on the conflict. She also criticised Israel for encouraging "very violent systemic attacks" on the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem and bombarding Gaza.[36] In response, the New Zealand Jewish Council accused Ghahraman of misrepresenting the Sheik Jarrah dispute and ignoring Hamas' rocket attacks on Israeli, which in their view made her unfit to serve as the Greens' foreign affairs spokesperson.[37]

On 19 May, Ghahraman sponsored a motion calling for Members of Parliament to recognise the right of Palestinians to self-determination and statehood. The motion was supported by the Greens and the Māori Party but was opposed by the centre-right National and ACT parties. The governing Labour Party also declined to support the Greens' motion with the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard criticising Ghahraman for sponsoring the motion despite knowing that it was going to be voted down.[38][39]

In response to criticism by ACT Party deputy leader Brooke Van Velden, Ghahraman also defended fellow Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March's tweet that said: "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!." Ghahraman claimed that March was defending the rights of both Arabs and Jews to having equal rights in their homeland.[38]

Religious beliefs[edit]

Ghahraman describes herself as "agnostic—some days I would say atheist", noting that "It was important for me to get up and say I’m actually not religious at all, because the Middle East also has diversity within it".[3][2]

Personal life[edit]

Ghahraman revealed that she has multiple sclerosis in an interview in February 2020.[40]

She was in a relationship with comedian Guy Williams,[41] which ended in late 2020.[42]



  • Know Your Place (2020) ISBN 9781775541424[43]


  1. ^ a b Johnston, Kirsty (7 October 2017). "Meet Golriz Ghahraman, the Green Party's newest Member of Parliament". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b Morton, Francis (29 June 2017). "Barrister and Green Party candidate Golriz Ghahraman". Metro. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Small, Vernon (17 January 2017). "Green lawyer hopes to be first refugee to win a seat in Parliament". Stuff. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  4. ^ Mann, Britt (5 August 2017). "A day in the life of Green Party candidate Golriz Ghahraman". Stuff. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  5. ^ Ainge Roy, Eleanor (17 October 2017). "Refugee MP Golriz Ghahraman on love, loathing and entering New Zealand politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  6. ^ Davison, Isaac (17 January 2017). "Could Auckland barrister Golriz Ghahraman be New Zealand's first refugee MP?". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  7. ^ McClure, Tess; Taylor, Laura (10 October 2017). ""We Can't Rely on Majority Rule": Meet NZ's First Refugee MP". Vice. Retrieved 30 March 2018. Golriz Ghahraman on how escaping Iran's oppressive regime and defending war criminals in international courts has shaped her politics.
  8. ^ "Auckland Girls' Grammar School Newsletter Issue 09/16" (PDF). aggs.school.nz. Auckland Girls' Grammar School. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  9. ^ a b Stephen, Craig (3 November 2017). "Human rights lawyer vows to defend the defenceless". LawTalk. New Zealand Law Society. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Master's in International Human Rights Law – Master in International Human Rights Law (LLM alternative)". University of Oxford.
  11. ^ "Golriz Ghahraman – United Nations Consultant (International human rights, justice) – United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – LinkedIn". LinkedIn. 28 November 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  12. ^ Dastgheib, Shabnam; van Beynen, Jack (13 September 2015). "Payback time: What refugees are really worth". The Sunday Star-Times. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  13. ^ Kirk, Stacey (28 November 2017). "Golriz Ghahraman explains smiling photo with convicted genocide perpetrator". Stuff. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Green MP says voters not misled about her role defending alleged Rwandan war criminal". Stuff. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  15. ^ Quin, Phil (28 November 2017). "The Green MP and the genocide hearings". Newsroom. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Drug convictions quashed by Supreme Court". Radio New Zealand. 14 December 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  17. ^ ["Wilson v R"] [2015] NZSC 189, [2016] 1 NZLR 705 (14 December 2015), Supreme Court of New Zealand
  18. ^ "Trevor John Momo Wilson v The Queen [2015] NZSC 189". Courts of New Zealand. 14 December 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  19. ^ Tokalau, Torika (25 September 2017). "Greens rely on special votes to get Golriz Ghahraman into Parliament". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  20. ^ Ainge Roy, Eleanor (7 October 2017). "New Zealand election: full results give Labour boost and nation its first refugee MP". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Green MP under scrutiny for role in Rwandan genocide trials". Radio New Zealand. 28 November 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  22. ^ Small, Zane (6 March 2019). "Golriz Ghahraman: 'We welcome waiting until after 2020 for any changes to MMP'". Newshub. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  23. ^ "Green MP Golriz Ghahraman urges scrutiny of 'who controls purse strings of bigger parties'". Radio New Zealand. 4 March 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Jami-Lee Ross wants new rules around financial donations to political parties from foreigners". 1 News. 8 March 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  25. ^ "Mt Roskill - Official Result". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  26. ^ "2020 General Election and Referendums - Official Result Successful Candidates". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  27. ^ "Green MP Golriz Ghahraman calls for voting age to be lowered to 16". Newshub. Warner Bros. Discovery New Zealand. 21 May 2022. Archived from the original on 23 June 2022. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  28. ^ Coughlan, Thomas (3 August 2022). "Government legal advice finds political donation caps may breach right to freedom of speech". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 3 August 2022. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  29. ^ "Act leader David Seymour taken to task for Golriz Ghahraman comments". The New Zealand Herald. 17 May 2019.
  30. ^ "'Don't go': Woman aiming to be NZ's first refugee MP too scared to go to US". Yahoo. 22 January 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  31. ^ Golbakhsh, Ghazaleh. "How my friend Golriz is hoping to change the world". Villainesse.
  32. ^ Forrester, Georgia (5 March 2019). "'Kiwi jihadi' Mark Taylor: Should NZ help to bring him home?". Stuff. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  33. ^ Bhatia, Ripu (12 July 2019). "New Zealand Jewish Council accuses Green Party MP of 'antisemitism'". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  34. ^ Bradbury, Martin (15 July 2019). "The Green Party are many things, antisemites are not one of them". The Daily Blog. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  35. ^ "New Zealand MPs take pledge for Palestine". Palestine Post 24. 9 December 2020. Archived from the original on 10 December 2020. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  36. ^ Nixon, Jane (16 May 2021). "Golriz Ghahraman condemns NZ Govt, says international humanitarian laws have been breached in Gaza conflict". 1 News. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  37. ^ New Zealand Jewish Council (21 May 2021). "Green Party MPs Use Hamas Slogan". Scoop. Archived from the original on 20 May 2021. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  38. ^ a b "Green Party motion to call for recognition of Palestine's right to self-determination". Radio New Zealand. 19 May 2021. Archived from the original on 20 May 2021. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  39. ^ Manch, Thomas (19 May 2021). "Green Party's motion to declare Palestine a state fails in Parliament". Stuff. Archived from the original on 20 May 2021. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  40. ^ "Green MP Golriz Ghahraman reveals she has multiple sclerosis". Stuff. 26 February 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  41. ^ Mann, Britt (14 June 2020). "Golriz Ghahraman on growing up, Guy Williams, and the power of protest". Stuff. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  42. ^ McConnell, Glenn (5 September 2021). "Hive life: Golriz Ghahraman and Nicola Willis open up about sacrifices and motiviations". Stuff.
  43. ^ "Golriz Ghahraman: 'I feel such sorrow when I imagine my parents' fate'". The Guardian. 14 June 2020. Retrieved 15 June 2020.

External links[edit]