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Burka Avenger - Pakistan's Female Superhero to Air on GeoTV

Pantheon of women superheros has a new entry from Pakistan - the Burka Avenger, a mild mannered school-teacher who fights feudal villains and terrorists getting in the way of girls' education.



The cartoon series in Urdu will begin airing on Pakistan's most-watched GeoTV channel in August this year. It has been conceived by one of Pakistan's best-known pop stars, Aaron Haroon Rashid to emphasize the importance of girls’ education and teach children other lessons, such as tolerance and concern for the environment.

It appears that the series is inspired by the story of Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistan teenage school-girl who  miraculously survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in Swat valley last year. Malala has since become an international icon for girls' education worldwide.  The United Nations declared Malala's 16th birthday this year on July 12 as Malala Day to focus on girls' education.

“Each one of our episodes is centered around a moral, which sends out strong social messages to kids,” Rashid told The Associated Press in his first interview about the show. “But it is cloaked in pure entertainment, laughter, action and adventure.”

Responding to a question about the choice of burqa, Rashid said “It’s not a sign of oppression. 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,” Rashid added.

The series is set in Halwapur, a fictional town nestled in the soaring mountains and verdant valleys of northern Pakistan, according to The Associated Press. The Burka Avenger’s real identity is Jiya, whose father, Kabbadi Jan, taught her karate which she uses to defeat her enemies. When not dressed as her alter ego, Jiya does not don a burqa, or even a headscarf to cover her hair.

The main villains are Vadero Pajero, a balding, corrupt politician who wears a dollar sign-shaped gold medallion around his neck, and Baba Bandook, an evil man with a bushy black beard and mustache who is drawn to resemble a Taliban commander.

Caught in the crossfire are the show’s main child characters: Ashu and her twin brother Immu and their best friend Mooli, who loves munching on radishes alongside his pet goat, Golu.

Other major stars featured in Burka Avenger series include Ali Zafar, Ali Azmat and Josh band members.  Like other series featuring major superheros, the series will be promoted through mobile apps, video games, music videos and other merchandise in Pakistan.

The series is an indication that Pakistan's mass media are getting serious about major issues confronting the country. It is a  very timely effort to address two major issues Pakistan faces: Girls education and terrorism. The two issue are intertwined because the Taliban terrorists are among the biggest obstacles to educating girls in Pakistan, particularly in the nation's north western region infested by the Taliban. Series such as these have the potential to bring about a social revolution in Pakistan.

Here's a preview video of the show:


Adil Omar x Haroon- Lady In Black - Burka... by darkinsky
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Burka Avenger  Videos on Vimeo Channel

UN Malala Day

Pakistan's Cowardly Politicians

Sesame Street in Pakistan

Social Revolution in Pakistan

Pakistan Media Revolution

Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

Terrorism in Pakistan

Views: 544

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 25, 2013 at 8:10pm

Here's a news report on Burka Avenger:

From early August, children across Pakistan will be glued to their television sets to watch an unlikely female superhero clad not in spandex, but a head-to-toe, flowing black burka. Her name is apt: Burka Avenger.

The heroine of the Urdu language series, set to air on Pakistan’s Geo TV, fights a menace more dangerous than physical weapons. She is primarily fighting against a local gang’s nefarious efforts to close a girls’ school.

The series will trace the adventures of the book-wielding superhero and three young sidekicks – Ashu, her twin brother Immu, and their friend Mooli (who has a pet goat, Golu) – as they battle villain Baba Badook and his team of thugs in the imaginary hamlet of Halwapur.

The town comes complete with a corrupt mayor, Vadero Pajero, in cahoots with Bandook and company. In the very first episode, Pajero agrees to shut down the local girls’ school in exchange for kickbacks from Bandook, a wicked magician with a thick black beard.

The dialog gets right to the point. Babook says: “What business do women have with education? They should stay at home, washing, scrubbing and cleaning, toiling in the kitchen.”

Young Ashu shoots back: “The girls of today are the mothers of tomorrow. If the mothers are not educated, then future generations will also remain illiterate.”

Sound familiar?

The time is ripe in Pakistan for the series’ debut. Thanks to the courageous real-life story of education crusader Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban in northern Pakistan’s Swat valley last October, girls’ education in the country has received urgent global attention in recent months. With the arrival of Burka Avenger, Malala will no longer fight her battle alone. And in this battle those fighting on the side of education need all of the recruits they can get.

