For Hassan Beigi, receiving New Zealand citizenship was an opportunity to reflect on his contribution to his new country, now and in the future.
The 35-year-old, his wife Zahra, and two sons, aged 7 and 9, were among 29 Afghanis to become New Zealand citizens at a ceremony at Hamilton Gardens this week.
The Beigis were re-settled in Hamilton in 2014, in recognition of Hassan’s work with the NZ Army as an interpreter.
A lawyer in his native country, Hassan worked for the United Nations which brought him in contact with Kiwis serving in Afghanistan in 2004-05.
Zahra, 30, was also involved with international non-government organisations, including as an education officer for the United States Agency for International Development.
“Our work meant we were always on the front line, and more of a target for terrorists,” says Hassan. “Back home we had all of our family and friends, but we weren’t safe. It’s not safe because there is no justice, there is no rule of law.”
It was a desire to protect his family which compelled Hassan to pursue moving to New Zealand.
Since arriving, Zahra has retrained as a midwife and Hassan has started a tiling and waterproofing business.
Hassan also volunteers as Secretary of the Waikato Refugee Forum, Committee member of Hamilton’s Afghanistan cultural association and Vice-president of the National Refugee Association of New Zealand.
“If I felt safe in Afghanistan, I wouldn’t have left my country,” he says. “But now my country is New Zealand. Now we are New Zealanders, we are going to try our best to be good New Zealanders and be good members of society.”
The citizenship ceremony welcomed 108 new Kiwis from countries including Colombia, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and brought together five Afghani families who arrived in New Zealand at the same time.
“We celebrated being here for five years together,” says Hassan. “We arrived together and now we are all citizens together.
“It was a chance to evaluate what we bring to New Zealand [society], and what we can do in the future socially, economically, and politically to serve our country.
“If we are going to stay here, we must bring something good and positive to the community.”