A decision to deny an Iraqi-born New Zealand woman a job in the New Zealand Defence Force because of her birthplace has been slammed as stupid and prejudiced.
Warda Jawad, a 25-year-old psychology masters student whose family fled to New Zealand in the wake of the Gulf War when she was three, said she burst into tears after hearing the reason for her rejection.
Jawad told Radio NZ she applied for a job as an army psychologist after listening to a presentation from recruiters, and was initially told she appeared to be “the right candidate for the job”.
However, after a four-month application process, she was told she would not receive a security clearance due to her birthplace, as well as a 19-month period spent studying medicine in Oman.
“[The recruiter] said, ‘Hey look, the news isn’t good, basically your application has been rejected, given your place of birth and being away for extended periods of time from New Zealand, you weren’t able to pass a security clearance’.”
That was a pretty appalling decision. You treat people as individuals and don’t judge them off stuff they have no control over, such as where they were born.
One of my best friends was also born in Iraq, and her family left she she was very young. I’d be furious if this had happened to her, and I can only imagine how upsetting it is for Ms Jawad.
Again you should treat people as individuals. If an applicant has beliefs or behaviour or even associates that could make them a security risk, then that is okay to decline them for a security job. But if someone has lived here since they were three years old, and you refuse them purely because of where they were born, then that’s nuts.
Labour defence spokesman Phil Goff said the NZDF had shown a narrow and conservative mindset, and had been unreasonably prejudiced against Jawad based on her birthplace.
“It is a stupid decision, it lacks any sound rationale, and they may have burnt off a person who could have been incredibly useful to them.
“There are not that many people around that are motivated to join the Defence Force and are capable of making the sort of contribution she could.”
Goff said Jawad’s fluency in Arabic, understanding of Middle Eastern culture and ability to talk with Muslim women would all be assets to New Zealand’s military operations.
“We lack in New Zealand people with those very sort of skills…we give people a few weeks’ training in the local culture and a few simple words in the local language, but those sort of skills would be so valuable to the Defence Force.”
I agree with Phil Goff on this.
NZDF have changed their decision, but the damage is already done.
Ms Jawad facebooked her feelings a couple of weeks ago:
Earlier this year I applied for a Psychologist role with the New Zealand Defence Force, a role I had my heart set on for a long time. As I had met all of the criteria for the position, my application proceeded and I met the medical requirements and began training for the NZDF fitness test that I would shortly need to pass. I was told, I only needed security clearance to progress further and become shortlisted. 3 months later, I was told I wasn’t eligible to pass security clearance and on that basis my application was rejected. Why? I was told “Given your place of birth, and being away from NZ for extended periods of time [a 9 month and 10 month period], you are not able to progress through security clearance”. …
Having been 18 years in NZ, completed all of my education here and completing a Masters degree, contributed to the community with various volunteer work that put me in risky and dangerous situations, and a completely clean slate, I am deemed to be a threat to national security because of where I was born. Serving in the Defence Force isn’t just an ordinary job, and I think we all know what sort of sacrifice is present. I willingly chose to put my life at risk and sacrifice many things, to serve New Zealand because here is what I have called home for a long time. Yet, the only thing that has been taken into consideration, is my ethnicity. Heartbroken, disappointed, confused, amongst other awful feelings. Time to turn the page and look ahead for what tomorrow has to bring. Thanks for reading friends
Very very sad – someone who really wanted to contribute, and got turned down because of where she was born and lived for three years.
I have no doubt that some people will claim that anyone born in a Muslim country could be an extremist, and hence NZDF were right. That’s crap. As I said, one of my best friends was born in Iraq. She is the most Kiwi person I know. She is also Iraqi and also a Muslim. These things are not contradictory.