Last year alone, some 3,600 attacks were carried out against educational institutions. And in developing countries, the number of children who are not enrolled in school surged from 42 to 50 percent since 2008. In Pakistan, nearly half of all children and three-quarters of young girls do not attend primary school.

Despite the bad news, there are signs that things are starting to change. For one, Malala has the world’s attention. But more importantly, her message seems to be reaching ears in Pakistan. While the Taliban has attacked 750 schools since 2008 in Malala’s home province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 611 of them have been rebuilt. Further, education spending is on the rise, having grown by 27 percent to $660 million.

Riding this wave of positive momentum, it seems appropriate to introduce a cartoon character who can play a soft role in this fight in living rooms across the nation. The official website for the Burka Avenger states: “The main goals of the Burka Avenger TV series are to make people laugh, to entertain and to send out strong social messages to the youth that educate, enlighten and reinforce positive social behavior.”
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In a parallel development, Pakistani comic book publisher Kachee Goliyan has also recently gained a significant following in a market that has struggled to find its groove. The stories and motifs in these comics – compared favorably with works by Marvel and DC – likewise take on a strong local flavor and are created by a young, progressive minded local team.

The first Pakistani comics company and now the first Pakistani-produced animated series – both with local characteristics and a progressive bent: could this be a sign of greater things to come?

http://thediplomat.com/asia-life/2013/07/burka-avenger-pakistans-ve...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 26, 2013 at 10:10am

Pakistan's Burka Avenger female superhero reflects shifting ground realities with increasing women participation in the affairs of the nation.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2013/07/burka-avenger-pakistans-buka-clad.html

Examples include:

1. First women paratroopers inducted in Pakistan Army.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/pakistan-s-female/7...

2. First female combat pilot commissioned in Pakistan Air Force.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22895373

3. First female jirga held in Pakistan.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23442129

4. Malala Yousufzai emerges as an international icon for girls' education in Pakistan and elsewhere.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2013/07/pakistani-government-and-top.html

5. Increasing number of court marriages by young couples in defiance of tradition of marriages arranged by parents.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/12/violent-conflict-is-part-of-pakistan...

6. Rising female participation in Pakistan's work force.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/09/working-women-seeding-silent-social....

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 26, 2013 at 8:56pm

Here's an excerpt of a BBC story on Burka Avenger's pre-launch promotion:

The video clips from the animated series have gone viral over social media even before any official promotional work has been done by Unicorn Black, Aaron Rashid's own production house.

The entire series has been developed in just over a year by a 22-member production team operating out of a small office in Islamabad.

Music videos are also being released featuring some of Pakistan's top musicians like Ali Azmat, Josh and Ali Zafar. T-shirts and other merchandise will also be put on sale, aiming to launch Burka Avenger as a Pakistani superhero brand.
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Aaron Rashid says the theme will not only centre around the girls' school but will also teach children about the values of tolerance, equality and other social issues in Pakistani society.

He emphasises that the central theme is non-violence, arguing that the main protagonist uses books and pens to thwart her enemies even though she hits people with them.

Is the symbolism too complex for small children to understand?

Mr Rashid disagrees.

"She's saying the pen is mightier than the sword," he insists. "She is non-violent because she's throwing books. Most people throw bombs. Think about it."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23468573

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 26, 2013 at 11:04pm

Here's a Daily Times report on efforts to counter extremism in Pakistan:

The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), Islamabad, has recently launched a mega project titled ‘SALAM: Innovating Means to Resolve Radical Extremism in Pakistan’.

The aim of the project is to introduce measures for the large-scale de-radicalisation initiatives in Pakistan by suggesting viable policy options to all stakeholders. The project is particularly focused on devising non-military tools (soft power) to fight this menace. It will be carried out in three phases.

In the first phase of the project, a research study has been launched to trace the underlying causes of radicalisation and extremism in Pakistani society. Certain social domains have been identified as possessing the greatest potential for giving rise to extremist or radical tendencies, such as religion, ideology, economic deprivation, communal apartheid, psychological, sociological and international realpolitik. CPGS President Senator Sehar Kamran, while addressing journalists, said that these domains are under the introspection of various national and international scholars, who are conducting objective research on these topics for the Centre.

