Speech: Sharidyn (2019)

24-04-2019 9:58 pm

This is my speech to New Zealands Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Winston Peters after he laid a wreath at the 22nd July memorial in Oslo on behalf of the New Zealand government, in honour of my sister, Sharidyn and the 76 victims of the terrorist attacks in Norway.

A special thank you to my mum for organising a private meeting with Mr Peters for our families. ❤

My name is Savannah Svebakk-Bøhn, and on behalf of my family – my parents and my sister I would like to welcome you to Norway. Since our time with you is limited, my parents suggested that I be the one to tell you a little about my sister, our family and how the terrorist attacks here in Norway affected us and families like ours. (...)

Sharidyn was everything we love about being a kiwi. Her kindness was bigger then her - and she fought for what she believed in. She defended her friends who were of the muslim faith. She fiercely defended their right to wear the hijab at school without the fear of being teased, just because they where different. She was 12 when Sharidyn stood up against the boys that were bullies, and even though she hated violence she threatened the “bullies” that she would sit on them if they didn’t stop.

But Sharidyn was also kind to people she never meet - strangers. She was her compassion for others. After she was killed, a lady visited us and told of the day she met my sister. Sharidyn had given her money because the lady didn’t have enough to pay for her food - and Sharidyn didn’t ask for anything back.

Sharidyn had ambitions for her future - she believed that one day she could be the Prime Minister of New Zealand. My parents have taught us that to “believe that we could be anything we want to be" – to believe that we could reach the stars, and Sharidyn truly believed that she could be her dreams. Sharidyn also dreamed for herself, that she would also become a fashion designer just like our aunty Michal. She was creative, she sung and she painted everything – all wonderful memories of the life she lived and that we lived with her.

My sister was also hilarously funny and found the silver lining in everything. She was the worlds best big sister, and everything I am to our little sister Sydney, is because my big sister - was kindness, compassion and generosity all wrapped in a package that was her. I know that if my sister had been looking over us today, she would have been proud to see you here with us honouring not only her memory but also the memory of all the victims of the 22. July terrorist attacks.

But the simple truth is that I wouldn’t be talking to you if my sister hadn't of been killed – if she hadn’t been born in New Zealand. I am 14 years old - the same age my sister was when she was heinously taken from us. For almost eight years, we have lived without my big sister – and the world is a much sadder place without her in it.

For 8 years we have struggled to find our place in the world without Sharidyn. My parents are two amazing people who have fiercely protected us and given Sydney and I everything that they also gave Sharidyn. But when you’re the little sister of the youngest victim of the Norway terrorist attacks – you grow up seeing the world in a way that steals from us our innocence. That is why I advocate and tell people about my sister, to help other children like me cope with their grief, but also to educate adults like you – that 8 years after my sister was stolen from us, we still need assistance from the government. Families we know are financially destitute because there is NO ONE to help them. Children I know struggle with their grief – and there is no help from the health authorities. I could tell you all the wonderful things that has happened to us – but that wouldn’t serve the NZ families, if you believe that families like us are taken care of. The simple fact is – they haven’t.

If New Zealand intends to fight extremisme – and I believe that NZ will, then countries like New Zealand need to teach the future, children like me about the victims. This is how we learn about Anzac Day – this is how we learn about our important people in New Zealands history. We learn from their stories. Don’t focus on just the idelologies of why hatred and intoleranse exist – otherwise families like us will be placed second behind the terrorist.

What I wish for the future seems like a “dream”. To quote the great “Martin Luther King” – who wished for himself and the future, a better life said: "I have a dream". I too, have a dream.

I have a dream - that we accept our differences and find harmony in what makes us all the same. We are one race – the human race. I have a dream.

I have a dream - that people are more compassionate, are more generous, and kinder to each other.

I have a dream - that the victims of terrorism in New Zealand will one day find peace in their grief.

I have a dream - that we NEVER forget their NAMES, their FACES, their STORIES – because that is how we will teach future generations that: “Terrorism has NO place in our future, and we will fight terrorisms hateful existence – we will fight extremism with compassion, we will fight terrorism with kindness, we will fight with our humanity".

In loving memory of my sister, Sharidyn ❤


Together with Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Winston Peters (2nd from the left), and on the far right (to my left) is our "new" New Zealand Ambassador for Norway, Denmark and Sweden, Mr Andrew Jenks (2019). Photo Credit: S.Morrati/S.Svebakk-Bøhn

Laying a single rose for my sister (2019). Photo Credit: S.Moratti/S.Svebakk-Bøhn

Tribute to Sharidyn (2019) Photo credit: S.Moratti/S.Svebakk-Bøhn

Together with Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Winston Peters while I am giving my speech at the 22-July Centre in Oslo (2019). Photo Credit: O.R Bøhn

Together with the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Winston Peters in a private meeting after my speech at the 22-July Centre (2019) Photo Credit: O.R Bøhn

Live interview with TV2 journalist, Ane Rostad Stokholm by the 22-July monument after my speech to Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Winston Peters (2019). Photo Credit: O.R Bøhn

Speech: The World We Live In (2016)

10-03-2018 9:15 pm

The 11th of March marks The European Day of Remembrance of "Victims of Terrorism" which was established after the Madrid Bombings in 2004. Each year since 2005, the European Commission together with the survivors and their families remember on this date the victims of terrorist atrocities, regardless of their nationality.

