Their Identities Denied, Afghan Women Ask, ‘Where Is My Name?’

“The reality is that women also remain silent — they don’t protest this,” Ms. Sohaili said, adding that she and other activists were discussing offline steps to bolster the social media discussion.

Like many social media efforts, this one began small, with several posts out of Herat Province in the west. Since then, more activists have tried to turn it into a topic of conversation by challenging celebrities and government officials to share the names of their wives and mothers.

The discussion has now made it to the regular media, with articles in newspapers and conversations on television and radio talk shows.

Members of the Parliament, senior government officials and artists have come forward in support, publicly declaring the identities of the female members of their families.

Farhad Darya, one of Afghanistan’s most renowned singers, put out a heartfelt message about his struggle to make sure he always mentioned his mother and wife by name in concerts and interviews over his decades as a performer.

“On many occasions in front of a crowd that doesn’t have family relations to me, 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,” Mr. Darya wrote on Facebook. “They stare at me in such a way as if I am the leader of all of the world’s cowards and I know nothing of ‘Afghan honor and traditions.’”

The campaign also has its detractors. Some on social media have said it is against “Afghan values,” while others have deemed it too small to make a difference.

Modaser Islami, head of a youth organization, wrote on his Facebook page: “The name of my mother, sister and wife are sacred like their head scarf, and it’s a sign of their honor.”


A #WhereIsMyName social media campaign poster in Afghanistan.

He then addressed the activists: “The name of my mother, sister and wife will be mentioned where they see necessary. You should get yourselves head scarves and pants.”

Ms. Sohaili, the activist, said she hoped men would look inward and consider why it was taboo to write a woman’s name, even in a doctor’s prescription. “Is it cultural, is it religious?” she asked. “Are there any logical roots to this at all?”

The denial of women’s basic identity in public is emblematic of how deep misogyny runs in this society, when even male schoolchildren often get…

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