In a historic move, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani signed the amendment for the mothers’ names to be included in Afghan national IDs.
The movement began by Laleh Osmany in 2017 in the Herat province with the hashtag #WhereIsMyName. The goal was to push for mothers’ names to be included in official documents, including their children’s birth certificates.
The movement also wanted to normalize using women’s names in public places. For many Afghan men, revealing the names of their female relatives in public is considered shameful and dishonorable—and they consider it insulting if someone calls their women family members by name in public. (Women are often referred to as the mother of, daughter of, wife of, or sister of their male family members.)
Therefore, Afghan law only permits fathers’ names to be recorded on birth certificates.
Women’s names are also not mentioned in their wedding invitations, prescriptions, or death certificates. Tombstones bear only the names of their husbands. This also made it impossible for Afghan women to obtain passports for their children, travel with them, or register them for school, among many other basic parental rights and responsibilities.
“I feel like a bird in a cage whose door has just been opened, achieving the dream of flying in the sky,” said activist Sonia Ahmadi, who joined the campaign when it began in 2017.
“In a society where everything is against women and they work to keep women down, this is a big step forward. It gives me an extraordinary feeling of happiness,” Ahmadi told ABC.
Although this historical victory brought hope to many Afghans, women faced obstacles and backlash by the patriarchal and conservative country. After it was approved by the cabinet last week, former head of the moral police during the Taliban era, Mawlawi Qalam Uddin, called the change a “Western plan”.
“This plan has come from America and Europe. Nobody can force this plan on the people of Afghanistan,” he said at a press conference in Kabul. Another former Taliban figure, Sayed Akbar Agha, also called the amendment “a violation of Islamic principles.”
The Taliban enforced a strict interpretation of Islam law during their five years rule (1996-2001) which limited women’s rights by banning women’s access to education, hospitals, and employment. While the Afghan peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are occurring in Qatar, Afghan women fear that the achievements they have gained since the fall of the Taliban could be negotiated away. The Taliban said during the peace talks that within the limits of Islamic law and Afghan culture, they would allow women to be educated and employed.
But for Afghan women, trusting the Taliban’s way of “Islamic Law” is difficult.