Former refugee and proud Oldhamer honoured by British Red Cross for voluntary service

PROUD Oldhamer and former refugee Marzia Babakarkhail has been awarded a five year long service award by the British Red Cross for her ‘sustained commitment’ to the organisation in helping other refugees and asylum seekers.

Marzia proudly holding her British Red Cross five years service certificate

In 2007 Marzia, who was a family court judge in Afghanistan, was left for dead after the Taliban ran her over with a car in a hit and run assassination attempt. They targeted her because she was a staunch campaigner for women’s rights.

She survived but after six months recovering in hospital, her mother – who had continued to receive death threats against Marzia – begged her to flee the country.

Marzia went straight to the airport and took the next available flight, which was to the UK.

She said: “It was very difficult for me to make the decision to leave everything behind, my mother, family and friends, my work, my country.”

Because of her own experiences Marzia, who is now a UK citizen, is keen to highlight the theme of this year’s Refugee Week (June 14-18) which is ‘we cannot walk alone’.

She said: “I know what it is like to have to leave your own country because your life is in danger.

“And I know what it is like to feel frightened and alone when you arrive in a new country where you may not be able to speak the language.

“I agree with the theme of Refugee Week. I have been through this experience and felt very alone, but I was helped by many people here so now I want to dedicate my life to helping other refugees and asylum seekers.”

Marzia now works as a part-time for Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth.

Mrs Abrahams said: “Marzia is an amazing woman who has been through more than most people could cope with but has worked hard to learn English, become a UK citizen, and is now well known across Oldham, volunteering on a wide range of issues and helping other people who have sought asylum in the UK.

“The fact that she is such an active citizen is a fantastic reflection of all the positive support that our country has given to refugees and asylum seekers and hopefully we’ll continue to do so.”

“She is truly an inspiration to us all and Oldham is lucky to have her.”

Hannah Johnson, Marzia’s manager at the British Red Cross refugee services, said: “It has been so wonderful to have Marzia volunteering with us over the past five years.

“Her interpretation skills have been invaluable to our work supporting vulnerable refugees and people seeking asylum, whether at events, face-to-face or over the phone.

“Marzia is always helpful and professional, but above all, she is tirelessly compassionate. I’m so thankful to her for all her work.”

Find out more about Refugee Week here:

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