‘My goat’

Young women in Afghanistan fight for right to be called by name in public


To refer to one’s wife or female relative by name is to dishonor them, according to cultural tradition in Afghanistan. But for a growing number of young Afghani women, the fact that people refer to their wives not by their names but instead with nicknames such as “My Weak One” or “My Goat,” goes to show how little respect or “honor” women in Afghan society are actually afforded.

A new social media campaign, united under a hashtag that translates to #WhereIsMyName, has been asking men and women to reconsider why exactly it is considered taboo to mention the names of their female relatives in public. Members of parliament and senior government officials have even begun to support the project by publicly mentioning the women of their family by name. Famous artists, such as popular Afghan singer Farhad Darya, have also wholeheartedly embraced the campaign.

“I have noticed how the foreheads of men sour by what they see as my cowardice in mentioning the name of my mother or my wife,” noted Darya in a viral Facebook post. “They stare at me in such a way as if I am the leader of all the world’s cowards and I know nothing of ‘Afghan honor and traditions.’”

According to Hassan Rizayee, an Afghan sociologist, the tradition of not naming women by name is a relic of tribal laws that defined women by their relations to men.

“According to tribal logic, the important thing is the ownership of a woman’s body,” Rizayee explained. “The body of a woman belongs to a man, and other people should not even use her body indirectly, such as looking at her. Based on this logic, the body, face and name of the woman belong to the man.”

To end such customs in a country where even doctors refuse to write women’s names when issuing prescriptions, he added, was unlikely to happen quickly. Nonetheless, young Afghani women say they will continue to try to change how people think, and, in so doing, win their identities back.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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