Mummy Buzz


Squash Star Toorpakai Flees Taliban

Toorpakai's Chance to Shine

Though Maria Toorpakai Wazir has always been a tomboy, from the onset of puberty she literally pretended to be a boy just so she could leave the house.

According to a recent article in the Star, her father, who was keen for her to have equal rights, oddly encouraged everyone to believe she was his son.

But when her passion and amazing talent for squash were recently discovered, she received death threats from the Taliban and was forced to flee her rural eastern Pakistan home which borders warring Afghanistan.

Life in the Pashtuns tribe to which Toorpakai belongs is a prison for females, who are confined to their homes day in, day out. A woman wearing shorts is considered an offence both to Islam and tribal traditions.

Toorpakai's father, a college lecturer, recognizes that "society cannot progress without the participation of half of that society". But even he couldn't stop the negative attention she received when she went to the sporting complex to practice her sport.

By age of 15, Toorpakai had won every tournament and championship going. She went pro in 2006, ranking No. 66 in the world just two years later. Though she hoped to bring back Pakistan's pride by gaining world titles in squash, she became increasingly fearful and stayed home for the sake of her family's safety.

Aside from the personal, the political situation in her Peshwar had become dangerous, so by 2007 Toorpakai started emailing squash clubs around the world -- offering coaching services in exchange for a safe haven in which to master her sport.

It took four years. But Canadian great, Jonathon Power, who ranked No. 1 in 1999, opened his arms and flew Toorpakai to Toronto, where she continues to train in peaceful surrounds.

"I didn't know how good she was going to be," confesses Power, who has hopes he can make Toorpakai's dreams of championship come true. Let's just pray her family will stay safe from harm as she rises to glory.

"We all have to die sometime," said her father nobly, adding that if he is killed for the opportunities he's given his daughter, it will be a martyr's death.