international intrigue

Afghan Women Are Fighting for the Right to Be Called by Their Names in Public

Tahmina Arian talks with Tahmina Rashiq at the first public event for the “Where Is My Name” campaign in Kabul. Photo: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

In Afghanistan, it’s common for women to be known as “wife of,” “daughter of,” or “sister of” their husbands, fathers, and brothers. According to Agence France-Presse, their given names aren’t used in public and are often omitted from wedding invitations and gravestones. But a group of young Afghan women is hoping to end the practice, and their social-media campaign, #WhereIsMyName, is gaining traction.

The movement reportedly started in early July, when a handful of women posted on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag. By now, thousands of people have tweeted their support, including Afghan lawmakers, artists, and celebrities. The group held their first public event last week; “dozens of women” as well as scholars and a government minister attended.

According to Hassan Rizayee, an Afghan sociologist, the practice of calling women by their husband’s or father’s names in public stems from tribal culture. “According to tribal logic, the important thing is the ownership of a woman’s body,” he told the New York Times. “Based on this logic, the body, face and name of the woman belong to the man.” He added that changing the culture is possible, although it will be an uphill battle.

But Bahar Sohaili, an activist aligned with the campaign, said the tradition defies reason. “Is it cultural, is it religious?” she asked. “Are there any logical roots to this at all?”

She added that, in most cases, women don’t question the tradition — something she hopes will change. “This is just a spark,” she said, “the posing of a question mostly to the Afghan women about why their identity is denied.”

Afghan Women Launch Campaign to Be Called by Their Names