Story: Middle Eastern peoples
Page 4 – Other Middle Eastern peoples
Iraqis and Iranians
In New Zealand’s 2006 census there were 6,024 residents born in Iraq, and 2,793 born in Iran. Most had arrived as refugees during the 1990s. Auckland had by far the largest Iraqi settlement, followed by Wellington (200–250 families) and Hamilton (30 families). Many Iraqis were Assyrian Christians, who suffered greatly during the Iraq–Iran conflict and the Gulf wars. Oppressed by the ruling Muslim Sunni class in Iraq during the 1990s, many emigrated to western countries as refugees.
Around half of the Iranians resident in New Zealand in 2001 were Muslims. Like Iraqis, they were also concentrated in Auckland.
In Auckland, Iraqi and Iranian Christians attended three main churches: the Chaldean Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. In Wellington, Father Aprem Oraha Pithyou headed the Ancient Church of the East. In 2003 the Iraqi community received a visit from the Chaldean Patriarch and official ceremonies were held in Wellington and in Auckland.
In the 2000s Auckland Assyrians could tune into the United Assyrian Voice Radio on Saturday afternoons on PlanetFM.
In their new environment Iraqis and Iranians have worked hard to build a better future for their children. The kin group and the church remain the focus of their social interaction.
No more dog fights over the desert
Shahab Forouzandeh used to fly single-engine FT-33 aircraft on reconnaissance and training sorties during the Iran–Iraq War. But as a follower of the Baha’i faith he was persecuted for his beliefs in Muslim Iran. He arrived in Wellington in 1989 as a refugee, and two years later was driving buses. While the pedestrians and winds of Lambton Quay were a far cry from the desert skies of the Middle East, Shahab was philosophical about his new role: ‘Well, it’s a job…I like to meet people.’ 1
The Turks and others
By the 2000s there were also small numbers of people from (in descending order) Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Bahrain. Of these diverse peoples, the Turks have been the most visible, with many operating kebab houses serving falafel, hommos (hummus), baklava and of course lokum (Turkish delight).