Pakistan does not promote football Why

Between forced marriage and love for the game

The third part of the SPOX theme week deals with women's football in Pakistan. In parts of the country women are still considered the property of men, including forced marriages and "honor killings". Many are not even allowed to leave the house alone - let alone do sports in public. Violent attacks by Islamist groups have repeatedly occurred at mixed-gender sporting events. Nevertheless, a women's national team has been organized in recent years. The captain Sana Mahmud talks about the problems in her culture - and her great love for sport.

After 2 hours and 16 minutes, Tseko Mpolokeng crossed the finish line in Gaddafi Stadium and threw up his arms in exhaustion. He had just beaten the huge favorites from Kenya and Ethiopia - and won the first international marathon in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city with 8 million inhabitants. On January 30, 2005, the South African wrote a small piece of sports history with it.

Almost four months later, in the same place: a new story. This time a completely different one; written by around 50 Pakistani women and girls. Again a marathon was on the program in Lahore. But the small group didn't just celebrate their victory at the finish - they triumphed as soon as they crossed the starting line.

At the intervention of the mullahs, the city administration banned the women from participating in the running competitions for a short time. "In our culture, no father wants to see his daughter walking around with boys on the street, even in shorts," said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, deputy chairman of Pakistan's largest conservative Islamic party (MMA).

"We ran. And the police after!"

But 50 women ran anyway. Not in shorts, but in the shawlwar kamiz, the customary national costume, consisting of a knee-length shirt, wide trousers, a wide scarf over the head, neck and shoulders as well as shoes that are quite unsuitable for walking. The group did not run the full distance either, but only a single, symbolic kilometer from Liberty Square to the stadium. But she ran.

In the eyes of Bushra Aitzaz, one of the co-organizers of the forbidden run, a mischievous pride flashes when she remembers the scene: "We decided then to oppose us. How dare they forbid us to run ! So we just started walking. And the police are after us. " The thought of the bizarre picture makes the self-confident and likeable woman laugh herself today.

Video of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Pakistan: an interview with Bushra Aitzaz

The episode has an oppressively serious background. In the discourse on the country's religious identity, mixed-gender sporting events have become a political issue on several occasions. Again and again there were violent attacks on women by Islamist groups and supporters of the MMA during comparable actions.

"Could mean the death sentence"

"There are families in Pakistan in which the daughters can simply be sentenced to death if they play sports in public," says Britta Petersen, head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Lahore, describing the general climate in certain milieus.

Especially in the rural areas in the densely populated northwest along the Afghan border, women - like land or cattle - are still often considered the property of men. Forced marriages are common practice. Almost every day there are reports of "honor killings", less than ten percent of which lead to an arrest or conviction of the perpetrator.

The traditional legal code of the Pashtun tribes, the "Pashtunwali", is often even more conservative than the Islamic family legislation introduced by military dictator Zia ul-Haq (reign: 1977-86).

Raped - and whipped for it

Its so-called Hudood Ordiances After grotesque judgments, they made headlines, at least anecdotally, in Western media, especially in the 1980s. Like the case of 13-year-old Jehan Mina. The orphan was allegedly raped several times by her uncle and his sons in 1983 and was ultimately expecting a child himself. In order to convict the perpetrators, however, the Sharia requires four, of course male, Muslim eyewitnesses who witnessed the rape and who confirm the victim's story in detail.

Of course, Jehan Mina could not name four Witnesses. So her pregnancy was used as evidence against her. She was sentenced to one hundred lashes and three years in solitary confinement for adultery.

"Such cases still exist today, the topic is still relevant," says Petersen. In conservative environments in Pakistan, the position of women has not improved in the long term: "The father or the husband alone decide what the woman is allowed to do or not. And in many families they cannot even leave the house without a male accompaniment."

The question of whether they publicly participate in sporting events does not even arise.

Petersen assumes that "there are a lot of girls out there dreaming of running a marathon, playing cricket or football, but they know very well that the fathers would never let that happen. If they come from the wrong family and stand up against it, terrible things could happen ... "

Sana Mahmud: Football in public

Judging by this, Sana Mahmud comes from the "right" family. The 21-year-old lives and studies in the comparatively modern Islamabad. Her parents belong to the, as a rule, more liberal, upper urban middle class. Her father works for the UN, her mother designs clothes in the capital.

And Sana plays soccer. In public. With her club, the Young Rising Stars founded in 2007 by the American embassy, ​​she has already won the national championship twice. She has also been the captain of the Pakistani women's national team since 2010. Her family supports and promotes her athletic career.

Part 2: Women's football in Pakistan: "As long as we don't wear a burqa"