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Oslo Freedom Forum • October 17, 2017

Maria Toorpakai Wazir | Hiding from the Taliban in Plain Sight | OFFinNY

Hailing from South Waziristan in Pakistan, Maria Toorpakai grew up in a region where women aren't allowed to leave the house without a male guardian. That didn't stop her from burning her dresses, cutting her hair, and taking on the name Genghis Khan in order to play sports. Despite her gender being leaked and facing threats from the Taliban, she went on to become Pakistan's top squash player and told her story at the Oslo Freedom Forum in New York.


Oslo Freedom Forum • June 8, 2017

Maria Toorpakai Wazir | Hiding from the Taliban in Plain Sight

When Maria Toorpakai was just four years old, she lit her dresses on fire and claimed a new name: Genghis Khan. After competing as a boy in weightlifting and squash for most of her childhood, Maria's life drastically changed once her gender identity was leaked across Pakistan. Maria describes the difficulties she faced in pursuing her athletic goals and denounces the extremism that has taken over her home of South Waziristan. She vows to root out terrorism in her community by making education and sports accessible for all Pakistani children, regardless of their gender.


BBC • September 9, 2013

Girls in Sport: Maria Toorpakai Wazir

Maria Toorpakai Wazir is a 22 year-old Squash player from South Waziristan, a highly conservative area of Pakistan. Many girls there aren't allowed to leave their homes and if they do they must be with a male member of their family.


CNN • July 10, 2013

Taking on the Taliban: Squash star pleads for rackets not guns

At long last, Maria Toorpakai Wazir can indulge her life's greatest love without fear of persecution. Hounded out of the notoriously dangerous tribal region that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan -- once referred to as "Hell's door knocker" -- salvation has been found thousands of miles away on a different continent. She survived death threats, spent countless hours alone in her room and masqueraded as a boy for years. And all for her love of squash.


NPR • March 30, 2013

Pakistani Squash Player Now Free To Play Sport She Loves

Pakistan's top female squash player used to disguise herself as a boy, to avoid possible Taliban retribution. When her secret was revealed, she faced a terrible choice. Host Scott Simon talks with Maria Toorpakai and her coach, former squash world champion Jonathon Power.


TEDx Talks • March 29, 2013

Squashing Extremism: Maria Toorpakai Wazir at TEDxTeen

Born November 22, 1990 in South Waziristan, the tribal Pashtun region bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, Maria Toorpakai Wazir's options as a young girl were severely limited and determined solely by the traditions of her culture. Waziristan's women are not entitled to the kind of education or freedoms enjoyed by North American girls. As with most girls of her region, Maria's destiny was to be sequestered at home and married off at a young age.


BBC • March 14, 2013

Maria Toor Pakay: 'I Risked My Life To Play Squash'

Matthew Bannister meets Maria Toor Pakay, the Pakistani squash player who needed army protection to play the sport at home


CNN • February 19, 2013

Squash star takes on the Taliban: 'Chosen one' fights for a cause

Chingaiz Khan was an unknown quantity when he arrived for a junior weightlifting tournament in South Waziristan nine years ago.

The 12-year-old Chingaiz, with his short, jet-black hair and smooth, unblemished skin, looked younger than the other boys. But, despite it being his first ever tournament, he was still stronger than everyone else.

For his father Shams-Ul Wazir, a local college lecturer, the decision to register his son for the tournament paid off handsomely. Chingaiz was crowned the junior boys' weightlifting champion, the first step on a journey that would take him into the world of professional sport. Except Chingaiz wasn't really his name.

Chingaiz was actually called Maria Toor Pakay.

Chingaiz was a girl.


HBO • February 2, 2013

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel: Talibanned

Pakistan’s Maria Toorpakai had to live as a boy to play sports under the Taliban rule. Now she is one of the top female squash players in the world.


Al Jazeera English • December 24, 2012

Pakistani sportswoman overcomes hurdles

Pakistan's top female squash player, Maria Toorpakai Wazir has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep playing the game she loves. The 22-year-old moved to Canada from a deeply conservative area of Pakistan where women are denied the right to play. Her family has received threats from militant opposition groups, but she pursues her goals elsewhere. Al Jazeera's Daniel Lak reports from Toronto, Canada.


The Express Tribune • December 4, 2012

Unsquashable: Trading volleys with Maria Toor Pakay

Pakistan’s female squash champion does not come from the squash courts of Karachi, nor did she grow up in the lanes of Lahore. Maria Toor Pakay, Pakistan’s number one female squash player, hails from the strife torn region of South Waziristan.


The Toronto Star • November 1, 2011

Pakistani player set to soar in squash world rankings

Shin splints have largely sidelined her for the last four months.

But as she resumes serious tournament competition in the coming weeks, squash sensation Maria Toorpakai Wazir will be playing the game on two courts.

One, of course, will be the hardwood rectangle, where the 20-year-old is set to resume an ascent to the top of the women’s world rankings. The other will be in the court of public opinion in her native Pakistan, where religious strictures on women — in sports, school and society — are an ever-increasing menace.


The Globe and Mail • May 12, 2011

Pakistani women's prospect taken under legend's wing

As a girl growing up in the lawless tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, it's a marvel Maria Toor Pakay was able to play squash, let alone become the country's top female player.

With glaring talent, the support of her "broad-minded" father, and despite regular death threats, the feisty Pashtun prodigy became a national champ just two years after picking up a racquet, and would become the first woman in Pakistan to break into the world top 100. (She was No. 134 in the April rankings from the Women's International Squash Players Association.)


CNN • September 21, 2009

Teen athlete fled Taliban stronghold to pursue dream

As a little girl, Maria Toor Pakay would beat up boys.

Now, she dispenses of anyone who takes her on within the walls of a squash court. Pakay, 18, is Pakistan's No. 1-ranked women's squash player.

But what makes her story remarkable is that she hails from the country's tribal region of South Waziristan. The region, along the border with Afghanistan, is home to the Taliban.