On March 15, white supremacist terrorist Brenton Harrison Tarrant murdered 50 worshippers at Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Ōtautahil (Christchurch) during Friday’s busy prayer with victims ranging in age from 3 to 77 years.
34 injured people remain in Ōtautahil Hospital, while one child was moved to a dedicated children’s hospital in Tāmaki (Auckland) and 12 are critical in intensive care. Ōtautahi has around 400.000 inhabitants, among them a small Muslim community of partly Turkish heritage.
On March 15, a user posted on the social media site „8chan“: „I will carry out and attack against the invaders, and will even livestream the attack via Facebook. „A few minutes later, the massacre was streamed live on facebook.com/brenton.tarrant.9. A 17 minutes video of shooting terror was photographed in the visual style of a macabre video shooter game. I was shocked when a viewer commented Tarrant’s video stream „HE WAS A GOOD SHOT“. Facebook needed for hours to delete this video on facebook.com/brenton.tarrant.9.
Facebook said it also globally removed 1.5 million copies of the video of the New Zealand mosque attack in the first 24 hours after the massacre. „Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video. We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware“, Facebook wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Tarrant was apprehended 36 minutes after police were alerted and he was the only person charged in connection with the shootings. On March 16, Tarrant was charged with murder at Ōtautahi District Court. At court he flashed the white power hand gesture „okay“ in front of District Court Judge Paul Kellar.
„PewDiePie“ is the name of a YouTube channel by white supremacist Felix Kjellberg, a Swedish citizen who is a Donald Trump supporter and a symbol of renewed white identity. Not only did Tarrant mention „subscribe to PewDiePie“ when he carried out his attacks against the worshippers at Ōtautahi mosques. Kjellberg is also very well known to flash the „okay“ white power hand sign at his „PewDiePie“ channel.
Twitter handle @BrentonTarrant and online accounts linked to Tarrant circulated white supremacist imagery and extreme right-wing messages celebrating violence against Muslims and minorities.
Tweeted pictures of the guns later used in the mosque attacks showing guns covered in white lettering, featuring the names of others who had committed race- or religion-based killings; Cyrillic, Armenian and Georgian references to historical figures and events; and the phrase: „Here’s Your Migration Compact“. The number „14“ was written on the side of the rifle as well, a reference to the „fourteen words“, a white supremacist mantra. Tarrant wrote on his arms and munitions:
- „Alexandre Bissonnette“ who did the Quebec City mosque massacre
- „Luca Traini“ who committed the Macerata attack
- „Sebastiano Venier“, commander of the Venetian contingent at the Battle of Lepanto in which the „Christian League“ decisively defeated the Turks
- „Novak Vujošević“ who was murdering 28 Ottoman soldiers in the Battle of Fundina (Montenegro)
- „Vienna 1683“, the year when the Battle of Vienna took place after the imperial city had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire
- „Милош Обилић“, the assassin of the Ottoman sultan Murad I.
„Twitter has rigorous processes and a dedicated team in place for managing exigent and emergency situations such as this,“ Twitter said. Footage of the massacre was also copied and uploaded on YouTube. „Please know we are working vigilantly to remove any violent footage“, YouTube tweeted after the massacre.
In his manifesto „The Great Replacement“, 75 pages, published on March 14, Tarrant writes about the German chancellor: „Merkel, the mother of all things anti-white and anti-germanic, is top of the list. Few have done more to damage and racially cleanse Europe of its people.“
Tarrant smears the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his manifesto: „Erdoğan, the leader of one of the oldest enemies of our people, and the leader of the largest islamic group within Europe. This warlord must bleed his last, whilst he visits his ethnic soldiers currently occupying Europe. His death will also drive a wedge between the Turk invaders currently occupying our lands and the ethnic European people whilst simultaneously weakening Turkeys hold on the region, removing a prime enemy of Russia and destabilizing and fracturing NATO. KILL ERDOĞAN.“
Tarrant – who called himself „Kebab Remover“ – also slanders Turkish people in his manifesto: „To Turks: You can live in peace in your own lands, and may no harm come to you. On the east side of the Bosphorus. But if you attempt to live in European lands, anywhere west of the Bosphorus. We will kill you and drive you roaches from our lands. We are coming for Constantinople and we will destroy every mosque and minaret in the city. The Hagia Sophia will be free of minarets and Constantinople will be rightfully christian owned once more. FLEE TO YOUR OWN LANDS, WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THE CHANCE.“
This mind setting of the terrorist clearly indicates that he is motivated by Islamophobia, Turkophobia and his hate against President Erdoğan. New Zealand authorities have confirmed that victims with Turkish heritage were among the 50 killed in the Ōtautahi mosque attacks.
As journalists we have observed decades of biased media coverage in the West and we hold this anti-Muslim and anti-Turks media coverage accountable for those assaults against Muslims and Turkish people in the Western countries.
