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Veiled taekwondo champion breaks Turkish stereotypes

Kubra Dagli, the headscarved world champion in taekwondo, is challenging old secularist biases, new Islamist ideals and overarching national machismo in Turkey.

Turkish athletes achieved great success and won five gold, four silver and seven bronze medals at the 10th World Taekwondo Championships held in Lima, Peru, Sept. 29-Oct. 4. The Turkish media celebrated these accomplishments, but one of the champions, Kubra Dagli, made headlines more than all the others together. Dagli and Emirhan Muran each won a gold medal in the Poomsae team category, but Dagli’s headscarf instantly made her both a target of staunch criticism and a source of inspiration in Turkey.

Dagli received extensive media coverage for days, and the numerous interviews highlighted her joy for triumph. But at the same time, Dagli firmly responded to “disturbing” criticisms on social media, stating, “They don’t speak of my success, but of my headscarf. I don’t want this. Our success should be discussed. We made so much effort. We made our country and our team world champions. This is our joint pride.”

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