‘I am nothing’: Afghan refugee reveals plight at Andy Burnham leadership rally

An Afghan asylum seeker has said that she feels like ‘nothing’ after being forced to flee from her homeland, whilst speaking at a rally for Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham in Manchester.

Marzia Babakarkhail, a judge before leaving Afghanistan in 2008, was targeted by the Taliban after setting up a foundation to educate girls, and barely survived an assassination attempt.

After that attempt on her life, the Taliban sent a chilling message to Ms Babakarkhail’s office reading ‘Marzia you have received our gift. It is a good gift’.

Making the speech at the rally at King’s House Conference Centre in Manchester, to which she was invited by Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, Ms Babakarkhail described how her family pleaded with her to leave the country, and the troubles she has faced since.

“My life has changed a thousand per cent, I lost everything,” she said.

“It is not easy to leave everything you have behind you. It has been so difficult.

“Now, as a refugee and asylum seeker what am I? I am nothing!”

Ms Babakarkhail also spoke eloquently in support of Mr Burnham, who will learn the fate of his Labour leadership campaign on Saturday, with voting set to cease on Thursday.

And the Shadow Secretary for Health will have welcomed such an impassioned and vigorous appraisal of his leadership potential.

“Coming from Afghanistan, which has many political problems, when I heard that Andy is talking about unity that is when I knew he is the best person to be the leader of the Labour Party,” Ms Babakarkhail explained.

“Unity is a strong word and he will be a strong leader for Labour.

“I wanted to be at Andy’s event to tell my story of  having been an asylum seeker  and now a refugee in Oldham.

“But my story is just one of many hundreds of thousands of similar stories in the world today.

“I want to help people understand what it is like to have to leave everything behind you and escape from your country when your life is in danger.

“The Government’s response [to the Syrian refugee crisis] hasn’t been good enough and I’m proud that it was Andy Burnham who led the calls for Britain to accept a fair share of refugees.

“Over the course of this campaign he has shown that he is a passionate and principled man.

“He has a clear vision for the future of our country and has put forward policies to make our country fairer and our society more equal.

“But, most of all, he is a strong leader who will be able to beat the Tories in 2020 and return Labour to Government at the next election.”

Ms Babakarkhail was hailed by Mrs Abrahams as inspirational, and stated that she served as living proof that asylum was a matter of life or death for refugees, and not a lifestyle choice.

“It was inspiring to hear the passion with which Marzia spoke to the audience,” she said. 

“They were clearly moved by what they heard, as she told her story and the issues facing refugees and asylum seekers.

“It’s people like Marzia who remind us that refugees and asylum seekers aren’t just seeking a ‘better life’ as some media outlets have been saying.

“They are trying to save their lives, and the lives of their children, after having been forced out of their countries – leaving their homes, their loved ones and everything they know – by threats of violence or war.”

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