Quiet, picturesque New Zealand was the last place most people expected to see a massacre.
“This is not us,” the country grieved en masse after the Christchurch killings.
But as the dust settles on a mass shooting that saw 51 Muslims shot and killed as they prayed, community leaders, survivors and activists are starting to tell a different story.
They say alarms about rising Islamophobia and glaring loopholes in the gun laws were ignored repeatedly.
Despite New Zealand’s harmonious image, refugees like Guled Mire say they have long battled racism.
After moving to New Zealand from Somalia when he was six, he went on to become a government policy adviser and advocate for the country’s Muslim youth. But he says he knows what it’s like to be targeted by “white supremacists”.
“People pretend like we don’t have that history in New Zealand. In fact, Christchurch is well-known for being a hotbed of white supremacists in this country,” he says.
Paul Buchanan, a former United States government intelligence analyst who has lived in New Zealand for the past 20 years, doubts the Christchurch killer was a true lone wolf.
“There are other like-minded people still out there. I mean he was part of a community that was both physical in the South Island and then online,” he says.
“He was being cheered on in real time during the mass murders, including by people who claim to be in New Zealand.”
101 East investigates why and how New Zealand’s worst shooting happened.
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