Breaking Down Barriers


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Apple, along with other companies with global name recognition like Amazon, Gap, Google, Ikea, McDonalds, Microsoft and Starbucks, have had a lot of media coverage of late expressing concern that they pay little or no tax in the countries where they make sales around the world. 

Adversity can be hard to overcome, sometimes it feels as though the world is against you and the easiest thing to do is give up.

But any hardship thrown your way can be used to your advantage if you use it as the driving force behind achieving your goals; Rez Gardi’s story is one of doing just that.

Imagine being dragged across the classroom by your hair because you couldn’t pronounce a word correctly. Imagine watching people die from disease and hunger strikes, and seeing your own father imprisoned for fighting to get basic human rights.

Imagine not having a country to call your own, being forced from camp to camp and not knowing whether you’d have food, education or shelter at your new destination.

Would you surrender, or would you fight?

The things we struggle to imagine were an everyday reality for Rez. She didn’t know how bad things had been for her family until she saw how people in New Zealand lived.

Rez is Kurdish. She is one of around 40 million Kurdish people worldwide who are oppressed and don’t have a country to call their own – and she claims to be one of the lucky ones.

“The only difference between me and millions of other refugees worldwide, is that I was fortunate enough to be resettled in a beautiful, safe place like New Zealand, and to get an education.”

Sadly, New Zealand hasn’t been always been “a safe place” for Rez, particularly after the 9/11 attacks.

“On many occasions I was cornered by a whole group of kids who would push me around until I fell on the floor and then they’d kick me endlessly,” Rez says.

They made her feel so worthless that she tried to erase her identity and become “as Kiwi as possible”.

This changed after visiting Kurdistan in 2005 and meeting some of her family for the first time.

“I saw how beautiful the Kurdish culture and history was. I was fascinated about how everyone was speaking my language.”

The trip was eye-opening in more ways than one. Rez saw firsthand the injustice the Kurds were still facing under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“I had to cross three different borders to visit everyone. When I was entering Turkey, they confiscated all the Kurdish clothes, CDs, posters and flags I had bought as souvenirs.”

Seeing that made Rez feel powerless, but she knew with an education under her belt she had the means to fight.

“I couldn’t necessarily be a freedom fighter in the sense that my parents and family are, but I realised 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.”

Rez didn’t choose to be a refugee; “I was born as a refugee in a refugee camp in Pakistan”. She didn’t choose to be relocated to New Zealand and she certainly didn’t choose to be tormented by her classmates.

What she did choose, was to fight for all those who are not given a choice at all.

Against all the odds, Rez became New Zealand’s first Kurdish female lawyer, and continues to advocate for human rights, holding prominent positions including New Zealand youth representative at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Global Refugee Youth Consultations in Geneva and the annual UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva.

She hopes that having won 2017 Young New Zealander of the Year, awareness will be raised about the adversity and challenges that many people face in New Zealand and she hopes it promotes acceptance for diversity.

Rez is proof that, in any situation, the hand you are dealt does not define you.

“You have the potential to do whatever it is you want to do. Whenever you may feel held back, there lays an opportunity to break barriers, exceed expectations and turn the wave of adversity into a tidal wave of progress.”


By Natalia Rietveld



Author: fatweb

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