Write My Mother’s Name On My ID Card!



Afghanistan is going to issue its citizens their first biometric national identification cards “tazkira”. For decades the Afghan tazkira has been a paper form filled out with black or blue ink, and a stamped photo glued or stapled on the top-left corner of it. The name of the bearer has not been the only name on the tazkira. It also contains the names of the father and the grandfather, which are crucial to an Afghan’s identity.

With the modernization of the national identity card, the Afghan elite and the women’s rights advocates, by writing open letters to the president on the social media, have started asking for the inclusion of the mother’s name in the new tazkiras; with the slogan: “Write my mother’s name on my ID card”.

However, it appears very unlikely that the Afghan government would take such a leap of faith to ensure women’s rights.

In Afghanistan, one’s mother’s name is rarely mentioned in public as it is considered a taboo. There are tragic incidents that mentioning someone’s mother’s name in public has ended in killing the violator, who had broken this cultural norm.

In a country, where identities are formed in relation to fathers and grandfathers, the Afghan policy makers have little political interest in devising policies that are perceived contradictory to the status quo gender norms. One has to look at the last four decades to become wary of introducing modernization policies, which can backfire and lead to civil unrest. This apprehension among the politicians and lawmakers has continually subjugated women’s rights to allegedly “more crucial issues” such as “stability” and “security”. Nonetheless, it should be stressed that the mere fact that this idea has picked up in the country, regardless of how unlikely it is that a mother’s name would appear on the tazkira, illustrates that the Afghan society is making some of its very first steps towards breaking social taboos and deconstructing and reconstructing traditional identities.