Marzia Babakarkhail

Prominent advocate for Afghan female judges, survivor of 2 assassination attempts by Taliban

Region(s): Global
Country of focus: Afghanistan

Marzia Babakarkhail (@marziababakarkh) was a family law judge in Afghanistan in the 90s. Now in the UK she campaigns for evacuation and resettlement of female Afghan judges  and their families trapped in Afghanistan or stuck in transit in Pakistan since fleeing the Taliban return to power in August, 2021.

When the Taliban returned during the withdrawal of US troops after two decades, there were just over 200 female judges in Afghanistan. The Taliban stripped all women from judgeships in Afghanistan, halted their salaries and froze their accounts. Threats against them increased after the Taliban’s mass prisoner release. As of Spring, 2023, Marzia says there are about 50  judges left in Afghanistan and 20 in Pakistan. She campaigns for assistance to get them to other countries and is attempting to find organizations that will support them meantime.

Mariza secured 56,411 signatures on a petition in solidarity with female judges and their families in hiding in Afghanistan, living with daily death threats and in constant fear of violent reprisals.

Mariza served as a family law judge in Polkhomri Baghlan Provincial Court in Afghanistan for eight years, escaping to Pakistan in 1997 after Taliban targeted her and endangered her family because of her work in the justice system and her social activism. She had established the Afghan Women Social and Cultural Organization to help abused women. In Pakistan she opened and ran  a school for Afghan children with the help of family, friends and donors.

She returned to Afghanistan in 2001 after the Taliban regime was defeated but fled to the UK in 2008 after another attempt on her life while visiting family in Pakistan.  Marzia learned to speak English and has worked with Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, as an immigration caseworker since gaining her UK citizenship in 2016.