One week after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 and injuring dozens, women across the nation wore headscarves in support with the Muslim community.
Thaya Ashman, a doctor in Auckland, created Headscarf for Harmony after she learned of a Muslim woman who feared her hijab would make her a target for violence after the terrorist attack. Ashman, who consulted with the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand and the Muslim Association of New Zealand before organising the effort, said the gesture was a way for non-Muslim women to express solidarity as the country grapples with the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings.
"I wanted to say: ‘We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you’," Ashman told Reuters. The effort called for headscarves instead of hijabs to acknowledge the cultural differences between those who are Muslim and those who are not.
Women who joined an open prayer in front of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, where most of the victims were killed, wore headscarves as a sign of respect. Others across New Zealand, including news anchors and reporters, joined in the gesture too and shared pictures on social media.
The headscarves gestures follows other tributes to the fallen, like a series of viral videos showing teenagers and adults performing the haka, the Maori's people ceremonial dance traditionally used for the battlefield, celebrations and commemorations.
These displays of solidarity comes as New Zealanders struggle to understand the attack, an unprecedented one in the country's modern history, and begin to heal. According to local authorities, violent crime in New Zealand is extremely rare: In 2017 there were only 35 murders in the nation — a 40-year-low that's the equivalent to about seven deaths for every 1 million people.
In government, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern helped create an united front soon after the shooting occurred. "They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home," she said in a press conference following the attack, referring to the migrants and refugees who were targeted. She later emphasised: "They are us." The lawmaker has gained praise for how she's effectively and compassionately handled the crisis. After the shooting, Ardern promised that her cabinet will pursue gun control measures to improve the nation's current laws. On Thursday, less than a week after the shooting, she announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles and that the government had set up a buyback programme.
"Our history changed forever," Ardern said. "Now, our laws will too."