In Al-Mahweet Governorate (northern Yemen), Shawaei Al-Malhani named his second child after himself and his father, “Shawaei Saghir,” so that his full name becomes “Shawaei Saghir the son of Shawaei the son of Shawaei the older Al-Malhani.”
As per Shawaei the father statement, the repeated naming of his son “Shawaei” comes in honor of his grandfather, who is credited with bequeathing vast areas of land which he inherited along with, his brothers, and their children. According to Al-Malhani, the rest of his brothers, including Abdullah and Zayed, have also named their children the same name (Shawaei).
Glories of Family Ancestors
Some families in the Al Mahweet areas resort to repeating the name of the newborn with the same name as the father or grandfather within the same family, for fear that the child may pass away or got infected with a serious disease and dies, as they believe. In some Yemeni regions, the double and triple names are very common after some ancestors who considered as heroic characters within the family.
Just as is the case in the Al-Radhma district in Ibb Governorate; where is it is common that the triple name is repeated with the surname of three cousins in one family: Ahmed Hussein Ali Al-Shalali. This has led to confusion when conducting some paper work in official government agencies. For example: When their youngest cousin wanted to get an identity card, the officer at the Civil Status Authority told him that the name was duplicated and he had to prove that Ahmed Hussein was his real name. As a result, Ahmed had no choice but to bring witnesses from the same family to demonstrate that he had the same name, as he said while talking to "Khuyut".
Ahmed Hussein added: "I found it difficult to obtain the ID card because I did not have a birth certificate, and because I repeated the triple name and surname with two of my cousins; the first was nicknamed Al-Shamma, and the second was nicknamed Al-Koot, which are nicknames that distinguish them from me and by which they are known within our local community."
Ahmed Hussein suggests that his father repeatedly named him with the same triple name of ancestors from the same family, and that the name of Ahmed Hussein the Elder is a figure from the same family, who was famous for his heroism and helping others in the area in which his tribe resides.
Bullying over the name (Afash)
In the Hamdan district (north of Sanaa), the twenty-year-old Ali Afash says that he always feels proud when he was given his name after the late Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh Afash. However, this pride changed after the outbreak of the revolution of February 11, 2011 when the young man, “Ali,” faced Sarcasm and mockery by his colleagues at the Faculty of Commerce at Sana’a University, because of the name of Afash, whose regime was overthrown by Arab Spring revolution.
“I did not know that I would suffer because of my name, even when I traveled some months ago to the city of Aden in order to obtain a passport, the soldiers at the checkpoints would stop me for long hours and look carefully at my ID card, hoping to find something they were looking for.” Ali Afash told Khuyut.
Repetition and nick names
Mohammad Mohammad Al-Arashi, Ali Ali Al-Ansi, Ali Ali Sabra, Ahmed Ahmed Ghaleb, Mohammad Mohammad Mohammad al-Mujahid, Mohammad Mohammad al-Shabibi, Mohammad Mohammad al-Mansoor; are names of Yemeni artists, poets, clerics, politicians, and researchers whose names have been repeated among the public for many reasons; Some of them are to commemorate historical names in some families, or for religious or political connections.
Therefore, the Yemenis who live in the northern and eastern areas, where repeated names flourish, have excelled in distinguishing some of these names by giving each repeated name a nickname by which he can be recognized. This nick name also meant to show admiration and respect for the name that is usually given to males. For example: The name Mohammad is nicknamed Al-Ezzi, or Ezz Al-Deen, and the people of Sana'a also call anyone whom they do not know his name with the nick name of Ezzi.
As for the name Ali, he is given the title of “Al-Jamali”, the name Ahmed is given the title “Al-Safi”, the name Yahya is given the title “Al-Imad”, while the name Ibrahim is given the title “Al-Sarim”, and the title “Wajih Al-Din” is given to everyone whose name begins with "Abd", as in: Abdulaziz, Abdulrahman, Abduljalil and Abdulmalik, except for the name "Abdullah", where he is called "Al-Fakhri" or "Fakhr Al-Deen", while Qasim is called "Alam Al-Deen" whereas Youssef is called "Al-Najm", and Mohsen is called "Al-Hussam".
