The Story of a Syrian Father and his Two Sons who Fell Victims in New Zealand’s Terrorist Attack

The Story of a Syrian Father and his Two Sons who Fell Victims in New Zealand’s Terrorist Attack


Saturday 16th March 2019

A Syrian family fled death in Syria to face it again in New Zealand. All that remained from a 5-member family, after one of the most shocking terrorist attacks targeting immigrants and Muslims, is a shocked wife and a little girl, who lost her father and brother while the other sibling is currently receiving treatment in the hospital.

Khaled Haj Mustafa, a married man in his forties, fled with his family away from the war in Syria, seeking security for him and his family in Jordan. He fled without knowing the unexpected surprise which fate has hidden for him. The death he tried to avoid by travelling thousands of miles away got even closer to him in New Zealand.

Khaled and his son Hamza were killed by Australian Brenton Tarrant after the attack on al-Noor Mosque, while his youngest son Zaid, 12, is currently hospitalized and in stable condition, according to the victims’ relatives.

Rozana reached out to Omar, a member of Khaled’s family who is based in Jordan. He stated: “We still have no information about Hamza because there are many other missing people whose families are still unable to know anything about them so far … Perhaps it is the state of panic and shock that hit the government, the police, the community, and the victims’ families as well”. However, regretfully, while we were preparing this article we received news about Hamza’s death.

An Australian-born armed man attacked al-Noor Mosque and the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch province, New Zealand. The New Zealand authorities declared the death toll was initially estimated at 49. Also, more than 20 others were injured, some seriously. On the other hand, the suspect was arrested.

Eyewitnesses told the New Zealand media that “the attacker shot a person in the chest,” and that the attack may have “taken about 20 minutes, during which at least 60 victims were wounded.”

The gunman, who identified himself as an Australian named Brenton Tarrant, broadcasted the footage of his attack on al-Noor Mosque on Facebook, which he recorded using a head camera, while he shot at men, women, and children during prayer.

One of the survivors, indicated, while he was in a state of terror, “all I did was waiting and praying. I begged Allah that the shooter runs out of ammunition.” Another survivor confirmed to Radio New Zealand that people had broken the windows of the mosque to save their lives, and that the murderer was determined to kill everybody.

Reports stated that the gunman drove his car for about five kilometers until he reached another mosque in Linwood, where the second attack took place. New Zealand police said they found firearms near the two mosques and found improvised explosive devices in a car owned by one of the suspects.

Khaled had left Syria with his brother after being arrested by the security services in Syria for about a month for malicious reports. Afterward, his family of three children, Hamza, 17, Zaid, 12, and Zina, 10, and wife joined him.

Omar explained to Rozana: “Khaled was arrested by the intelligence services and remained for almost a month in detention. When they released him, he found himself unemployed after he lost his job as a blacksmith and a horse farm manager for the Equestrian Club in al-Dimas.”

Eng. Firas Haj Omar, a dissident from of the Syrian Ministry of Interior and a relative of Khaled,  told Radio Rozana: ”During Khaled’s detention, his father tried to take advantage of the family’s good relationship with al-Assad’s family, due to its involvement in the field of horse farms management for the Equestrian Club in al-Dimas, to ask Maher al-Assad’s wife to intermediate in order to release his son. However, she only responded by saying: ‘If he is innocent, he will be released’.”

International organizations, and specifically Médecins Sans Frontières MFS, issued a report in August, 2012, confirming that 75 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan left their homes for security reasons.

Khaled’s wife, Salwa, a former class teacher, is currently under shock due to the horror of the tragedy. She is left with her young daughter Zina and son, Zaid, who is currently receiving treatment.

Omar confirmed that Khaled did not have any political affiliation and that he left Syria after the detention experience which terrified him and made him leave the country immediately without prior arrangements. Khaled’s younger brother, who was also arrested, left the country with him toward Jordan.

Khaled arrived in Jordan in 2013 and established a new business there despite the obstacles he faced. The professional and skilled services he succeeded to provide enabled him to get ahead in the market and build a solid reputation. Thus, he lived in Jordan for almost six years.

In addition to working as a farrier, he was an equestrian and a coach, and participated in local tournaments in Syria and Jordan. His son Hamza was also an equestrian who participated in tournaments in Jordan and won it.

Six years later, Khaled and his family were chosen by the UNHCR to be included in Australia’s resettlement waves. The family thought it could start a new life in New Zealand. Omar commented: “Khaled and his family considered New Zealand as a safe country, hoping to have a fresh start and a bright future for the family and the kids. However, it is Allah’s will that they meet that fate.”

Until the release of Rozana’s journalistic report, Khaled’s family has not received the body of her deceased son yet, while there has been no contact with the UNHCR yet, according to members of the victim’s family. Thus, Khaled’s two brothers headed today to the Australian Embassy in Jordan to follow up the case.

In 1864, Khaled’s ancestors migrated from the Caucasus after the war that lasted for more than 100 years with the Russian Tsar. They settled in the currently occupied Syrian Golan and then in Damascus, in al-Kiswah area of al-​​Mansourah village during the 1967 war. Ironically, Khaled the junior descendent immigrated to Jordan in 2013, and then became one of the victims of the terrorist attack in New Zealand.

In the absence of statistics of the Syrian victims, social media platforms circulated the name of Abdul-Mu’min Kamel, a refugee from the town of Maarat al-Numaan, as one of the victims who have fallen in the attack. However, no further information was provided.

This was not the first terrorist attack targeting Muslims worldwide. In June 2017, Europe witnessed a horrific attack in the north of London after a truck ran over a crowd of Muslims, as they were leaving the mosque after Fajr prayer.

Another attack targeting a mosque in the city of Eskilstuna, Sweden, resulted in injuring five Muslims, as well as attacking a number of mosque imams.

The head of a wild boar was hung on the door of Le Pont-de-Beauvoisin Mosque in Fontaine Isére, France, in addition to similar incidents of burning mosques in Spain and the Netherlands in 2015 following several terrorist attacks which targeted several European countries during the same year.

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