Turkey calls OIC meeting on Islamophobia after NZ attacks

The meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to be held in Istanbul in the wake of Christchurch massacre.

Turkey has called an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the New Zealand mosque attacks and “increasing violence based on Islamophobia”.

The country’s foreign ministry said in a statement published on Thursday that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would chair the meeting held in Istanbul on Friday.

“Turkey, as the OIC Summit Chair, has called upon holding an emergency meeting for discussing the increasing violence based on Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia, in particular the terrorist attack targeted two mosques in New Zealand on 15 March 2019,” the statement said.

It also said that apart from the OIC members, the representatives of the United Nations, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were also invited to the meeting.

Erdogan’s comments

The announcement came a week after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last Wednesday that her foreign minister would travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 50 people.

Erdogan, while campaigning for March 31 local elections, said on Tuesday that Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.

He presented the attack as part of an assault on Turkey and Islam and warned anti-Muslim Australians would be “sent back in coffins” like their grandfathers at Gallipoli – a blood-drenched World War I battle.

Australia, Turkey in row after Christchurch massacres

More than 8,000 Australians died fighting Turkish forces at Gallipoli, which has a prominent place in Australia’s collective memory.

Erdogan’s comments included video footage of the shootings which the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook.

The Australian gunman, a self-avowed white supremacist from Australia, live streamed much of the attack and spread a manifesto on social media claiming it was an attack against Muslim “invaders”.

The manifesto referenced Turkey and the minarets of Istanbul’s famed Hagia Sophia, now a museum, that was once a church before becoming a mosque during the Ottoman empire.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday summoned the Turkish ambassador over Erdogan’s speech but dismissed the “excuses” offered.

“Remarks have been made by Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Morrison said.

In fiery remarks, Morrison accused Erdogan of betraying the promise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the father of modern state and a revered figure in Turkey – to forge peace between the two countries.

Three Turkish nationals were wounded in the attacks that killed 50 worshippers at two mosques in the southern New Zealand city on Friday.

New Zealand bans sale of assault, semi-automatic rifles

Weapons ban aims ‘to prevent an act of terror from ever happening again in our country’, prime minister says.

New Zealand has banned the sale of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons after the country’s worst-ever attack that killed 50 people in two mosques.

“Be assured this is just the beginning of the work we’ll be doing,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference on Thursday.

“It’s in the national interest and it’s about safety… to prevent an act of terror from ever happening again in our country,” she said of the ban.

Ardern said she expects the new law to be in place by April 11 and buy-back schemes will be established for banned weapons.

“Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military-style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ardern said.

She said the man arrested in the attacks on two Christchurch mosques had purchased his weapons legally and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines “done easily through a simple online purchase”.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines,” she said.

“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.”

Ardern said the interim measures announced on Thursday will stop a rush of purchases before legislation on the measures takes effect next month.

She added there would be some limited exemptions for New Zealand’s farmers, many of whom require firearms for pest control and management of their livestock.

White supremacist suspect

Ardern’s move came six days after a gunman entered the Al Noor and Linwood mosques and killed 50 people in an indiscriminate shooting spree.

Police confirmed on Thursday that all 50 victims of the attack had been identified by coroners, while funerals continued to take place as relatives collected their loved ones’ bodies from authorities.

“I can say that, as of a few minutes ago, the identification process and to all 50 victims has been completed and all of the next of kin have been advised,” Police Commissioner Mike Bush said at a press conference in Wellington.

“That is a landmark for this process,” he added.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack on Friday.

However, police said in a statement on Thursday that the person he was formally accused of killing had been wrongly declared dead, adding Tarrant’s charge sheet would be updated when he next appeared in court on April 5.

Tarrant, who was remanded without a plea in his initial court appearance on Saturday, is expected to face more charges then.

The scale of the attack he is suspected to have carried out has caused global revulsion, including for his use of social media to livestream the carnage in real-time.

In a rambling “manifesto”, Tarrant said he was motivated partly by a desire to stoke religious conflict between Islam and the West by targetting “invaders”.

‘Well-considered and overdue’

Analysts welcomed the prime minister’s move on weapons legislation in response to the massacre, saying despite the nation’s outpouring of grief over the incident, “thoughts and prayers don’t make much difference” but “actions” do.

“What we are seeing at the moment is not political populism, or politicians taking advantage of a terrible situation, it’s actually highlighting political inertia from the past,” Jarrod Gilbert, a senior lecturer on crime and justice at the New Zealand-based University of Canterbury, said.

Ardern had previously cited Australia’s decision to change its gun laws 12 days after the country’s 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were killed, as a blueprint for amending New Zealand’s laws, saying “we will do it in less”.

Previous governments failed to implement recommendations made by Justice Thomas Thorp in his government-backed 1997 review of firearms control in New Zealand.

Thorp’s review culminated in a call for all firearms to be individually registered to their owners, tighter vetting procedures for those seeking to buy weapons and a ban on military-style semi-automatics.

“This isn’t kneejerk by any stretch, these measures have been well considered and overdue,” Gilbert said.

“Nobody is saying that New Zealanders can’t have a firearm … New Zealand is a country that requires firearms, but no one needs a military-style semi-automatic weapon,” he added, citing the example of farmers.

“We allow people to drive cars in New Zealand we don’t allow people to drive tanks, that’s the equivalence … The time for these measures isn’t now, it’s actually long passed.”

Following Ardern’s announcement, Police Commissioner Bush said there would be an “amnesty” to allow people to hand in now illegal firearms to police.

“For many people, you will now be in unlawful possession of your firearm,” Bush said in a statement.

New Zealand’s foremost hunting body, Fish and Game NZ, said on Wednesday it would support a ban and buy-back of military-style semi-automatic weapons and restrictions on high-capacity magazines.

‘much safer’

Outside a makeshift memorial for the victims of last week’s attack at the entrance to Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens, passersby and mourners said they supported the government’s move on Thursday.

Father-of-two Teurai Chikura said it showed “good, strong and decisive leadership”.

“I can’t see a place for semi-automatic weapons in everyday civilian society,” Chikura said.

“Being in a minority group in New Zealand it [the ban] makes me feel much safer, there isn’t the potential anymore for someone to just walk down the road with a military-style weapon that they could unleash on defenceless, unarmed civilians,” he added.

Anna Walker agreed that the ban was a positive move and suggested other countries with similar gun laws should now follow New Zealand’s lead.

“I firmly believe that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, however I think that the ban is good because it takes the opportunity away for people who have that mind set,” she said.

“[But] It’s horrible that it’s come to this, that this [Friday’s attack] is the reason they’ve made this ban … it wasn’t done before and yes, it probably should have been done before.”