Journey of Int’l Karate Champion – Kulsoom Hazara | Beautiful Confessions with Asma Nabeel | S1 | E1

Journey of Int’l Karate Champion – Kulsoom Hazara | Beautiful Confessions with Asma Nabeel | S1 | E1


Playing home, befriending dolls and labelling a girl ‘tomboy’ if by mistake she kicks someone who has authored these definitions in books? And can’t these definitions used to define girls in books be changed? There are some girls who are trying hard to challenge these definitions The world which considers hijab a barrier cannot acknowledge the fact that the hands they only wish to see holding dolls are a lot more powerful than their thinking And my today’s guest is a girl who actually looks like a doll But believe me she is very powerful, her hands are very powerful because she is Pakistan’s Karate champion, a gold medalist with powerful kicks and fists. I guess today we shall be cautious because today we have Kulsoom Hazara, Pakistan’s Karate gold medallist How are you Kulsoom? Assalam u Alaikum, I am fine Looking at you, I can’t believe it You got to believe it I would like to share a few more things to my introduction Yes, I am a national champion, but I am also the first Pakistani girl to score a gold medal hat-trick in South Asia And since the past 17 years, I am the unbeaten national champion in the weight category And I have recently come back from the South Asian Games where I bagged a gold and a silver medal I think I missed quite an important fact in the introduction hat she has scored a hat-trick in securing the gold medal It’s a big deal scoring a hat-trick and winning gold medals being a girl on South Asian level What could be more powerful than this? I believe that she has turned her grievances into her power throughout her journey And in every kick of hers, she has taken out her frustration Let’s talk to Kulsoom and listen to her journey which is full of hardships Kulsoom, I won’t talk much I’ll ask you how your journey started and what hardships did you face? For starters, I belong to the Hazara community from Quetta and I started my karate journey from Quetta I remember when I started practicing Karate, there were only boys and I was the only girl and at start I personally didn’t have much interest in karate My trainer was also my brother-in-law, he was impressed by some girl who he saw practicing self-defence When he returned home, he asked me to start learning karate Saying you never know when it may come handy given Quetta’s circumstances Then at a very early age I started going to the club with him I was so young that I couldn’t even tie my band on my own When I started going to the club there were a lot of boys who used to pick on me Saying that a girl has come here to fight amongst all the boys A lot of times I thought about quitting And after going home I would cry a lot But my brother-in-law always motivated me He said that same people who are picking on you today will be proud of you tomorrow So I kept on training with that motivation, then the law and order situation worsened When I was two years old, my mother passed away, she had cancer When I was seven, my father passed away due to cardiac arrest So that’s where your brother-in-law comes in. Yes I am telling you about Quetta My father had adopted my brother-in-law when he was young When my father passed away my brother-in-law became our guardian and we moved to Karachi due to the worsening of law and order in Quetta When my parents passed away I was quite young so I didn’t know I don’t have any memories of my mother Then an incident happened in Karachi it was the reason to why we left Quetta Unfortunately my brother-in-law, who was also my master, was targeted He fell victim to target killing? Yes and I remember I was at home, my sister came and asked me to accompany her to hospital It was very shocking news for me as I was quite attached to my brother-in-law We used to call him Master Jee (teacher) at home When I got the news, we reached hospital everyone was crying, they said that he was under treatment in the operation theatre and asked us to go home I never thought that he wouldn’t survive Then I came home when suddenly there was an announcement from mosque that Sarwar Ali was targeted and he was martyred I can still remember that time When I heard the news I fell down and lost consciousness My sister tells that I remained hospitalized the whole night The next day before funeral I came home and said to myself and said to myself Kulsoom this is life and you have to take it forward I felt that it was the day when I became an orphan, he was like my parents His martyrdom made me feel like an orphan all over again I wasn’t able to endure that shock I used to cry all night long after training at the camp I have a friend Mehjabeen, she was my senior, She used to come to me and calm me down She used to ask me to work harder and fulfil my master’s (brother-in-law) wish It was my master’s dream that I win a gold medal on international level After the target killing of my brother-in-law we faced a lot of financial and social problems And you know our society targets families where there are no men So we had to face a lot of such things Like if the society wants a girl to sit at home, they will start with her character assassination And as a result she’ll sit at home One of my sisters used to do embroidery and teach Persian, and the second one would teach That’s how they were running the house and my sisters always motivated me a lot of our relatives and community members used to discourage me They used to say things like she is a girl and you are sending her to a camp full of boys And the girl who doesn’t come home at night isn’t considered a pious girl I have listened to so many things like these Let’s discuss this sentence ‘the girl who doesn’t come home at night isn’t considered a pious girl’ This is quite a common sentence and it is not just limited to the profession of karate I think every girl who works late at night gets to hear this sentence Here I would like to raise a question, is this sentence right? People welcome their sons when they come late night from work. But when their daughters come in late at night, why is this question raised? We need to change this sentence During our conversation, you shared with me that you cut your hair short once Yes, when I was young, I had long hair and at that time we were having a lot of financial problems I was naïve, so one day I cut my hair short by myself Why? Because, I was thinking my sister was working so hard to make ends meet So I thought it was too expensive to maintain my hair and so I should cut them short and so I should cut them short That day my sister cried a lot She missed my brother-in-law that day and cried a lot And she said that today she realized that… Sorry It’s okay It’s okay
