17 Aug 2020

Sentencing: Christchurch Mosque Attacks - Seeking Closure with Sentencing

From Voices, 9:30 am on 17 August 2020
Al Noor Mosque after Salah al-Maghrib (sunset prayer), Christchurch, New Zealand.

Al Noor Mosque after Salah al-Maghrib (sunset prayer), Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo: Copyright Janneth Gil

We talk to some of the widows of the Christchurch mosque attacks of 2019. The sentencing of the gunman is due to start in Christchurch next week. Widows of Shuhada’s writer and producer, Lana Hart, catches up with some of the widows as the sentencing date draws near.

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The gunman of the Christchurch mosque attacks will finally be held to account in his sentencing hearing beginning in Christchurch on 24 August -- nearly a year and a half after the massacre that killed 51 and injured dozens more.

Dr Hamimah Tuyan is coming back to Christchurch from Singapore for the sentencing of the man who killed her husband, Zekeriya, while he and 50 other Muslims knelt in prayer on 15 March 2019.

Tuyan will read out her victim impact statement, pleading with the judge that “he deserves to be there (in prison) for a long, long time till his last breath, because he doesn't deserve to be given a second chance to be part of the wider society who's been loving, who’s been compassionate.”

The murderer will be in the courtroom too.

“Will I be angry at him?” asks Tuyan. “I don’t think I will. Because I think I’m past that. I just keep thinking about how his mom would feel- I'm a mum too.

I feel sorry, in a way, for him and people who support him. What is it that they have not had or found in them, that they have to resort to this sort of ideology or this sort of action or support this man? … I pity him.”

Muhubo Ali Jama, who lost her husband Shiekh Musa in the attacks, says “He already did the damage he's done. And we can’t do anything about it.”

47 of the 51 killed on the mosques attacks on March 15th were male, 31 were husbands. They were shot while kneeling in prayer.  In Muslim tradition these men are martyrs, shuhada, innocents who died in the purest state, a state of prayer.  Memorial Park Cemetery, Bromley, Christchurch.

Photo: Copyright Janneth Gil

Even now, Jama says that she can’t watch the news when they mention the massacre. “Every time they talk about it in the news, I worry… it makes me anxious again.”

New Zealand’s national futsal team’s goalkeeper, Atta Ellayan, also died in the tragedy. His widow, Farah Talal, now lives in Jordan with her family and their young daughter, Aya. Talal and her family will be watching the sentencing via video link and her recorded victim impact statement will be played in the courtroom.

While it was difficult to write and then record the statement, she says, she thinks it will be worth the effort. “We all I think need a closure from all of us - the New Zealanders too. Whether it was affected families or everyone because it affected us all in one way or another.”


Listen to the stories of four Muslim women widowed by the Christchurch mosque attacks as they share their journeys through grief. The podcast Widows of Shuhada was written and produced by Lana Hart  as an RNZ/ Plains FM collaboration.