Christchurch mosque attacks: Daughter remembers 'joyous' father killed protecting his friends

The daughter of a man killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks says the memory of her life-loving dad is what's keeping her going two years later.

Monday marks two years since the terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques when gunman Brenton Tarrant opened fire during Friday prayers, killing 51 people.

Sara Qasem's father Abdul lost his life that day protecting his friends from the gunman. She told Newshub's Juliet Speedy she can't help but smile when she thinks of her dad.

Qasem said her father was an incredible man. 

"Of course, there's a sense of pain within that because of what happened but my dad was the funniest, joyous man."

She said her father's actions on March 15 were heroic. 

"My dad was a hero," she said. "On that day, despite an exit door, despite having everything going on around him … he told his friends, 'I'm not going to leave you, I won't leave you.'

Sara Qasem and her father Abdul.
Sara Qasem and her father Abdul. Photo credit: The AM Show

"He stood up at that stage to go and find help and unfortunately as he stood up, in that second round of shooting he came face-to-face him [the gunman] and that was the fatal shot."

Qasem said the idea of running wouldn't have even crossed her father's mind.

"The exit door was there - he knew it and he didn't take it."

Qasem was awarded the quote of the year for her defiant victim impact statement to the gunman during his sentencing last year, where she told him: "Let it be known, these tears are not for you."

She said giving that statement in court was key to her healing process.

"We were able to confront him - he was not allowed to speak, not allowed to react and we could tell him exactly everything that was on our minds."

A national remembrance service - cancelled last year due to COVID-19 - was held on Saturday to honour the victims of March 15.