Those attacks increasing rapidly in Western countries over the past years. The massacre at the mosques is an occasion to think about the advocacy of Muslim minorities in Western countries. How can advocacy work be improved? There is need to stress the transparency of the worshiping spaces. Indeed, mosques are opened to everyone at anytime. But people may do not know about it. Everyone should know that Islam is PEACE and mosques are SPACES FOR PEACE.
Leaders around the world expressed sorrow and disgust at the attacks, with some deploring the demonisation of Muslims. Political and Islamic leaders across Asia and the Middle East voiced concern over the targeting of Muslims.
Reactions from New Zealand
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern said many of those caught up in the shootings may have been migrants and refugees. „They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand,“ she said.
On March 18, Ardern spoke about surrendering firearms. New Zealand Police said the same day: „As per existing processes we are happy for people to surrender their firearms to Police.“
Reactions from Australia
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: „I’m horrified by the reports I’m following of the serious shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins. I condemn the violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack that has stolen the lives of so many innocent New Zealanders as they went about their peaceful practice of worship at their mosques in Christchurch today. Australians stand with all New Zealanders today during this dark time where hate and violence has stolen their peace and innocence. Kia kaha (stay strong). New Zealand, like Australia, is home to people from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. There is absolutely no place in either of our countries for the hatred and intolerance that has bred this extremist, terrorist violence and we condemn it. Out of respect and in condolence for all those killed in the terrorist attack in New Zealand, I have asked for flags to be flown at half-mast.“
Sky News reported that the terrorist’s home town of Grafton (Australia) was in shock, trying to come to terms with how a „polite, well-mannered young man“ came to find himself on a path that led to Ōtautahi attacks. He was a student at the local high school and went on to work at a gym, where his former boss said he regularly volunteered his time to train kids for free. In April 2010, Tarrant’s father died suddenly of cancer aged 49, leading him to set off on a seven-year trip around the world. It was at some time during this journey that former friends now speculate he was „perhaps radicalised“.
Reactions from Islamic world
„Indonesia strongly condemns this shooting act, especially at a place of worship while a Friday prayer was ongoing,“ Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement.
The founder of India’s „All India Muslim Personal Board“, a non-government body of scholars, Kamal Faruqui, said the attack was „highly condemnable. An anti-Muslim virus is spreading across the world. People of all religions should be very worried.“
Bangladeshi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said it was „extremely lucky“ the country’s cricket team, in Ōtautahi for a match against New Zealand, did not suffer casualties. The players arrived for Friday prayers as the shooting started.
„I can’t even imagine what would have happened if they were there five minutes earlier,“ he said on social media.
Hundreds of angry protesters in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, chanted Allahu akbar (God is Greatest) after Friday prayers.
„We will not let the blood of Muslims go in vain,“ said one protester.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal condemned the incident on social media, using the hashtag #PakistAnagainstTerror.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Wahidullah Waissi, said on Twitter three Afghans had been wounded. „My thoughts are with the family of Afghan origin who’ve been shot and killed at this heinous incident.“
In Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the biggest party in its ruling coalition, said one Malaysian had been wounded in the attack he described as a „black tragedy facing humanity and universal peace“. „I am deeply saddened by this uncivilized act, which goes against humanistic values and took the lives of civilians,“ he said in a statement. „We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of New Zealand.“
The Sudanese foreign ministry announced its condemnation of the treacherous terrorist attacks on prayers in two mosques in New Zealand, where victims have exceeded 40 dead and a number of wounded, calling on the international community to take a decisive stand against the practices of terrorism and extremism. A statement issued by the ministry stated that this heinous crime is a direct attack on all humanity and undermines the best values ?? known throughout its history from the sanctity of blood, the right to life, freedom of belief and tolerance.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns these treacherous attacks and calls upon the international community to take a firm and decisive stand against all practices of terrorism, extremism, and hate speech, racial and cultural arrogance and all threats to tolerance and co-existence between different religions, cultures and races as a threat to inter- national peace and security”. The ministry called for taking the necessary measures to ensure the protection of places of worship anywhere, calling for efforts to arrest all the perpetrators and to bring them to a fair and urgent trial and to reveal all the dimensions and aspects of this heinous crime and those who stand behind it, stressing the need to take measures to prevent the recurrence of such abhorrent crimes, and the protection of freedom of worship.
Reactions from Western Countries
US-American President Donald Trump said: „My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!“
Britain’s interior minister Sajid Javid said social media firms must take action to stop extremism on their channels: „You really need to do more @YouTube @Google @facebook @Twitter to stop violent extremism being promoted on your platforms,“ Javid wrote on Twitter. „Take some ownership. Enough is enough.“
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: „I am deeply saddened by the news from #ChristChurch. I mourn with the New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques. We stand together against such acts of terrorism.“
Heiko Maas, German Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: „We are heartbroken by the brutal crime in #ChristChurch. In these heavy hours, we stand firmly by the side of our New Zealand friends. All our sympathies go out to the families and friends of the victims.“