In remembrance of all the victims of the terror attacks in Norway on the 22nd of July 2011, I have posted my 7th grade speech which I gave as part of an individual assessment while I was a student at Mount Maunganui Intermediate School (New Zealand) in 2016. The theme that I chose for my speech was "Terrorism" and how it affects the world we live in today. My speech is based on my experience after the loss of my sister, Sharidyn. Although I gave this speech almost two years ago, I think that parts of my speech are a fitting reminder that Terrorism affects us all.

The World We Live In:

On Friday the 22nd of July 2011, my world as I knew it was forever changed. One man decided and planned many years before I was born, to change my sister's fate. He decided that his ideas and beliefs were more important than my sisters. My older sister, Sharidyn was brutally murdered by a terrorist. Sharidyn was shot twice in the back while she was running to save her own life, and was left to die an agonising death. Sharidyn was the youngest of 77 people mainly children like us murdered in one of the world's most heinous acts of terrorism in modern times, since the 2nd World War. Sharidyn was killed 5 days after her 14th birthday. My speech is in part about my sister and my personal experience but my speech will ultimately cover "how terrorism affects world we live in today".

Terrorism has been in existence for a very long time, and is a major problem facing the world we live in today. Some would say that there are examples of acts of terrorism as far back as ancient times. And yet experts, governments and world agencies find it not only difficult to define exactly what terrorism is but also to agree on an international definition. Simply put, terrorism is the systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve some goal. There are many forms of terrorism. The list is as long as the many reasons for why terrorism threatens the way we live. The most common form of terrorism is motivated by political reasons. Groups or factions of organisations owe their allegiance to political or religious beliefs that are even too complicated for most adults to understand. The world is today witnessing an increase in terrorist activities.

It may feel like every time our parents turn on the news, another terrorist attack has happened somewhere in the world. Two days ago, New York was the victim yet again of another terrorist attack. You may be thinking that terrorism doesn't affect us here in New Zealand. Why should I care? We are safe in our country. It will never happen to us here. In my perfect world, it won't. But terrorism isn't someone else's problem or tragedy.

Terrorism affects us all, even in New Zealand. Terrorism affects children like us, displaces families and communities, destroys cities, countries, and historical monuments we learn about and maybe dream about visiting. Imagine being told that we could no longer live in Mount Maunganui because of our beliefs. You may even know someone that has had to leave their home, the city they grew up in or their native country. They may even have lost a family member or a friend.

Terrorism and extreme violence attacks the very heart of what keeps us safe and our right to be safe. Terrorism has no borders, no laws, or democratic principles they obey. Regardless of the reasons, who they are or where they are from - terrorists have no respect for human life and by choice, choose to defy the laws that govern the way we live. They think that their view is the right one, and as ridiculous as it sounds believe that force by violence is their human right. Terrorists do not discriminate against their victims. Terrorists choose to use extreme forms of violence and terror to achieve their goals, and will not hesitate in committing mass murder of innocent people like my sister and her friends, kidnapping, hijacking planes and creating terror in any way possible. Their aim is to scare, hurt, and kill as many people as they can. Terrorists don't care who the victims and their families are. They don't care what they destroy.

But we should. The more we know about what terrorism and extreme violence is, the more our generation can stop the cycle of future terrorists destroying families and communities where we live. A very wise man named Mahatma Ghandi, believed in the ideal that "We should be the change we want to see in the world". He believed that we mirror the world, the future - we choose for ourselves. Our generation has the power, and responsibility to fiercely protect our right to live, our right to love whom we want, our right to religious freedom, our right to freedom of speech and our right to believe in what we want. But we have a greater responsibility of being kind to one another. To accept and respect other's opinions, religious beliefs and cultures, which are different to our own.

My family and I are survivors of a brutal act of terrorism. My world is different that the one I lived in with my sister and it is sadder place without her in it. But I am my sister's advocate and keeper of the memories I shared with Sharidyn. I was blessed to have a sister that was beautiful on the outside as she was in her heart. Sharidyn was extremely kind and her acts of kindness, her sense of humour and unique ability to see the "invisible" others ignored is all part of her legacy that she left us with. I honour my sister's memory and victims of terrorism like my sister by shouting from the rooftops to strangers, reminding friends and even family that my sister's life mattered and she deserves to be remembered.

In conclusion, terrorism may scare us, it may harm us, and it may even take someone we love from us, but let's agree that terrorism has no place in our future. The world we live in is the world we choose to design for ourselves. We are the generation that can make a difference, and choose that violence in any form, no matter the reason, has no place in the world we live in. The world we live in belongs to us all. What world do you want to live in?

In remembrance of my sister, Sharidyn ❤

Min vakre søster, Sharidyn (2010) Kilde: V.Svebakk