Refugee Week 2021: Activist who escaped Taliban assassination attempt urges others to be proud of their survival story

A supreme court judge turned campaigner who had to flee for her life from Afghanistan, is urging all fellow asylum seekers to take pride in their survival story this Refugee Week.

Marzia Babakarkhail was trying to build a better world for women and girls - when the Taliban made an attempt on her life. 

"They broke down the front door, came into my house, slapped my mother... I was hiding by the back door. They spent five hours searching the house, and of course they wanted to find me to shoot me" 

After another assassination attempt - where Marzia was deliberately run over and left for dead - her mother begged her to run for her life. 

Marzia arrived as a refugee in Oldham, with one small suitcase, and a huge challenge ahead of her. 

Unable to speak English and prevented by immigration laws from getting a job, she felt very isolated. 

"The language barrier is the biggest difficulty for asylum seekers..." Marzia explained. "The day I arrived, I just felt 'Oh Marzia, you're finished...' It's a really difficult feeling because my whole identity collapsed, and life became very pointless."

"I was an educated person, who became someone who just stays home and watches from the window."

Marzia is now a British citizen, and keen to pass on that support to others in need.

She volunteers with the British Red Cross, helping other new arrivals to find their feet in a new country and a new culture. 

She wants to encourage those who fled for their lives to feel proud of their survival story. 

This is her message this Refugee Week:

Marzia is also a caseworker for her local MP, supporting constituents through the immigration process. 

Her employer, the Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams, says her first hand knowledge makes her an essential part of the team. 

"She's an absolute treasure, she really is, in so many ways." the MP told ITV News.   

"When I have constituents come to me seeking help on immigration issues, Marzia's been through that, she understand the process, she understands how the Home Office works, and she can do what's needed to address that. "

Marzia has volunteering around Oldham for five years.

Having felt the worst of human cruelty, she's determined to share the best of its kindness. 

What is Refugee Week?

Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.

This year's theme is "We cannot walk alone” - a reference to Martin Luther King's message to come together in the name of progress.

Organisers want the week to invite people to consider extending the hand of friendship to someone new, or getting involved in a new cause.

You can find out more about Refugee Week here.