Give her tissue and water please That day my sister cried a lot, she also scolded me I got worried, I wondered what I had done that made her cry said to her that I intended to cut down on some of my own expenses, she got very emotional Now that I think of it, I understand why my sister was crying that day My family has always been very supportive, both of my sisters have never paid heed to what people have been talking about They used to say that, Kulsoom we trust you and when we send you out for practice, so we don’t expect you to break our trust Exactly So, I would always bare that in mind and used to train at the camp and used to stay reserved especially after the incident, especially after the incident, I had started staying silent and alone Fulfilling my master’s wish turned into my passion Like when I won gold medal on national level, I wanted to win it on international level also Our club was closed due to financial constraints Then I got obsessed with fulfilling my master’s wish I remember I started to practice alone in the room and attempted the techniques I already knew of It was like it happens in movies, a girl in her room practicing all alone Yes, I used to practice alone in the room Even my sister used to ask at times, why are you always sitting in the room? How much more are you going to practice? I used to say that I need to work on my technique I remember the first time I won gold medal it was in India during the South Asian Championship I remember when I won the gold medal I came outside, I was crying a lot, hugged a teammate and kept crying And I really felt like my master was watching over me and he was really happy I said to myself, yes Kulsoom you fulfilled your master’s wish today When you are in a country like India your country’s flag is at the top and Pakistan’s national anthem is playing and Pakistan’s national anthem is playing For me it was a very memorable moment Also maybe because it was related to fulfilling my master’s wish or maybe because it was my first international gold medal That too after winning in India That’s a fact, my father passed away at a very young age and I was quite close to my father Even today when I start some new project like this show I feel that my father is watching over me and he is right there with me I feel that at every achievement My father used to tell me that I was very little when my mother passed away He used to say I would cry a lot and would ask him to take me to my mother He would hold me, take a walk and would also wipe his tears because I was missing my mother a lot These are just a few memories from my childhood that my father would tell me about And every memory has made you stronger Another important thing in your journey would be the resistance from your community and that too long ago especially given the extra restrictions on girls in those areas Definitely! I started from Quetta but now the people’s mind-set has changed a lot I always tell people that even though I have won gold medals but my biggest achievement is that I have changed my community’s mind-set Now they appreciate me and when I return from abroad after winning , they come to airport to receive me Earlier they never regarded it as something good Earlier they would point fingers right? Yes a lot, like I told you, hey would say she is a girl and she is kicking and punching Later it will create hurdles in her marriage People will say things like she will beat her husband after marriage Again marriage issues and she will beat her husband Yes, all those things, a lot of people think karate girls are like that, but it’s not like that It’s totally the opposite When someone asks me about my profession, I tell them that I play karate and I am a member of national team Then they give me a surprising look and say oh you play karate but you don’t look like a karate girl So give them a preview and show it to them Maybe people assume karate girls look like boys, they wear jeans and are like tomboys We have stereotypes in our society that if a girl plays karate she should look like this and not like others I am also feeling different looking at myself dressed like this for the first time Tell me one thing, you have done this hijab so beautifully Did this hijab ever become a hurdle in karate or any other thing? Yes definitely, a lot of times it happened Like the international tournament I was talking about when I won the international gold medal for the first time At that time the WKF (World Karate Federation) didn’t allow the hijab When was that? It was in 2012, wearing hijab wasn’t allowed. Earlier when I was young, I used to fight without hijab Was it locally or internationally? It was international under World Karate Federation They didn’t allow hijab as they aren’t Muslims, they don’t understand these things That is the reason why Iranian girls didn’t participate in those tournaments Iranian karate team is quite good, so they protested against the hijab ban as their girls wanted to participate too as their girls wanted to participate too Most of them are Japanese referees So they asked us to wear caps and fight Later in India when I went to play, we weren’t allowed to fight with hijab The referee was looking at me angrily and asked me to take off my hijab I refused, I said I won’t fight without it They said they will disqualify me if I won’t take it off So all of a sudden I started to cry So my coach and senior boys of the team said to me that you came all the way from Pakistan and now you don’t want to fight Why don’t you take the hijab off put it by the side of the ring Once the fight ends, you may immediately wear it back I remember I was crying as I took off the hijab After that I went to the ring to face the Indian counterpart I took out all my frustration on her and knocked her out When I came out of the ring all the boys of my team were laughing They said that Kulsoom vented all her anger on her competitor because of her hijab Recently, I was offered a commercial After all things were sorted out, they called me They asked if I will do the commercial wearing a white