A PROUD Oldhamer and former refugee has inspired local young people with her story of making a daring escape to the UK after the Taliban tried to assassinate her.
Marzia Babakarkhail, a former family court judge in Afghanistan, spoke to the group of 15 as part of MP Debbie Abrahams’ annual Working for your Community summer school, which was held ‘virtually’ this year via Zoom.
She talked about her experiences and escape after campaigning for women’s rights in Afghanistan.
In 2007 Marzia was left for dead after the Taliban ran her over with a car in a hit and run assassination attempt.
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.
“My work was not popular with the Taliban. They are against freedom for women,” Marzia explained.
“It was very difficult to leave everything. I worked very hard to establish a charity for women.”
Marzia challenged the participants to consider what they would choose to take with them if they had to leave home and travel to a new country with no notice.
Summer school participant Megan Bruton, from Saddleworth, was one of the audience members during Marzia’s session.
She said: “Meeting Mariza was, for me, the highlight of the summer school. She is an incredible woman and I have never met anyone like her before.
“Marzia’s story was truly inspiring and I greatly admire her courage in carrying out all her charitable work and in building a new life for herself in the UK.
“One thing that very much stuck with me was when Marzia referred to the English language as her ‘oxygen’. She inspired me to look into volunteering opportunities for teaching English to refugees and helping them to express themselves in their new place of residence.
“I hope to find an opportunity soon and would like to thank Marzia for everything she brought to the summer school and her willingness to share her story and continue to help others.”
Mrs Abrahams said: “Every year Marzia tells her story to another group of young people at my summer school and each time the audience is spellbound by her courage and determination to survive and carry on helping others.
“Marzia has been through more than most people could cope with but has worked hard to learn English, become a UK citizen, and is now a well-known character volunteering and helping other people who have sought asylum in the UK.
“She is truly an inspiration to us all.”