Well-meaning request provokes some bitter reactions.

When Rania Alani was 4, her family emigrated from Iraq to New Zealand for a better life.

Twenty two years later, she identifies more as a Kiwi than an Iraqi but is still fighting for her home country to be recognised.

The Auckland marketing officer made headlines when she called for SkyCity to light up Auckland's Sky Tower in the red, white and black colours of the Iraqi flag in honour of the more than 280 people, including many children, killed by an Isis suicide bomb in Baghdad on July 3.

She believed it was "inconsistent compassion" to light up the tower for the victims of the Paris, Brussels and Orlando attacks, but not the victims of the Baghdad bombing.


Her appeal was answered and the tower was lit in the colours of the Iraqi flag Wednesday night. A candlelit vigil on the same night in Auckland's Mission Bay raised more than $2000 for the Red Cross' Iraq Crisis Appeal.

Alani, an avid supporter of social causes, credits her family and the Kiwi-Iraqi community for her drive for equal compassion.

"Dad wanted to live abroad and thought there would be more opportunities in New Zealand. My parents are both engineers. They came here as skilled migrants and worked super-hard.

"Many Iraqi people I know in New Zealand are doctors or engineers, or IT [professionals] who came here in the early 1990s.

"We contribute to New Zealand and help the community where it's needed, not just other Iraqis.

"The tower wasn't about the lights, it was about awareness. We just wanted this one thing to show we care about the people back home."

Alani believes many Kiwis hold misconceptions about Iraq, such as that the whole country is a war zone full of Isis-linked Muslims.

"Iraq is probably the most diverse country in the Middle East. There's Christians, Muslims, Jews ... It's not a warzone.


"I have cousins who drive to work every day, go out at night; have Instagram and Snapchat, just like people here.

"I'm grateful SkyCity stepped up. It made me super-proud to be a New Zealander as we were the first country in the world to light up for Iraq."

Despite her support of Iraq, Alani, along with her three siblings, is settled in New Zealand and couldn't imagine living elsewhere.

"I love New Zealand. I wouldn't call any other country my home but we still have a background and history and I think we shouldn't let go of that either.

"People commented [on stories about her request to SkyCity] 'aren't you glad we're letting you in' and 'go back to your own country'.

"What country is that? It was a little heartbreaking to read because I identify as a Kiwi more than anything else.


"I don't expect every single tragedy in the Middle East to be recognised but our compassion shouldn't be one-sided or unbalanced, even if it's people you're unfamiliar with."