My life in clothes: Green Party candidate Golriz Ghahraman

by Frances Morton / 31 August, 2017

Golriz Ghahraman in the aubergine dress made for her by a neighbour in Cambodia, and Masai jewellery from Tanzania.

Golriz Ghahraman

Barrister, consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Green Party candidate

This dress (above) is what I wore to give a speech in Aotea Square on Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. It was made for me by my neighbour in Cambodia. I lived in Phnom Penh and worked as a UN prosecutor on the Khmer Rouge tribunal for about a year and a half. You get everything made. They’re amazing artisans. But they’re going to get pushed into the sweatshops if people don’t continue to get things made.

My point at the Aotea Square rally was I’m not Muslim and I don’t speak as a Muslim,  but as a human-rights advocate I’d fight to the death for someone’s right to wear the hijab. [Trump’s travel ban] is scapegoating entire groups based on their nationality. This is how atrocities begin, legally disenfranchising people, defining them as dangerous, as a group. A blanket ban on people from a country as an anti-terror measure is really dehumanising and demeaning.

It was interesting because it made me feel quite powerful. It’s a dress. It’s not something you’d usually wear to a protest. It was billowing in the wind. It gave me quite a bit of freedom.

(01) Le Scandale top from sustainable-fashion label Reformation; Oxford choker.

I’m from Mashhad in the north of Iran, which is a huge city near the Afghan border. Now that Mosul in Iraq has been sacked, it’s the most important holy city for Shia Islam. The amazing shrine of Imam Reza is there.

I was nine when my family came to New Zealand. We lived in Iran during the 80s, which was the first post-revolutionary decade, and the most repressive. It was particularly vicious in attacking women, minorities and political dissidents. The year I was born, they introduced the hijab as compulsory Islamic wear for women. A million women marched against it. It was 1981. They really resisted, at gunpoint.

When I did that speech in Aotea Square, people one after another would stand up and say they were Muslim. We had escaped that. It was important for me to get up and say I’m actually not religious at all, because the Middle East also has diversity within it. But I am affected by these rules of discrimination.

Feminism as it comes out of the Middle East is the opposite of how it’s expressed here. It’s about wearing makeup and nice clothes. That’s how my mother expresses herself. She’s like, I can’t believe you leave the house without lipstick on. It’s like, I am going to stand out. Screw you. The patriarchy tells you to be shapeless and desexualised.

To me, bright lipstick is a real Iranian- woman thing. She wears bright clothes. They weren’t allowed colour. I don’t do colour. I just do black and crazy jewellery.

(02) Iranian donkey decoration worn as a necklace.

In my workday, I wear suits to court, because you just have to. Going out with friends, I’d wear something like the Le Scandale top (01), with loads of jewellery as well. It’s about women reclaiming words like “scandal” and “nasty women”. It’s the sustainable-fashion label Reformation, from LA.

The velvet ribbon is from Oxford. I did the international human-rights law masters programme there. I wear it as a choker. You wear it as a bow for exams. You have to wear a white shirt, a black suit, this little bow. You also have to wear a carnation, a white one for the first exam, a pink one for all the other ones and a red one for your final one. You also wear a little cape. And you take a mortarboard but you can’t wear it because you haven’t graduated yet. It’s actually nuts to get your head around that on exam morning when you’re stressed out.

This (02) is actually a donkey or horse decoration, which I wear as a necklace. Someone brought it out of Iran and gave it to my mum. As political refugees, we can’t go back until the regime changes, so all this stuff is my only connection.

The other body of jewellery I’ve got are these Masai things (main photo). This is what the women warriors wear. These are from when I lived in Arusha, Tanzania, when I was a lawyer at the Rwanda tribunal. It’s super-touristy because it’s close to both Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. I was there in 2008 and then again in 2010-11. I was going between Oxford and Arusha for about a year and a half.

I got to a point, in Cambodia, where I realised I’d been away for five years or so. Because I’m a refugee and I can’t go back to Iran, I don’t have a true, true home in a way. At some point I would have lived as an expat longer than I’d lived anywhere permanently, so I couldn’t say I’m from New Zealand any more, and I can’t go back to Iran. I started to feel a little bit panicked about not having a home. I do love Auckland. This whole area around Freemans Bay is where I’ve always lived. I went to Auckland Girls. I can’t get past K’ Rd.

This is published in the July- August 2017 issue of Metro.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Dominatrix: The Renee Chignell story
83339 2017-11-20 12:58:50Z Crime

Dominatrix: The Renee Chignell story

by Donna Chisholm

Former teen dominatrix Renée Chignell was once NZ's most infamous woman. She talked to Metro in 2009 about one of the country's most notorious murders

Read more
Drugs in small town NZ: 'It's easier to get meth than cannabis'
83326 2017-11-20 11:23:30Z Crime

Drugs in small town NZ: 'It's easier to get meth t…

by Tim Brown

Meth is no longer a big city problem. Otago's sleepy Clutha District is awash with the drug - but there aren't enough addiction services to help.

Read more
Rebecca Gibney’s thriller Wanted is heading for our hills
83324 2017-11-20 11:19:10Z Books

Rebecca Gibney’s thriller Wanted is heading for ou…

by Russell Baillie

The second season of Wanted comes to NZ as the creators find out whether the show has won the International Emmy Award for best drama series.

Read more
Shortlist of three options for Auckland America's Cup bases
83317 2017-11-20 07:27:31Z Economy

Shortlist of three options for Auckland America's …

by Mei Heron

Team NZ's preference for a $190m wharf extension to host the America's Cup in Auckland is winning little favour with either the council or government.

Read more
Crooked: Is the back-pain industry doing more harm than good?
83311 2017-11-20 06:41:01Z Health

Crooked: Is the back-pain industry doing more harm…

by Jules Older

If shots and surgery and addictive pills don’t relieve back pain, what does? Jules Older talks to the author of a spine medicine exposé.

Read more
Win the Listener's 100 Best Books of 2017
83307 2017-11-19 16:57:02Z Win

Win the Listener's 100 Best Books of 2017

by The Listener

Each year, the Listener offers one lucky subscriber the chance to win all 100 of our Best Books.

Read more
Euthanasia referendum: Are opponents afraid of what the public might decide?
83261 2017-11-19 00:00:00Z Social issues

Euthanasia referendum: Are opponents afraid of wha…

by Graham Adams

When it comes to the issue of euthanasia, it’s hardly a face-off between two equal forces as the media likes to frame it.

Read more
How to fix your dry and gritty eyes
83273 2017-11-19 00:00:00Z Health

How to fix your dry and gritty eyes

by Nicky Pellegrino

If your eyes feel gritty or are sensitive to light, chances are you have blocked lipid glands.

Read more