Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Pakistan is one of the most hellish countries on earth.
Maria Toorpakai Wazir is a star squash player with a promising international career. Born in Waziristan, a highly conservative region of Pakistan, she had to disguise herself as a boy when she took up the sport - and later received ominous threats for playing in shorts.
"I am a warrior, I was born a warrior, I will die like a warrior."
Maria Toorpakai is courageous - and she's had to be, to play squash in a region where many girls are even denied an education.
When she was four, she put on her brother's clothes, cut her hair and took all her girly clothes outside and had them burnt.
"My father started laughing and said, 'Here we go, we have a Genghis Khan in the family,'" she says, referring to the Mongolian warlord of the 12th Century.
As she grew older, Toorpakai was often involved in fights. She says it was how she made friends. "My hands, elbows, knees were always bleeding - my eyebrows and face were always swollen."
So 10 years ago, when she was 12, her father decided to channel her energies towards sport - in particular, weightlifting.
"He was a bit shy to tell people that I was a girl, so he said, 'That's my son and his name is Genghis Khan,'" Toorpakai says.
After a couple of months, she was entered for a boy's tournament - and won.
"Giving her a false boy's name allowed her to take part in whatever games she wanted," says Toorpakai's father, Shamsul Qayyum Wazir..................