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She disguised as a boy out of passion for squash. From Taliban's death threats into top 50 in the world
Waziristan, a tribal region of Pakistan, is considered to be the most dangerous part of the world mainly due to the fight with Islamist extremism. The living conditions in Waziristan are extremely difficult mainly for women . This part of Pakistan is controlled by a radical religious-political group Taliban and women have very limited possibilities of going to school or playing sports. Maria Toorpakai was born into this world in 1990 and it was far from easy for her because she was fond of sports since she was a kid. "Our culture is very rigid and strict. It is very male dominated. Women don’t have a right to education and they don’t have a right to play sports," she told The Guardian. Nevertheless, her parents spotted Maria's inclination towards sports and they supported her. However, Maria did something incredible when she was four years old. She burnt all her clothes, cut her hair, started to pose herself as a boy and her father renamed her “Changez Khan” after the famous Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan. Success lead to death threats Maria took up wrestling first but later she fell in love with squash. But local squash academy required from her a birth certificate, therefore she was not able to cover her true gender anymore. Luckily for her, the coach had nothing against her playing one of the most popular sports in Pakistan. Maria showed a flair for squash from the very beginning. She was the third at the world junior championships by the age of 16 and she made it to top 80 in the world among adults despite her young age. Nevertheless, all these achievements had negative effects as well. She became really popular in Pakistan and Taliban started to send her and members of her family death threats. Taliban required Maria to end her professional sport career immediately with a justification that it was against the principles of Islam and tribal traditions. Living in home prison Maria was very afraid not only of her own life but more of the members of her family. Consequently, in spite of passion for squash she decided not to continue playing on tournaments. Instead, she was living in a "home prison" for four years without entering the squash court. She was in a very bad psychological state of mind and her only end of the tunnel was squash. She never gave up and she continued to play squash in a very bizarre way. She was hitting the ball against the wall of her own room, sometimes even ten hours per day! Ironically, this is how the squash was invented. British prisoners in the 19th century had nothing else to do so they started to hit the ball against the prison's wall. Former world champion was a saviour Maria became desperate but she kept fighting for her sport ambitions. She started to send emails to squash academies all around the world. Although there was no feedback from the beginning, one day Maria received an answer from a former world champion in squash and renown hothead Jonathon Power. He leads a squash academy in Toronto, Canada and Maria's honest email caught his attention and he offered a helping hand. "I received an email from a young girl saying that she was just trying to pursue her dreams and be the best athlete possible. I thought I had to find a way to help her out," explained Power for BBC. She came to Toronto in 2011 and started to train with Power. She became the best Pakistan's female player within a couple of months in Canada and her highest ranking so far is 41st place in the world. Maria does not dream only about being in top 10, but she wants to inspire other women to pursue their dreams as well. Her story is also documented in the movie Girl Unbound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKq8hIBpawI

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