The injured and bereaved face financial stress, life-long physical issues and mental trauma and want a more flexible response from government
Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington
Tue 26 Nov 2019 17.00 GMT
A survivor of the Christchurch terror attacks prays at the Al Noor Mosque Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
“What happened is unusual, and for unusual things, there should be unusual rules.”
Hisham al Zarzour survived the Christchurch massacre in March, when 51 people were killed by a gunman who entered two mosques during Friday prayers and opened fire. But his struggle isn’t over.
Nearly nine months on, he is among victims of the attack who are calling for a new approach and more understanding from the government, which has promised long-term support but has not always delivered what survivors say they need.
“They can’t deal with unusual things in normal ways,” he says.
Al Zarzour, 33, sits in bright sunlight outside his Christchurch home, his three children shrieking happily as they play around him. In April, he was too nervous to leave his house for the physiotherapy appointments needed to recover from bullet wounds sustained to his leg when he was shot by the gunman in Al Noor mosque. Sometimes he slept on the floor, afraid he might be shot through the window.
He had lived in New Zealand for seven months before the gunman stormed two mosques in the South Island city. The Syrian man was one of dozens who were injured, and suffered a heart attack in the weeks after the shootings. Since then, things have improved in fits and starts: he now sleeps for brief spells every night, waking up two or three times with nightmares – months earlier, he would sometimes go two days at a time without rest.
“My personality is changed now,” he says. “I get angry quickly, and I’m not social like before.”
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