New Pakistani super hero fights for the rights of young girls
Pakistanimation: ‘Burka Avenger’ set to fight Taliban
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Here in the States, super heroes fight criminals, alien invasions, power mad super-scientists, and super-powered killers. However, in some parts of the world, little girls just want to go to school without being harassed by the Taliban. All across Pakistan, radical Islamists have a long history of targeting young women who want to learn, and in many cities girls schools have faced constant persecution or outright destruction. Since Superman and Batman are apparently busy, who can Pakistani girls turn to?
Enter the “Burka Avenger” - a new Pakistani super hero that will soon be fighting the Taliban in her own television show.
The Urdu language cartoon, which will begin running this August, is the creation of Haroon, one of Pakistan’s biggest pop stars. In it, a mild-mannered female teacher named Jiya will use her martial arts skills to fight for the educational rights of young girls. When Jiya is fighting, she wears a sleek, assassin-like version of the burka which has raised eyebrows in countries where the garment is considered oppressive.
The show’s creators promise that it isn’t intended that way.
“It’s not a sign of oppression,” Haroon claims. “She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes. Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”
Indeed, when Jiya is teaching, she does not wear the outfit, and even forgoes a traditional headscarf. In much of Pakistan, where the oppression of women is a standard part of daily life, that alone is a radical image. Keep in mind; the country still boasts regions where female genital mutilation is all too common.
“What business do women have with education?” one of the show’s villains asks. “They should stay at home, washing, scrubbing and cleaning, toiling in the kitchen.”
“The girls of today are the mothers of tomorrow,” one of the heroes replies. “If the mothers are not educated, then future generations will also remain illiterate.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If the show sticks to its forward-thinking attitude it could be a powerful symbol in a land where tolerance is in short supply. Kudos to the producers for offering Pakistani kids a strong female role-model and a pro-education message.