Burka Avenger is a Pakistani animated television series created by Aaron Haroon Rashid (a.k.a. Haroon).
The series was produced at Unicorn Black in Islamabad, Pakistan. It was originally premiered on Geo Tez, but from season 2, Nick Pakistan is its original network. Four seasons, containing a total of 52 episodes of about 22 minutes each, have been launched to great success in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and dubbed in 10 languages including Turkish, Arabic, Tamil, Pashto, and Persian.
Named by Time magazine as one of the most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013, the Urdu series first aired on 28 July 2013. The series has received worldwide acclaim for its focus on social issues and delivering it in an informative and entertaining manner.
Burka Avenger is set in the fictional town of Halwapur in northern Pakistan. It features a superheroine who wears a burka as a disguise to conceal her identity while fighting villains. Her alter ego is Jiya, an "inspirational teacher" at an all-girls’ school. Jiya fights corrupt politicians and vengeful mercenaries who attempt to shut down girls’ schools, using "Takht Kabadi", a martial art that involves throwing books and pens. Together with children 'Ashu', 'Immu' and 'Mooli', the Burka Avenger fights the evil magician 'Baba Bandook', his henchmen and corrupt politician 'Vadero Pajero'.
The main characters include three children, twins Ashu and Immu, their friend Mooli (who takes his sobriquet from his enthusiasm for the vegetable of the same name), his pet goat Golu, Jiya (the Burka Avenger), the villainous magician Baba Bandook, corrupt politician Vadero Pajero, and Jiya's adoptive father Kabbadi Jan.
Episodes of Burka Avenger feature music from artists such as Ali Zafar, Ali Azmat, and JoSH, as well as Haroon. Rapper Adil Omar and Haroon released a music video featuring the Burka Avenger called "Don't Mess With the Lady in Black". Popular music videos released to date featuring music and animation from the series include the following:
Burka Avenger has won several major international awards and accolades including the following:
Burka Avenger has been launched successfully in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and dubbed in 10 languages including Arabic, Turkish, Tamil, Pashto, and Persian.
Burka Avenger received mainly positive reviews and praise for its female empowerment themes and also inspired many. Time magazine rated the show as one of the most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013. In an article on Burka Avenger, the Huffington Post stated that "Disney could learn a thing or two". The Washington Post elaborated on this, stating "Pakistan's new superhero makes the hoop-skirted, Prince Charming-obsessed Disney princesses look downright antiquated. She was not born into royalty. She does not obsess about her beauty. And she definitely does not want or need to be whisked off on some white horse or magic carpet. No, Jiya, or the Burka Avenger, is too busy defending women’s rights and education for all. Now that’s what I call a role model for girls". CBC News put Burka Avenger's rave reviews down to "its colourful animation, pro-education message and cross-generational appeal", going on to state that "many are proudly referring to the character as Pakistan's Wonder Woman."
Alyssa Rosenberg is a Features Editor of Think Progress. Her writings are based on the intersection of culture and politics. She commented that “American superhero stories could stand to think more about Jiya’s dual role, and how she turns perceived disadvantages or the tools of her trade into strengths.” Pakistan’s Dawn News referred to Burka Avenger as an "international phenomenon" due to its content.
Burka Avenger has been praised for its promotion of women's education in Pakistan. This is Pakistan's first animated female superhero. Reviewers have noted parallels between the series and Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was shot in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen. The fundamentalists in the series who try to shut down the girls' school have drawn comparisons to the Taliban who have destroyed hundreds of schools in Northwest Pakistan.
Women’s groups in India have welcomed the move to air Burka Avenger. "A lot of problems that women in India face stem from the cultural upbringing which conditions the mind of children," said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founder of the Ashana Trust, which supports women’s initiatives for justice and development.
Burka Avenger is also the most watched children’s TV show in Afghanistan. According to a survey conducted in Afghanistan from mothers and focus groups in urban areas, 85% of children watch Burka Avenger in Afghanistan.
Much of the initial commentary on the series focused on Jiya's choice of attire when in disguise (the burqa) and peaked prior to the broadcast of the show, which aired for the first time on 28 July 2013. Politician and former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, commented on 27 July 2013 that "Burka Avenger is good, but I don't like the feudal stereotyping or the burqa. A dupatta (head scarf) could have done the job of relating to context." In an interview on Australian TV Channel ABC News, Haroon responded to criticism, stating, "Most superheroes wear disguises and a show about a woman not wearing a disguise would be a different show." When asked about the choice to clothe the superheroine in a burqa, Haroon emphasized that the character 'Jiya' does not wear a burqa, headscarf or veil by day. "We chose the burqa because we wanted a local relatable flavor.” “We wanted to hide her identity the way superheroes do. She doesn't wear the burqa during the day — she doesn't even wear a headscarf, or a hijab or anything like that; she goes about her business as a normal teacher would. And so she chooses to wear the burqa only as a disguise, she's not oppressed ... and on the other end of the spectrum, a lot of female superheroes in the West are objectified, and sort of sexualized in their costumes, like Catwoman and Wonder Woman, and that certainly would not work here."