PROUD Oldhamer and former refugee Marzia Babakarkhail has told her inspirational story of how she made a daring escape to the UK after the Taliban tried to assassinate her as she campaigned for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Marzia, a former family court judge in Afghanistan, told her story to 15 local young people as part of Debbie Abrahams MP’s annual Working for your Community summer school, which was held "virtually" this year via Zoom.

After Marzia’s session, Debbie, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, 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.”

During her emotionally charged summer school session Marzia told the participants: “My work was not popular with the Taliban. They are against freedom for women.”

In 2007, Marzia was left for dead after the Taliban ran her over with a car in a hit-and-run assassination attempt. 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.

Speaking about the visit to her mother’s house, Marzia said: “When she opened the door she was not very happy. My mum was not happy at all that night. She said ‘you have to leave’.”

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

Marzia added: “For me it was very difficult to leave everything. I worked very hard to establish a charity for women.”

And she challenged the participants to consider what they would choose to take with them if they had to leave their home and travel to a new country with no notice, saying: “What do you think if you just decide to leave everything behind and to save your life?

“The person loves you but they’re telling you ‘just go’. Don’t stay anymore.

“What do you take from your room?

“Look around your room and see what you will take.”

Summer school participant Megan Bruton, from Saddleworth, was one of the audience members during Marzia’s session. Megan said: "Meeting Mariza was, for me, the highlight of the summer school.

The Oldham Times: Megan BrutonMegan Bruton

"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."