The first refugee MP in New Zealand’s government Golriz Ghahraman, of the Green Party has resigned following multiple allegations of shoplifting.
The former UN human rights lawyer, who made history in 2017 is alleged to have stolen three times from two clothing stores – one in Auckland and the other in Wellington. The theft is now under police investigation.
MS Ghahraman, who is Iranian heritage said work-related stress made her behave completely out of character: “I have let down a lot of people and I am very sorry.”
Ghahraman fled Iran as a child with her family, who were all granted political asylum in New Zealand.
The 42-year-old’s resignation comes after CCTV footage emerged showing her allegedly taking a designer handbag from an Auckland boutique. She is yet to be charged but admitted in a statement her actions had “fallen short” of the high standards of behaviour the public expected from elected representatives.
“It’s not a behaviour I can explain because it’s not rational in any way, and after medical evaluation, I understand I’m not well,” she said, adding that she did not want to make excuses for herself.
“The mental health professional I see says my recent behaviour is consistent with recent events giving rise to extreme stress response and relating to previously unrecognised trauma.”
Ms Ghahraman has spoken out in the past about the abuse she has received both online and in person based on her Iranian heritage, her gender and the public stances she has taken on various issues.
“Eventually some of the online threats I faced got to the point where I had to carry a security alarm and have security escorts back and forth from Parliament,” she told national broadcaster TVNZ in 2021.
In 2017, Ms Ghahraman was given an escort following threats by white supremacists.
More recently, she has been criticised for taking part in pro-Palestinian protests and for being critical of Israel’s military actions in its war against Hamas in Gaza in her role as the Green Party’s foreign affairs and human rights spokesperson.
Fellow Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said it was right that Ms Ghahraman had resigned but that it was clear she was in distress and would continue to receive their support.
“We have seen the conversation over the past years, especially over the particular treatment of women with public profiles, and in addition, the particular treatment of women of colour with public profiles,” said Ms Davidson.