A lawmaker from New Zealand quit her job on Tuesday after allegations emerged that she had shoplifted from two clothing stores, actions she said were caused by stress affecting her mental health.
“I fell short. I’m sorry,” said the lawmaker, Golriz Ghahraman, in a statement on Tuesday. “The best thing for my mental health is to resign as a member of Parliament.”
Ms. Ghahraman, 43, a former United Nations human rights lawyer originally from Iran, rose to prominence when she became the first refugee to be sworn in as a member of the country’s Parliament in 2017.
Allegations of shoplifting started appearing in New Zealand’s news media this month. Some reports also published a CCTV video that appeared to show Ms. Ghahraman taking a handbag from a clothing store. Leaders from her party, the center-left Green Party, confirmed that the police were investigating the episodes, which according to the news reports, happened in the cities of Auckland and Wellington last year.
Ms. Ghahraman, who did not mention shoplifting in her statement, said that she could not explain her behavior because it was “not rational in any way,” and said that after medical evaluation, “I understand I’m not well.” She added that a mental health professional she was seeing said that her behavior was consistent with “recent events giving rise to extreme stress response,” and related to past trauma.
James Shaw, a leader of the Green Party, said that Ms. Ghahraman had been subjected to continuous threats of sexual violence, physical violence and death since the day she was elected, and that there had been constant police investigations into those threats. She was exposed to higher levels of stress than most lawmakers, Mr. Shaw said at a news conference on Tuesday.
During her career, Ms. Ghahraman had promoted refugee and migrant rights and worked on ending New Zealand’s military deployments in the Middle East to refocus the work of the country’s defense forces on the climate crisis, according to the Green Party. In 2020, she revealed she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Most recently, she had expressed her support for the Palestinian population, and worn a traditional kaffiyeh scarf in Parliament.
“Ms Ghahraman has worked tirelessly on behalf of her communities,” Mr. Shaw and Marama Davidson, another party leader, said in a joint statement. “Nothing detracts from that work.”