She said an international seminar will also be held on August 21 and 22, 2013, to bring together the entire social fabric of Pakistani society, including the policy makers, academics, and civil society members and begin the process of sensitising the community on the subject. The Centre will also work as a mediator, and conduct interactive scenario workshops and roundtables between national and international experts to formulate a cohesive national response. This response will be refined and enriched by international experience and expertise, to root out the menace of extremism and radicalisation from Pakistan.

At the tail-end of the project, the Centre aims to establish a model institute, hopefully in the vicinity of the Islamabad, where findings from the research and discourse phases of the project will be incorporated into a comprehensive programme, aimed at reintegrating the remote radical elements of the community back into mainstream society. This will be done via the provision of basic, balanced social, technical, religious education and a programme for socio-psychological reintegration.

Furthermore, a social media campaign will also be launched with the help of national and international media to enhance awareness and understanding about Pakistani society both in Pakistan and abroad, in particular about the menace of extremism, which is nibbling away at the basis of our cohesion and integrity as a society.

Finally, the Centre hopes to devise a holistic and comprehensive strategy paper with viable policy options and necessary legislative measures that may be incorporated into the national constitution, to effectively counter the problem at the national level. This all-encompassing report will be presented to all governmental institutions concerned for necessary action.

Sehar Kamran said the vision of CPGS is to contribute towards regional and international peace, harmony and security through sustainable intellectual discourse, on all matters having an impact on the lives of inhabitants of this region and the world at large. Its objective is to encourage discussion among national leaders, intellectuals and academicians to accelerate social, political and economic development, for the benefit of the people of Pakistan and the Gulf region.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C07%5C27%5Cstor...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 29, 2013 at 10:47pm

Here's a Huffington Post Op Ed by Lindsey Davis on Burka Avenger:

We think Disney could learn a thing or two about what a female protagonist should look like from the fearless Burka Avenger.

1. She fights villains with Takht Kabaddi -- a form of karate that uses books and pens as weapons, because she's all about emphasizing the importance of education.

To her, books are more than a prop to dance with.

2. By day, she's Jiya, the reserved school teacher -- but when bad guys come around, she dons a burka to conceal her identity and saves the day.

And unlike Mulan, her alter ego is still proudly feminine.

So she's a little too busy to become enamored by her own reflection.

4. Her sidekicks are three adorable kids, and she's constantly saving and inspiring them..

.. Instead of the other way around.

5. Her burka is a source of power, not oppression. She can even use it to fly.

So she doesn't need a man to sweep her off her feet.

6. She's fighting bad guys that actually exist in the real world -- corrupt politicians and vengeful mercenaries who are limiting access to education.

Which makes evil witches and mean stepsisters look like a cakewalk.

BONUS: Instead of singing about love or longing, the Avenger's theme song is all about how she makes things happen:

"Don't mess with the lady in black, when she's on the attack."

The series is set to premiere in early August.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/burka-avenger-vs-disney_n_...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 3, 2013 at 10:27pm

Here are the lyrics of Burka Avenger theme song by Adil Omar:

Lyrics for the Burka Avenger theme song I wrote and performed:

Camouflage, shadows and darkness
No guns, but got ammo regardless
A backpack so she's coming prepared
To leave the opposition in submission, running in fear
Yeah - superhero got 'em kicking and screaming
In hysterics, these clerics had envisioned a demon
A spirit so quick to deliver a beating
To the enemies of peace, love, logic and reason
Yeah - hit 'em with a logical reason
Kill extremism, corruption and just stop it from breathing
The way it was, she'll be taking it back
So tune in for the story of the lady in black

Don't mess with the lady in black
The lady in black, the lady in black
Don't mess with the lady in black
When she's on the attack

Lean, mean, covered from her head to her toes
In a one piece, slick invisibility cloak
She got her eyes visible so she can give you the look
And lay the smack down on all these dirty killers and crooks
Like a panther going in for the attack and the win
The lethal weapon in her hands is a book and a pen
The silent ninja, vigilante in the dark of the night
Would never roll over, cause she has to stand up and fight
Her fists banging harder than the drums in the song
Reminisce about the time before the guns and the bombs
The way it was, she'll be taking it back
so stay tuned for the story of the lady in black