scarf with karate kit I replied, obviously, that’s how I do it They said ok and didn’t contact me ever again I feel they rejected me because I observe the hijab because all things were sorted earlier and then all of a sudden they disappeared We live in an Islamic country, every girl is free to either wear hijab or not, so it my own decision to wear hijab Recently, there was some award show – I don’t exactly remember which one – they had a category for stylish player of the year When I looked at it, I said to myself that I won’t even make it to this category as I wear hijab, stay simple and I focus is more towards the training Moreover, we have some boundaries that we have to maintain to train and spend our lives So I felt quite sad when I saw that category, and it hurt me Later a female player won that award So when I look at such things I feel that it’ll be better if these awards are based on achievements rather than style I think, it’s a very important point that Kulsoom has raised She went to India, where she faced the issue with hijab. We can still understand it as they may not be aware of its sensitivity But talking about it locally, is it important for a sportsman or sportswoman to have style or talent? It is quite an important question as brands have an important role in fixing the foundations of a society So if we are setting this precedent that some brand calls and asks if she will be wearing a hijab or not, that too a local brand Then if an award show wants to award a player, they should talk about their achievements and not their style And if such categories demotivate gold medalists then I think we really need to rethink our concepts Let’s get back to you Kulsoom, there were so many problems in your life since childhood What I am wondering is did you ever think about giving up and quitting karate? When I used to listen to people, sometimes I used to think that maybe I should quit now as my sisters have to face the people When I used to listen to people, But my sisters always motivated me, she used to say that don’t think about them Shape your character in such a way that your positivity overpowers their negativity My sisters’ advices always helped and with that motivation I used to take a step forward and concentrate on my training You are only three sisters or do you have a brother also? Yes, I have an elder brother We parted ways soon after our father’s death and since then he is living separately due to some issues so we aren’t really in contact with him So you sisters supported each other, I think if on one hand you didn’t have your brother’s support On the other hand there were also men like your brother-in-law I think everything has a positive and a negative side We always talk about negative side of men only But in a society where there are men like your brother-in-law there are empowered daughters like you Maybe, what I have achieved and where I am today, sitting here in front of you, Today if I am Kulsoom Hazara I am because of my brother-in-law Exactly I have seen a lot of men who are narrow-minded Although my brother-in-law lived in a city like Quetta, but had a very different mind-set He never dictated me to observe the hijab or dress in a certain way, it is my own decision to observe the hijab Today we can see domestic violence in our society, he was not a bit like those me He was very cool, jolly and a supportive person I have interacted with a lot of men from different walks of life but I have never came across someone like my brother-in-law His thought process
Really, he was really very different There is high regard and appreciation for one such man out of hundred I think it’s really important for men and women to work together and take things forward I believe usually the mistake lies where the men only try to be dominant If we talk about walking together it’s a whole different story We have Kulsoom Hazara as a living example right in front of us Who gives credit of all her success to a man, her brother-in-law who was like a father figure to her I think he was a real man, because that’s the reality, how much do you allow your daughters, sisters and women to enter an empowered zone That is another important point that can be derived from this conversation Did you get any marriage proposals? I am not married yet, but there are some proposals but I have never paid much attention to them as I was studying alongside karate Here, I would also like to share that while I was training at camp There were many girls who weren’t studying after matriculation and intermediate My sister used to ask me to focus on my studies alongside karate Thanks to Almighty I did Post Graduation from Karachi University in Health, Physical and Sport Sciences So it makes me happy to manage both things together My sister being my motherly figure, thinks about my marriage but I never think much about it More of my focus has always remained towards sports and education Personally, I wish to have someone in my life who would support me in my future endeavours I learnt this skill over years and wish to continue it and as a coach train girls across Pakistan as there is only one girls coach and very few referees in the country So at the end of my career I plan to turn towards being a referee or coach For that definitely I need a partner who will support me throughout There are some people in our community who may not allow it I guess amongst Hazaras most of the marriages are also held within the community Yes
No marriages are held outside the community? These days, there is a change in mind-set of people Some people do get married outside the community these days The marriage proposals you got, did they object to your karate practice or ask you to leave karate? One or two asked me to leave karate for marriage My sister asked me, but I refused and said that I didn’t want to get married Personally I don’t think much about it, I just mind my own business and don’t think about it like other girls So do you think if this condition stays forever in the society, will you spend rest of your life as a single lady coach? Definitely, today a woman can do anything, she can earn for herself while being independent So let’s see what happens in the future What a beautiful thing Kulsoom Hazara just said That a woman can spend her life by earning herself while staying independent So this pointer that we have made for our daughters and sisters that marriage is necessary Needs to consider