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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > JUNE 2016 > A dangerous game

A dangerous game

Maria Toorpakai reveals inner strength in opposing Pakistan’s repressive gender politics


★ A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight

Maria Toorpakai with Katharine Holstein

Viking Canada

MARIA TOORPAKAI has survived horrors most of her North American readers will never encounter except between the covers of a book: public beatings, confinement, dengue fever, death threats. Born in 1990 in Pakistan’s oppressive northwest tribal region, Toorpakai has led a life that seems impossible. In a world where most girls are confined to their homes, forced to wear burqas, and forbidden from playing sports or engaging in other “male activities,” Toorpakai disguised herself as a boy, changed her name to Genghis Khan, and took up street fighting. She had a one-two facepunch that made her unbeatable, but always a target for challengers.

To dissuade her from this vulgar and dangerous hobby, her father urged her toward weightlifting, where she competed under her assumed name and went to great lengths to avoid undressing for weigh-ins or engaging in any other activity that would reveal her true sex. When she grew bored of weightlifting, her father advised her not to worry: another path would reveal itself. He believed in the Muslim tenet “It is written.” Allah had already told Maria’s story, she must only listen.

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