Christchurch: A Syrian refugee and his son who fled the chaos of their homeland only to meet tragedy in New Zealand were buried on Wednesday in the first funerals of those killed in the mosque massacres.
Hundreds of mostly Muslim mourners gathered at a cemetery in Christchurch to lay to rest Khalid Mustafa and his 15-year-old son Hamza, who were among 50 people slaughtered at two mosques by an Australian white supremacist.
The family of five had fled to New Zealand seeking sanctuary from the Syrian maelstrom but died in last Friday’s hail of bullets, a bitter irony that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “gutting”.
“I cannot tell you how gutting it is to know that a family came here for safety and for refuge, and they should have been safe here,” Ardern said at a press meet in Christchurch after the funeral.
Khalid, 44, and Hamza were shot dead at the Al Noor Mosque, the first site to be attacked, but not before Hamza called his mother in a panic.
“After that I heard shooting and he screamed and after that I didn't hear him,” she told New Zealand media this week.
Their younger son Zaid, 13, was also injured in the attack and attended the funeral in a wheelchair. In a powerful scene, he held his hands aloft as he prayed alongside rows of mourners.
“I shouldn’t be standing in front of you. I should be lying beside you,” Zaid said at the graves of his brother and father, according to Jamil El-Biza, who travelled from Australia for the funerals.
Also attending was Abdul Aziz, an Afghan refugee who confronted the gunman at Linwood Mosque. He was embraced by many mourners.
In a sign of lingering tensions, the PA system at the funeral announced evacuation procedures from the venue in the event of an emergency, mourners said.
A total of six burials took place on Wednesday and more were expected in the days ahead after police on Tuesday began releasing victims’ remains for burial....