Burka Avenger Fights For Girls' Education

Move over Wonder Woman and Supergirl, a new female superhero is on the rise and this one shows a lot less skin than her predecessors.

Pakistani heroine Burka Avenger is a mild-mannered teacher with secret martial arts skills.

She uses a flowing black burka to hide her identity as she fights local thugs seeking to shut down the girls' school where she works.

It is a battle Pakistanis are all too familiar with in the real world.

The Taliban has blown up hundreds of schools and attacked activists in northwest Pakistan because it opposes girls' education.

Action in the Burka Avenger cartoon series, which is due to start running on Geo TV in early August, is much more lighthearted.

The bungling bad guys evoke more laughter than fear and are no match for the Burka Avenger, undoubtedly the first South Asian ninja who wields books and pens as weapons.

Children who saw an early screening of the first episode at an orphanage on the outskirts of Islamabad laughed and cheered as the Burka Avenger vanquished her enemies.

Ten-year-old Samia Naeem said she liked the crusading heroine "because she saved kids' lives, she motivated them for education and school".

The Urdu language show is the brainchild of one of Pakistan's biggest pop stars, Aaron Haroon Rashid.

It was conceived as a way to emphasise the importance of girls' education and teach children other lessons, such as protecting the environment and not discriminating against others.

Rashid said: "Each one of our episodes is centred around a moral, which sends out strong social messages to kids.

"But it is cloaked in pure entertainment, laughter, action and adventure."

The decision to clothe the superhero in a black burka - the full-length robe commonly worn by conservative Islamic women in Pakistan and Afghanistan - could raise eyebrows because some people view the outfit as a sign of oppression.

The Taliban forced women to wear burkas when it took control of Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The version worn by the Burka Avenger shows only her eyes and fingers - though it has a sleeker, more ninjalike look than the bulky robes of an actual burka.

Rashid said he used a burka to give a local feel to the show, which is billed as the first animated series ever produced in Pakistan.

"It's not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes," said Rashid.

The Burka Avenger's true identity is Jiya, whose adopted father, Kabbadi Jan, taught her the karate moves she uses to defeat her enemies.

When not dressed as her alter ego, Jiya does not wear a burka, or even a less conservative headscarf over her hair.

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