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Rez Gardi

RAFDI Working Group Member

Professional affiliation

Founder, Empower; Co-Managing Director, Refugee Seeking Equal Access at the Table (R-SEAT); Co-founder, Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand

Full Biography

Rez Gardi is a co-founder of the Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies and an Adjunct Research Fellow. She is an international lawyer and human rights activist. She was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan as her family escaped Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaign against the Kurds. Arriving in New Zealand with nothing, Rez sought to use her difficult start in life as motivation to succeed, becoming New Zealand’s first Kurdish female lawyer. She graduated as a Fulbright Scholar with a Master of Laws from Harvard Law School becoming the first Kurd in history to graduate from Harvard Law.

She is the Co-Managing Director for Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table (R-SEAT), a global initiative seeking to solidify commitments from states to enshrine refugee participation in the global refugee regime. Her previous roles include working as a legal officer for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, as a commercial litigator at New Zealand’s preeminent law firm, as a lecturer on international law and human rights, and most recently in Iraq as a Harvard Human Rights Fellow building cases for the prosecution of ISIS regarding their targeted genocidal campaign against the Yezidis, including mass executions, kidnapping, torture, sexual violence, and other human rights abuses.

Rez has a wealth of experience advocating for the rights of refugee at global fora. She is the founder of ‘Empower’ – a youth and refugee-led organisation addressing the under-representation of refugees in higher education. She represented New Zealand in the first ever Global Refugee Youth Consultations in Geneva and was one of the founding members of the Global Youth Advisory Council to the UNHCR. She contributed to the Global Summit of Refugees in 2018, which led to the establishment the Global Refugee-led Network. In 2020 she helped established the Refugee Steering Group for the UNHCR Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement.