By Recep Sakar
MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) - New Zealand on Thursday awarded 10 people for the “extraordinary courage” they exhibited in the face of deadly Islamophobic attacks on mosques in 2019.
“The courage demonstrated by these New Zealanders was selfless and extraordinary. They have our deepest respect and gratitude for their actions on that day,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, according to a statement on the prime ministry website.
“Each of them put their life on the line to save others. If not for their collective actions, the loss of life could have been even greater,” Ardern added.
On March 15, 2019, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist, killed 51 people and injured 40 more at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Last year, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, in the first such ruling ever handed down in the island country.
At Thursday's ceremony, two people were awarded the country's highest bravery honor, the New Zealand Cross. Since its establishment in 1999, only two other people have been awarded the New Zealand Cross.
“Dr Naeem Rashid, who has been posthumously awarded the New Zealand Cross, displayed great courage and bravery in challenging the gunman in the Al Noor Mosque, with complete disregard for his own safety. In so doing, he enabled others to escape and paid the ultimate price with the loss of his own life. I want to acknowledge Dr Rashid’s wife and family particularly, who will know all too well that his acts that day were a reflection of who he was as a person.
“Abdul Aziz, who also has been awarded the New Zealand Cross, displayed great courage and bravery challenging the gunman, with complete disregard for his own safety. Mr Aziz’s actions deterred the gunman from re-entering the Linwood Islamic Centre and ultimately forced him to flee the Mosque,” the statement added
Another award, The New Zealand Bravery Decoration, was given to four people. Four others received the New Zealand Bravery Medal.
“Senior Constables Scott Carmody and Jim Manning have been awarded the New Zealand Bravery Decoration for their exceptional courage in apprehending the gunman, ensuring no more lives were put at risk. Their actions that day went above and beyond – they essentially ended the gunman’s attack and did so not knowing whether he had an additional arsenal on hand,” the statement said.
“Ziyaad Shah’s bravery shielding another worshipper with his body in the Al Noor Mosque, while the gunman shot at them, hitting Mr Shah twice, has been acknowledged with the New Zealand Bravery Decoration,” it added.
“Liam Beale, also awarded the New Zealand Bravery Decoration, had been driving past Al Noor Mosque but left his vehicle as he heard gunshots and people screaming. He stopped members of the public from heading to the mosque, and then assisted victims,” it added.
Lance Bradford, Wayne Maley, Mark Miller and Mike Robinson are the others who have been awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal, the statement said.
“They placed their lives at risk, bravely searching for victims, assisting them and moving them to safety, while the gunman was active in the area,” it added.
“On a day of such terrible loss and suffering, the actions of these ten individuals demonstrated the humanity, decency and compassion that New Zealanders value and hold dear,” Ardern said.
“We will always remember the 51 shaheed who died, including one of the recipients, and other victims,” she added.