In Christchurch/New Zealand, with a population of 400,000, 2 mosques were targeted armed assaults on 15 March 2019. Besides, New Zealand was generally considered as a safe country for migrants and refugees (Perry & Baker, 2019). The man who carried out the attack, Bretton Tarrant, an Australian citizen who describes himself as a racist (Perry & Baker, 2019). The fact that the terrorist attack was targeting Muslims attending Friday prayers, made it a global issue rather than a domestic one in New Zealand. (Hellyer, 2019).
It is stated that the attack, which targeted the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques during Friday prayers, killed 51 people and wounded 49 (Perry & Baker, 2019). While the perpetrator of the attacks was being sought, the person who claimed responsibility for the attacks sent a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto to Parliamentary Services by mail, in which he explained who he was and the location and his motive for the attack (Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Attack on Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019). In this manifesto that he sent, the suspect mentioned himself as a 28-year-old white Australian (Perry & Baker, 2019). Tarrant, who claimed responsibility for the attack, said the reason he came to New Zealand was to plan and prepare for the attack (Perry & Baker, 2019). As an Australian citizen, he has right to live in New Zealand (Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Attack on Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019). He explained that the reason he chose New Zealand for the attack was to show that the farthest areas of the world were not suitable places for mass migration (Perry & Baker, 2019).
In his statements, Tarrant testified that he was the only one who carried out the attack and that he did not need others to carry out his plan (Sajid, 2020). In addition, Tarrant streamed that what happened via Facebook Live with a camera in his helmet when he carried out the attack, while in the background during the broadcast, a song plays that referring to Radovan Karadzic, who is on trial at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague for genocide and other crimes against Bosnian Muslims, (DW, 2019). Apart from references such as music opened by the attacker, there were also references such as the names of wars with Muslims and generals, as well as the names of people who have committed Islamophobic and anti-immigrant attacks written on his rifle and magazines (Anadolu Ajansı, 2019).
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described the terrorist activity against mosques as “one of the darkest days New Zealand has ever experienced” (Perry & Baker, 2019). Ardern also told in a press conference “Many people affected by armed conflict have chosen New Zealand to make their home, whether they are migrants or refugees, They are us.” (Perry & Baker, 2019). Therefore, Ardern stated that the perpetrator of the attack had extremist views and that such views have no place in New Zealand (Perry & Baker, 2019).
Apart from Tarrant’s attack plans, there are assessments that the New Zealand authorities have not taken adequate precautions. The official statement on the cause of this situation is that there is “no reasonable way” for Tarrant’s plans to be reached by government organs. Government agencies became aware of the attack by e-mail sent by Tarrant 8 minutes before the attack. The Royal Commission’s report into the incident found that the New Zealand government’s lack of gun control allowed Tarrant to purchase a weapon that he could not have licensed. It also reported that the country’s intelligence service had not allocated enough resources for the dangers other than Islamist terrorism. In response, Ardern apologized for deficiencies in the government’s intelligence services and arms control (Graham-McLay, 2020).
Six days after the attacks, the sale of all semi-automatic military-type weapons was banned in New Zealand. The fact that the attacker attacked the mosque with a semi-automatic weapon had an impact in this case (Reuters, 2019). Banned weapons have been given until December 20 to be returned to the state (Menon, 2019). Another measure taken by The New Zealand Parliament against attacks is the recording of all types of weapons legally held in New Zealand and the proposals on reducing the renewal periods of weapons licenses from 10 years to 5 years (Menon, 2019).
When Tarrant’s methods of carrying out the attack are examined, it seems that internet use is effectively used (Queck, 2019). An example of this situation is that he shared his weapons with a symbol of white racial superiority before the attack (Queck, 2019). Bretton Tarrant, who was tried by the Supreme Court of New Zealand for his crimes, was sentenced to life in prison without conditional release for the murder of 51 people, 40 different counts of murder attempt and terrorism (Yıldız, 2020).
In order not to encounter an incident similar to the Christchurch Terrorist Attacks and to find solutions to the role of social media in the spread of terrorist activities and extremist views, Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron decided to hold a meeting called the Christchurch Call on 15 May 2019. In addition to state leaders, CEOs of technology firms were also invited to this meeting. Ardern stated that they must act together to ensure that there are no excessive attitudes through social media and that terrorist activities do not repeat as they did on March 15, 2019. Further, Ardern said, ” In the aftermath of the March 15 attacks, New Zealanders united in a common goal to ensure that such attacks never happen again. If we want to prevent violent extremist content, we must take a global approach that includes other governments, tech companies and civil society leaders” (The Beehive, 2019).
Among the supporters of the Christchurch Call are organizations such as UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, as well as states. (Christchurch Call).
When the effects of the events on people are examined, it has been seen that it creates a positive atmosphere. Tarrant’s terrorist attacks did not spread Islamophobia and far-right ideology among the people of New Zealand, on the contrary, New Zealanders united with those affected by the attack and opposed racism and extremist right-wing ideology violence. (Sajid, 2020).
As a result, the consequences of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, have led states to create a collective movement to prevent extremism on social media and the spread of terrorist activities.
Prepared by Alkın Arıkan for The FEAS Journal
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