Researchers believe that the occurrence and circulation of these titles dates back to the era of the rule of the Zaidi Imams in the northern regions, and these nick names have become common in official and commercial correspondence.
Civil status guidance
The names: “Mohammad, Ahmed, Saleh, Ali, Qasim, Abdullah, Dabwan, Hussein, Farea, Yaslam, Shu’i, Mabkhoot, Al-Azzi, Fatima, Fatoum, Zainab, Arwa, Balqis, Wardah, Samira, Hakimah, Amal”; are the most frequent names in Yemen, according to the Republic’s Civil Status and Civil Registry Authority.
This seems normal, like other countries where single names are repeated, but what is abnormal is the repetition of single, double, and triple names in the same family, which solely happens in Yemen.
The phenomenon of repeating the same name has been populated in every generation in the same family, in various Yemeni governorates since ancient times, and a son may name one or more of his children after his father or mother. In this regard, the competent officer in the Civil Status and Civil Registry Authority in Sana’a, Ali Al-Hofashi, believes that the Civil Status Authority does not interfere in the choices of fathers and mothers to name their children under the Personal Status Law. However, the department’s employees provide advice and guidance to people if they find names that are inappropriate or do not fit with Yemenis’ social customs, traditions, and religious beliefs.
The repetition of names in Yemeni society is an ancient practice, which still followed until today because parents believe that choosing a name for their children shall be linked to religious, political, and social values, and many people associate names to specific national events and dates, even if the meanings of those events have changed in the present time.
On the other hand, Al-Hofashi pointed out that the Personal Status Law in Yemen allows Yemenis to include their surname among their names registered in personal and family cards, even if they were duplicated in doubles, triples, or quadruples. Yet, after verifying their authenticity and verifying that some people did not resort to forgery for the sake of interests related to inheritance or for political reasons.
Moreover, in his interview with Khuyut, Al-Hofashi referred to some of the mistakes that many Yemenis make when registering the names of their births or when issuing personal cards from the Department of Status and Civil Registry including: not reporting births to the Civil Status Administration within sixty days from the date of birth. Rather, the majority of the people do not bother to obtain birth certificates for their newborns, especially those living in rural areas, in addition to the lack of commitment of many who have reached the age of sixteen to obtain personal ID cards, and when they get married, they do not commit to obtaining family ID cards.
No legal Objection
Recently, some Yemenis have been naming their children after Arab and foreign leaders and political, artistic and sports figures, who were not accustomed to those names before. Data from the Civil Status Authority, which Khuyut reviewed, indicated that the emergence of new names among newborns, such as “Erdogan, Arslan, Khomeini, Muhannad, Ertugrul, Nour, Bayan, Tin, Dalinda, Berlandi, Indira, and Rowana.”
Sociology researcher, Marwan Jobari, stated to Khuyut that he believes that the repetition of names in Yemeni society is an old phenomenon and is still unchanged until the present time. This may be attributed to the fact that most parents believe that choosing a name for their children shall be linked to religious, political and social values. "Many people also link names to specific events and dates, even if the implications of those events have changed in the present time". Jobari said. “What has changed at the present time is that Yemeni society is influenced more by the glorification of figures who are highlighted on TV channels and social media champions.” He concluded.
Likewise, Lawyer and legal advisor Nizar Sarraro supports Jobari’s point, as Sarraro confirmed that problems often occur regarding inheritance, and sometimes some names are identical with those of wanted persons, due to the repetition of four-, three- and even double names, and the same applies even to ordinary names. Sarraro concluded his statement to Khuyut by saying: “There is no legal text in Yemeni law that prohibits the repetition of names in the same family, as long as they do not violate Sharia, law, custom, and Islam. For this reason, Yemenis remain free to name their children, and they also have full freedom to repeat the names in doubles, triples, and quadruples.”