Iraqi maternity hospitals are seeing a new born trend: children given “neutral” names that don’t reveal their family’s religious or political affiliations. Because in Iraq, having the wrong name in the wrong place can still get you killed.
On a Tuesday in mid-May the office at the entrance to the Salam Hospital in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul is full of people. This is the office where births are registered and it’s located next to the delivery and operating rooms, near the main entrance.
A male clerk there is doing his routine work: he receives forms on which new born babies’ times of birth, sex, fathers and intended names are written. And this clerk has noticed a significant trend: parents are giving their newborns names that don’t give away which sect of Islam their family belongs to, Shiite or Sunni Muslim.
They’re calling their children names that are either neutral – so it’s impossible to say whether the child’s family is Shiite or Sunni – or they’re being christened with totally new monikers that have no such history, the clerk says. “And people are giving their newborns names I’ve never heard about before,” the clerk points out, “like Inaq and Qasim.”