Wellington – The first refugee to be elected to New Zealand’s parliament resigned Tuesday over alleged shoplifting, which she said was related to personal stress and trauma.
Golriz Ghahraman, an MP for the centre-left Green Party and its justice spokesperson, is being investigated by police after three allegations of theft from boutique clothing shops.
The lawmaker, a former human rights lawyer, said her actions were “not a behaviour I can explain”.
Ghahraman conceded she had fallen short of the standards expected of politicians and needed time to address her mental health.
Work-related stress led her to “act in ways that are completely out of character. I am not trying to excuse my actions, but I do want to explain them”, she said in a statement.
WATCH: Green co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson provide a statement to media about the resignation of Golriz Ghahraman. pic.twitter.com/jKorvDoRJ9
— William McGimpsey (@TheZeitgeistNZ) January 16, 2024
“The mental health professional I see says my recent behaviour is consistent with recent events giving rise to extreme stress response and relating to previously unrecognised trauma.
“I have let down a lot of people and I am very sorry. It’s not a behaviour I can explain because it’s not rational in any way, and after medical evaluation, I understand I’m not well.”
Iran-born Ghahraman, 42, moved to New Zealand as a child with her family when they were granted political asylum as refugees.
After studying law, she became a United Nations human rights lawyer, working on international criminal tribunals before entering parliament in 2017.
The theft accusations surround two alleged incidents at an Auckland luxury clothing store and another at a Wellington high-end clothes retailer all in late 2023.
Extreme mental distress
Last week, the Greens announced that Ghahraman had stood down from her portfolio responsibilities while a police investigation was ongoing.
Prior to the allegations becoming public, Ghahraman had been criticised for her prominent involvement in a string of pro-Palestine protests.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the pressure on his MP had mounted during that period and he believed it intensified the stress that accompanied her through six years in parliament.
“Golriz herself has been subject to pretty much continuous threats of sexual violence, physical violence, death threats, since the day she was elected,” Shaw told journalists on Tuesday.
“Obviously, if you’re living with that level of threat in what is already quite a stressful situation then there are going to be consequences.
“So I have a lot of empathy for the fact that she has identified that she is in a state of extreme mental distress.”
Co-leader Marama Davidson said Gharaman’s resignation was the right decision but lamented the party would lose a “lone voice” on many of her portfolios.
“We have seen the conversation over the past years, especially over the particular treatment of women with public profiles, and in addition, the particular treatment of women of colour with public profiles.
Follow African Insider on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
For more African news, visit Africaninsider.com