Friday, July 11, 2014





Nasima Hamdard: In Afghanistan, even a woman’s name is not her own


August 23. 2013 2:12PM
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HERAT, Afghanistan ?? Khaleda Mohammadi, a 23-year-old university student in Herat, was beaten by her husband and prevented from leaving her home for three weeks.Her offense? Having one of her male classmates utter her name in public.As she tells her story, the young woman, who has been married for two years, was coming out of class one day when a classmate approached her and said, ??Khaleda, we don't have a test tomorrow. It's been postponed until next week.? Her husband was waiting by the front gate to take her home. When he heard his wife's name being called out, he grabbed her classmate and asked, ??Why do you call out my wife's name in front of everyone? Isn't it enough that you know her name??Khaleda said that when they got home, her husband beat her severely, demanding to know why she allowed the boy to use her first name.??My husband told me I couldn't go to university any more, and in fact I wasn't allowed out of the house at all,? she said. He only relented after her father intervened.??My husband allows me to go to university but with the proviso that that he will divorce me if someone says my name again,? she added.Khaleda's husband, Feraidun, insists he had done nothing wrong.??Out of pride, I can't stand it when someone calls out my wife's name,? he said. ??I can't look away and ignore it. She represents my honor. Every man who values his dignity must act like this; otherwise he has no pride.?Khaleda's story illustrates an enduring Afghan tradition that women's names must not be spoken by men outside the family. Men who take their wives or daughters to the doctor will often will not tell medical staff the woman's name, even when medical staff needs to write it on a prescription.Even within the family, husbands frequently avoid using their wives' given names, instead addressing them as the mother of one of their children.Nur Khan Nekzad, spokesman for police headquarters in Herat, said officers had arrested eight men in the past six months for using violence after others had used their wives' names.It's a story all too familiar to another Afghan woman named Nasrin.??Two months ago, my husband went to buy groceries in the market. He saw a friend on the way, who asked him, in front of other men, 'How is Nasrin?' My husband had a fight with his friend and injured him with a knife.?She said her husband beat her badly when he got home, demanding to know how his friend knew her name.??So, now he's in prison, and I face an uncertain future,? Nasrin said.Rahima Yusufi, a lawyer with the local government department for women's affairs, said her office had 10 cases of this kind in the last six months. ??In order to educate men and address the problem, the gender section of the women's affairs department has organized three or four seminars for mullahs and imams, whose views enjoy great respect, because they can inform people about behavior that goes against religious principles.?Experts on Islam like Khalilollah Ahadi, a lecturer in sharia law at Herat University, say the name taboo has nothing to do with Islam. ??Religious scholars have a duty to do some serious work to tackle such problems,? Ahadi said.Sayed Khalil Moayed, a psychiatrist in Herat, said the name issue relates to how women are viewed in Afghan society.??In Herat society, when the name of someone's wife is used, it is seen as a violation of the man's privacy and dignity,? he said. ??People feel such shame of their wives' names that they aren't even prepared to use them themselves. Men will say 'my children's mother' or 'my family member.?' Changing that is going to take time, and many men retain powerful prejudices.Herat resident Wahidollah said Afghan men were sensitive about three things ?? disrespect shown to their country, their faith and their women. As for those who were insufficiently zealous in upholding their honor on these three matters, he said, ??killing such individuals is permissible.?





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