again because is getting married everything for a girl? Why don’t we talk about her individuality and teach her to stand-up for herself? We never know when in life one needs to stand-up for themselves I believe Kulsoom’s point of view will change the mind-set of many daughters and mothers about how necessary and graceful is it to make your daughters independent in the society there is no plus minus in respect with it Please ponder upon this point that we are trying to raise through this show that liberating women is very important And Kulsoom Hazara is a living example of it One more thing, are girls supported or ignored at awards ceremonies by the state? Girls are usually supported at the state level and by federations When my master passed away there was no one to support me Our federation is very supportive especially our chairman Sir Mohammad Jehangir He always supports the talent, he tells us to step into the ring, fight, get selected and go onto the international level He never supported nepotism unfortunately today’s government has reduced the grants to the federations due to which they are unable to support us by sending us to international level trainings Like for example for the first time karate has been made part of Olympics but unfortunately no girl is going in qualifiers to represent Pakistan Except for Sadi Abbass a boy from national team he is getting sponsors and he is taking part in qualifiers Companies like Toyota and a sports agency are sponsoring him, he also got ISE scholarship So this means there is no government support if you guys want to play on international level? These days I can see girls from other sports going abroad to participate whereas we are only training locally Do you think cricket is getting more attention and not karate? Everyone knows cricket gets a lot of sponsors in Pakistan and they enjoy fame I don’t mean to degrade any game but I feel there is a lot of talent in Pakistan be it in cricket, martial arts, or any other sports so other sports should also be sponsored along-side cricket If we talk about India their sports industry is way ahead of us because they pay much more attention to it as compared to Pakistan So it makes me sad when I look at such things Recently, there was a first-ever sports award show held by PTV but unfortunately they haven’t even included karate in the categories There is no category of karate No, there isn’t and in recent South Asian Games in Nepal, karate team was the one to earn most gold medals for Pakistan But they didn’t even nominate karate in the sports award it is very saddening that our national TV program is ignoring karate whereas there were nominees From all other games asking for them to vote Another important point here is that the government needs to support if this team wants to compete on international And if only one boy is going through self-sponsorship some decision maker needs to support this karate team It is quite saddening, having national sports awards with no karate category Here we have a girl and a whole team who has won gold medals so why is there such a negligence from our side? So the decision makers who aren’t aware of this situation, I would like to take this opportunity through this show to request support for our karate team I believe all sports should be supported aside from cricket and hockey because we are talking about the national talent regardless of gender So if today Kulsoom Hazara is saddened by the exclusion of karate category, please listen to her and her teammates request and add karate as a category in the sports awards Kulsoom it’s quite a beautiful chit chat session I sometimes think that after my parents passed away, but Allah gave me many beautiful relations like both of my brothers-in-law My elder brother-in-law always supports me, whenever I win he is the first one to comment on my social media It is said that there is something planned behind everything that nature does For example after my parents passed away I got to interact with such great people Both of your brothers-in-laws are very nice Yes both are very nice and just now like you asked what motivated my sister always So I always tell people that there have been a lot problems in my life, some that I can’t share on-screen My message to all the women is that there will be a lot of problems in your life but it depends on you either you take it as a lesson and move forward or sink down with it So mostly I like to say this to women In the end, for the girls watching us from anywhere We girls are stopped, especially girls who embrace a profession, they are asked to compromise on their dreams and focus on marriage etc. I want you to give a very strong message to the girls out there that don’t be afraid of chasing your dreams and if they are planning to chase their passion it isn’t wrong, any motivational message At the end my message would be like you said about dreams, don’t leave your dreams unaccomplished I have met a lot of girls who tell me that I have inspired them and they want to learn karate like me but aren’t able due to parental pressure I believe you can fulfill your dreams while staying positive, never ever compromise on your dreams Thank you Kulsoom, you have given a very beautiful message that it isn’t wrong to chase your dreams Thank you so much for giving me this platform, I have vented out all of my frustration and shared it all with you Thank you so much for coming, it’s girls like you inspire Sharing such sensitive things and becoming someone’s support is a great deed Today’s episode alongside many emotional topics Talked about many crucial topics that we need to ponder upon on national level If Kulsoom wanted she could have stopped anywhere during her journey A girl with no mother, grew up and lost her father at the age of seven, later lost her coach (her father-figure) to target killing The survival of three girls and in that survival Kulsoom’s rise to becoming an international champion is a great example when your weaknesses turn into strength, when a person gets determined to achieve something all the miseries turn into power After this episode I believe the question isn’t who will shatter your courage instead are you courageously ready to defeat those elements? For more motivation, stay tuned for our next episode of Beautiful Confessions, watch our new episode every Wednesday and fill yourself up with motivation

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