A woman who was the target of an assassination attempt by the Taliban has spoken of her mental health challenges since moving to Oldham.

Marzia Babakarkhail, a judge, activist and refugee has spoken of her mental turmoil at having to leave Afghanistan and start life in the UK in 2008.

Marzia was targeted by the Taliban for setting up a foundation for educating girls in Pakistan. The Taliban tried to kill her in a high-speed hit-and-run incident as she visited her sick mother in hospital in Peshawar Pakistan.

She managed to escape from Afghanistan when she was 42 by hiding under a burkha and going straight to the airport. Upon arrival in the UK, she was sent to Oldham but could not speak English.

The former Supreme Court Judge shared how learning English has had a significant effect on her mental health.

Marzia said,  “I have been on a long journey with my mental health and it has not been an easy one. 

“I suffered from severe depression when I first moved here from Afghanistan because I had moved to a country where I didn’t know a single word of English. 

“Life was almost impossible for me when I could not speak English. The very simplest tasks were beyond me. I was very unhappy here and could see no light at the end of the tunnel. 

“I used to think the Taliban should have just finished me off in Afghanistan.

“I thought ‘I am tired of living, I just can’t take this anymore.’

“I had lost everything, my identity, my family, my status and my language.”

Asian Image:

Marzia was named Fusion Woman of the Year at the 2017 ceremony

Immersed in a new life without a career or family, Marzia found the language barrier made her feel anxious, scared and the inability to articulate her problems left her feeling as if she had ‘failed.’

After receiving professional health for her depression, Marzia strove to empower herself through education.

“Since coming to the UK, I was in a safe and nurturing environment, but I was still in darkness.
“I began to attend Healthy Minds talking therapy and that’s where I began seeing a therapist. 

That was a big battle I fought. It took me a very long time to recover. I was really tired with life. 
“It is only by the help of the GP and mental health services that I got back on my feet.

“This is what motivates me to help others in any way possible. I have faith in these services because they have transformed my life.”

She subsequently joined Oldham College to learn English through an ESOL course which Marzia describes as being her ‘oxygen.’ 

“I know the power of education. The power to speak and to be counted.

“Now that I can communicate, I can make friends, volunteer to help others and generally be involved in the community as I was in my home country.

“Without an education you can’t help improve lives for other people.

“Learning English has opened many doors for me, giving me hope and improving my mental health.” 

Whilst being actively involved in campaigning, lobbying and mentoring, Marzia is also raising awareness to promote rights and freedoms for gender equality and is involved at grassroots level with organisations concerned with social cohesion and refugees.

“From Court Judge, to migrant, to asylum seeker, to refugee, to volunteer, to campaigner – I am the lucky one, but people forget we are human.

“We become a label, a statistic, a burden and enemy to people in a country who think we only want their jobs.

“We have endured horrors that stop us sleeping at night, yet when we step on new land, we are treated like criminals who should be punished.
"My goal is to bring everybody together and encourage asylum seekers and refugees to build a successful life and to be independent.

"The most important thing we need is to learn English. We cannot achieve anything without the language in the country we live. 

"I believe passionately in giving back and making difference."