Episode 4: Shaymaa - This Is Us

From This Is Us, 12:04 am on 1 March 2020

Series Classification: G (General Programmes)

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Shaymaa Arif

Shaymaa is a young Syrian/Iraqi woman from Kirikiriroa and Tāmaki Makaurau, now living in Pōneke. She admires the sacrifices both her parents have made, her mother for making the journey to Aotearoa alone with her, four (at the time) young children whilst her father stayed behind in the UAE working as a doctor to continue supporting the whānau.

Shaymaa Arif on the riverside of the Waikato.

Shaymaa Arif on the riverside of the Waikato. Photo: Photography by Disorient Pictures Ltd

Shaymaa studied law at the University of Waikato, specialising in human rights law due to her passion for the protection of all people which stemmed from the conflicts in both her fatherland and motherland. Since then, she has volunteered overseas on Lesbos Island during the refugee crisis to support her community, and began practising as a refugee and human rights lawyer in Auckland, representing asylum-seekers during their refugee determination process. 

When the tragic 15 March attacks occurred, Shaymaa like most of her community, did what she could to support. She has since also been involved in the Muslim reference group for the Royal Commission Inquiry on the Christchurch attacks and now is serving as a Human Rights Advisor for the Human Rights Commission in Wellington. Shaymaa has a big passion for learning languages and other cultures and is currently teaching herself Japanese and Te Reo Māori.

"I love hearing different languages. Right now, I'm addicted to watching foreign dramas. I love seeing different faces to the usual Hollywood ones, I like hearing them speak their own native language."

A self-confessed nerd, Shaymaa loves learning and spends her weekends researching and binge-watching documentaries, even things that are not specifically related to her. She is also a very outspoken activist coming from a line of strong and resilient humans, including her uncle who was arrested unlawfully and detained in Syria last year. 

She says, as a child, she saw images of war and destruction coming from Palestine.

"I really wanted to go out there and protest and then, sadly, when the war in Syria started, I did."

Shaymaa also founded the NGO Dar Al Salam (House of Peace/Te Whare Rangimarie) which is as much about ethnic rangatahi in Aotearoa embracing their identities and culture as much as it is about advocacy to live in a more peaceful and understanding New Zealand.

Shaymaa wearing her TribalRoots tee shirt on the riverside of the Waikato.

Shaymaa wearing her TribalRoots tee shirt on the riverside of the Waikato. Photo: Photography by Disorient Pictures Ltd

Left to right: Shaymaa Arif, Director Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, Director of Photography Kelly Chen, 1st Assistant Camera Nahyeon Lee on a jetty on the Waikato riverside.

Left to right: Shaymaa Arif, Director Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, Director of Photography Kelly Chen, 1st Assistant Camera Nahyeon Lee on a jetty on the Waikato riverside. Photo: Photography by Disorient Pictures Ltd

 

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Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, Director

Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, Director Photo: Photography by Sascha Stejko

Series Director Ghazaleh Golbakhsh is an Iranian-New Zealand writer, filmmaker and Fulbright scholar who has recently completed her PhD in Media and Communications. 

She has written and directed award winning short films. Ghazaleh is currently developing her first feature screenplay and publishing her first book of personal essays.

| Twitter: @baronessghaz | Instagram: @ghazalehgol |

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