Don't mess with the lady in black
The lady in black, the lady in black
Don't mess with the lady in black
When she's on the attack

https://www.facebook.com/adilomarmusic/posts/10151747167586445

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 6, 2013 at 8:52am

Here's an AFP story about Burka Avenger going global:

The man behind Burka Avenger, pop star Haroon Rashid, said he had been overwhelmed by the response.
“The reception has been absolutely phenomenal, beyond our expectations,” he said. “We were making this little animated TV series for Pakistan but it seems like the whole world wants to know about the Burka Avenger.”
A TV distribution company in Europe has been in touch with a view to translating the show into 18 languages, including English and French, and screening it in 60 countries, Rashid said.
The issue of girls’ education in conservative, militant-plagued north-west Pakistan hit world headlines last October when Taliban gunmen shot teenage activist Malala Yousafzai.
Malala, who campaigns for the right of girls to go to school, survived the attack and last month delivered a powerful speech at the UN in New York.
Rashid said Malala was a “real life superhero” for her courage and said the attack on her had come as they prepared an early episode of Burka Avenger.
“We were all stunned because we were working on the exact same story about a little girl who stands up to the bad guy who tried to shut down her school,” he said. “I had never heard of Malala before then — it was like life was imitating what was on our screen while we were developing.”
Nearly half of all children in Pakistan and almost three-quarters of young girls are not enrolled in primary school, according to UN and government statistics published late last year.

http://gulfnews.com/news/world/pakistan/burka-avenger-set-to-go-glo...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 6, 2013 at 4:04pm

Here's a Daily Times review of the Burka Avenger debut:

...Much of the initial controversy surrounding the show centred on the character’s choice of cloak, but critics of the use of the burka entirely missed the point. Oppression does not arise from covering the body or the face of a person, oppression is failing to give the person a choice. Jiya, chooses to don the burka and it becomes a tool of empowerment. Who are we to say that her attire marginalises the Burka Avenger if she wears it to feel strong and to conceal her identity? However, critics have suggested that a less negatively perceived attire or more traditional superhero garb would have sufficed. As they suggest, alternative clothing would remove the potential for negative traditional stereotypes that are often associated with the burka. However, those that would rather have the Burka Avenger wear less controversial or more modern attire are as oppressive as those that force women to wear the burka in the first place because they too impose their set of values upon another without offering even the semblance of a choice.

The burka controversy has also overshadowed other positive aspects of the cartoon, including its pure entertainment value. Jiya herself is also a role model for young children and females especially. She is both an adopted child and a schoolteacher by profession. While her attire as the Burka Avenger may be traditional, her background and choice to pursue a career are decidedly not. This show does not depict its hero as a typical Pakistani female character, simpering or conniving and eternally caught in a struggle to maintain her home or her marriage. She represents an alternative and equally important female avatar: the workingwoman.

It is also important to determine whether the show fulfils its purpose. To assess this, its purpose must be determined. If the purpose of Burka Avenger is to stave off further international criticism from the events surrounding the attempted assassination by the Taliban of Malala Yousafzai, then the show is successful. As soon as the trailer for the Burka Avenger was released, the international news media and social networks were abuzz with positive comments and appreciative reviews of this new superhero set to join the likes of Wonder Woman. Reputation is an important tool for determining the nature of international relations. The better a state’s reputation, the more it may be able to gain and the more it may stand to lose. Pakistan gets to add a few positive points to its reputation because Burka Avenger is widely applauded for its attempt to break stereotypes and empower disenfranchised children (especially girls) to fight for their right to an education.
----------
All in all, Burka Avenger is a wonderfully positive publicity tool internally and externally for Pakistan, but its success lies solely within the entertainment it provides as a cartoon, the positive role model it displays in both Jiya and the Avenger and the civic education it delivers as part of a movement to acquaint Pakistanis with their rights. Burka Avenger is not a mechanism for solving the greater issues because socially conscious messages delivered through entertainment mediums are not as intimidating as the books and pens that the Avenger throws to defeat the villain and save the day. This means that ultimately, enforcing fundamental rights, such as the right to have access to education, requires a concerted effort from all facets of society. This effort will ideally change the perception of education in Pakistan from its current stance as a luxury to a future where it is wholly considered a necessity. In that future Pakistan’s burka-clad superhero will be avenged.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C08%5C07%5Cstor...

