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Thematic Essay

Forbidden Names in the Islamic Republic of Iran


  

By: Farnaz Ghazizadeh

Rooz Online

September 28, 2006

 

No matter what we are called, we will always carry our original name. Many of us accept and even like the name that our parents chose for us, but now others too have to like it for us to carry it: the petty bureaucrats of the Notary Public offices in Iran.

Based on [today] Iranian notary law, parents are not allowed to name their children with names that are not on a list provided by the [the Islamic Republic] Notary offices. But if anyone wishes to choose a name that is not on the list, all is not lost. All he has to do is pass the buck. But even for a name that is not on the list but has been “bought” by the parent, the Notary officer can still refuse it on the basis of indecency, vulgarity or being improper. Now go figure out.

Based on a public survey, names such as Ali, Mehdi and Mohammad for boys, and Maryam, Zahra and Fatemeh for girls are amongst the most registered names during the last 30 years (since the rise of Islamic regime to power). And despite the trend to name infants with Persian names that predate Islam, religious names or those of Muslim Imam's are still at the top of the list.

None of this is really big news. What is is that in addition to the “good” list, there is also a “forbidden names” list. These are names that cannot be registered. So you can go ahead and name your childe anything you like, but when you appear before the Notary officer and wish to register the name of your new comer, it would better not be on that “no” list. The reason cited is that these names belong to sects that are banned by the governments or they are associated with events or personalities that the government does not like (such as many pre-Islamic Iranian names, such as Shariyar, Sharooz, etc).

Unlike other countries where a name change is possible through an administrative legal-judicial process, changing a name in Iran can only be done by a special body. And this group needs a good reason for the request. So, if you do not like the name your parents have provided you, look away when others use it.

In addition to the bureaucratic hassles, there is also the inconsistency in how the issue is approached by different Notary offices. One may allow a name, while another reject it. Result: confusion and corruption. Do not forget: this list is not published for the public. It simply exists for the officers while the applicant can only apply, reapply, re-reapply etc.

A ray of light came when recently a list of permitted names was published on the official website of the Iranian Embassy in Finland. But the candle blew out with a blow. It was soon removed due controversies following the debates on its contents and reasons.

The deputy legal administrator of the country's notary offices calms everyone by saying that forbidden names are only those that violate the Islamic and Iranian culture. He adds that the list is long and rejects names that carry certain words in them such as “shah” (meaning king) or other historical figures. In their eyes, it seems, history began with Islam and, so, names since its spread that carry positive connotations for Islamic values, are fine.

Naming a child? Brush up on your history.


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