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Squashing Extremism: Maria Toorpakai Wazir at TEDxTeen

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Published on Mar 29, 2013

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.

With an eye to an alternative future for his daughter, Maria's father disguised her as a boy and encouraged her to take up competitive weight lifting at the age of 12. Following a win at a national boys' competition, Maria discovered the sport of squash.

In order to enter into a squash tournament, Maria was compelled to produce her birth certificate and to openly compete as a girl. By the time Maria was 16 years of age, she was Pakistan's number one player and the world's number three junior.

The attention, which grew from Maria's success evoked death threats from the Taliban and forced Maria into hiding and withdrawing from openly playing squash. Dissatisfied with the increasingly difficult situation, Maria sent out hundreds of emails around the world with pleas for help. Only one person responded: Jonathon Power.

Maria currently trains in Canada at Jonathon's squash centre, The National Squash Academy and continues to compete. Her current world ranking is 49.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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