Green MP Golriz Ghahraman meets US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Golriz Ghahraman and Ilhan Omar.
Golriz Ghahraman and Ilhan Omar. Photo credit: Golriz Ghahraman / Facebook

Golriz Ghahraman has met one of her political heroes, "swapping notes" with US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

The Green MP posted a photo of her meeting to social media, writing: "Just a couple of girls, started as refugees, grew up to sit in Houses of Representatives, laughing hysterically at all the nonsense thrown at us by old-guard racists".

Ghahraman has been in the US visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York. On Tuesday, she said she got to "hang out for a long while" with Omar to discuss a range of topics.

"It was like meeting up with an old friend," Ghahraman told Newshub.

"We have been following each other's work, so we had a lot to talk about, so much to laugh about and ideas to exchange."

She said the meeting was scheduled to last 15 minutes but the two ended up chatting for over an hour.

Iranian-born Ghahraman arrived in New Zealand as a child, when her family sought political asylum here. She is the first-ever refugee to be sworn in as an MP in New Zealand. 

Omar - who Ghahraman described as one of her "all-time favourite political leaders" - also arrived in her home country as a refugee, escaping war in Somalia when she was a child.

Ghahraman said the two politicians "spoke about the challenges of being the first-ever refugees in a political establishment that isn't well geared to people from our backgrounds."

Although they "laughed a lot about the outlandish abuse we get online", they also spoke seriously about the concerning rise of white supremacy.

Omar, the Democratic Congresswoman for Minnesota, received widespread attention earlier this year when President Donald Trump tweeted that she - along with three other congresswomen - should "go back" to the places where they came from.

Omar has been a US citizen since she was 17, while the other women told by Trump to "go back" home - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib - were all born in the United States.

Trump's tweets prompted accusations of racism, allegations Trump defended himself against by saying his comments were valid  "because many people agree with me".

Ghahraman said despite the challenges, she and Omar were proud to be part of a rise in diverse politicians, "especially women of colour, who have rarely had a voice as elected representatives".

"We get to stand as a counterpoint to the politics of racism and division."

She also found inspiration in the way Omar dealt with the controversy.

"I find Ilhan's courage and her dedication to working for her constituents, even in the face of serious security threats and abuse, inspiring. It really helps to know she's out there fighting that battle so gracefully."

Ghahraman also met the UN special rapporteur Philip Alson to talk about the effects of poverty, food insecurity and climate migration in the Pacific. 

She will be in the US for another two days.