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 15, 2013 at 10:29pm

Malala inspires girls school enrollment surge in KP, reports Bloomberg:

MINGORA, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban's attempts to deter girls from seeking an education, epitomized by the shooting of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the face last year, are backfiring as school enrollments surge in her home region.

While Yousafzai missed out last week on the Nobel Peace Prize, her plight is helping change attitudes in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which lies at the center of a Taliban insurgency. The four-month-old provincial government boosted education spending by about 30 percent and began an enrollment drive that has added 200,000 children, including 75,000 girls.

Yousafzai's story "is certainly helping us to promote education in the tribal belt," Muhammad Atif Khan, the province's education minister, said by phone. "Education is a matter of death and life. We can't solve terrorism issues without educating people."

Taliban militants targeted Yousafzai in retaliation over her campaign for girls to be given equal rights to schooling in a country where only 40 percent of adult women can read and write. Though the Nobel award went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Yousafzai was showered with accolades in a week in which she published her memoir: she won the European Union's top human rights prize and met President Barack Obama at the Oval Office.

The shooting occurred a year ago as Yousafzai traveled home on a school bus in Mingora, a trading hub of 1.8 million people where a majority of women still cover their faces and girls aren't comfortable answering questions from reporters. The bullet struck above her left eye, grazing her brain. She was flown for emergency surgery to Britain, where she lives today.

The increased media attention on Swat since the shooting is pressuring government officials to improve educational standards and encouraging locals to send their kids to school.

Three days ago in Mingora, as local channels flashed the news that Yousafzai didn't win the peace prize, high school student Shehzad Qamar credited her for prompting the government to build more institutions of higher learning.

"She has done what we couldn't have achieved in 100 years," Qamar said. "She gave this town an identity."..
------------
"Taliban wanted to silence me," Yousafzai said in an interview with the BBC last week. "Malala was heard only in Pakistan, but now she is heard at the every corner of the world."

Sadiqa Ameen, a 15-year-old school girl in Swat, said she wanted to read Yousafzai's book, titled "I am Malala." The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, has threatened to kill Yousafzai and target shops selling her book, the Dawn newspaper reported, citing spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

"This is probably the first ever book written by a Swati girl," said Ameen, who lives near Yousafzai's school. "I am sure her story will be something we all know and have gone through during the Taliban rule."

Musfira Khan Karim, 11, prayed for Yousafzai's success in the Nobel competition with her 400 schoolmates in Mingora.

"I want her back here among us," Karim said in her school's playground. "I want to know more about her. I want to meet her."

http://www.registercitizen.com/general-news/20131013/taliban-intimi...

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 27, 2014 at 8:46am

Here's a news report about a new superhero in Pakistan:

The Pakistani comic scene is spawning a dream team of superheroes who were born out of the local culture and tackle issues specific to the region.

Set for online release in two months, a comic entitled “Shamsheer” by Udham Publications is one example of a home-grown comic that aims to present an “intrinsically Pakistani” story in pop-art format.

“We as humans are hardwired to learn from stories,” Zakaullah Khan, co-creator of “Shamsheer,” told Al Arabiya News.

“Our sense of belonging to a group comes from shared experiences, from stories we can tell each other, so I absolutely believe that it’s essential to have home-grown stories.”

Why not just import all-American comics? Why do the country’s comic lovers need Pakistani heroes?

“I’d much rather take up the stories of the founders of Pakistan, or of the legends and folk tales that we already tell each other,” he said, “but I know that those will be perceived as being archaic material.”

This led Khan to start a new story, though he was careful to stay true to local culture, saying he wanted to create something “intrinsically Pakistani so people can have a platform on which to connect with each other.”

Despite the “Pakistani environment” of the forthcoming comic, “the issues we’re talking about are those of any developing country: violence on the streets, mugging and security issues,” he added.

Pakistan’s comic scene is facing obstacles, one of which, according to Khan, is the country’s lagging literacy rate, which in 2012 saw it placed 180th on a list of 221 countries by the United Nations....

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/entertainment/2014/03/27...

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