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January 1st, birthdays galore in Afghanistan

Ⓒ AFP – Shah MARAI – | Newborns at a maternity hospital in Kabul, December 26, 2017, but often for lack of official birth certificate their birthday will be celebrated by ease every 1st January

On January 1st, Facebook will announce the birthday of Samad Alawi, his sons, his wife and 32 of his friends … In Afghanistan, where the civil registry is failing, we will celebrate Monday a little more than the new year on social networks.

The date is popular among Afghans because easy to remember. In a country governed by the solar calendar Hijri, where Monday will correspond to 11 Jady 1396, the 11th of the month of deer 1396, to take the 1st of January as anniversary date avoids a tedious calculation.

“When I created my Facebook account in 2014, it was just easier to choose January 1. The Internet was slow and it was difficult to convert my birthday into the Western calendar,” says Samad, 43.

This humanitarian worker then did the same for his wife and two teenagers. Then he realized that 32 of his friends had acted identically. Last year, he wished them a “happy birthday” to all.

“It seems that all Afghans are celebrating their birthday on January 1st,” he smiles.

Ⓒ AFP – Shah MARAI – | Nurses register births in a maternity clinic in Kabul on December 26, 2017

The New Year, Nowruz, is being celebrated on March 21 in Afghanistan and Iran, the only two countries in the world to follow the Hijri solar calendar. When spring starts in Europe and autumn in South America, the festivities of 1397 will be in full swing in Kabul or Tehran.

But the social media boom in Afghanistan, where 8.5 million city dwellers are netizens, does not explain everything. Many Afghans choose their birthday date … because they do not officially have one, or it is false, because of a lack of birth certificates.

– ‘Physical appearance’ –

Seasons or historical events are used to determine the ages of some. For others, the Tazkira, the Afghan identity card, a sheet of paper often horny and stained by the years, serves as a reference. In the field reserved for the date of birth of this official document, we read: “Age is determined by physical appearance”.

“My Tazkira indicates that I was 3 years old in 1365 of the Hijri calendar (1986), and that was the year she was made,” said Abdul Hadi, who will also be celebrating his 35th birthday on Facebook on Monday.

“There is no space reserved for the date of birth on the Tazkiras.How can we remember his date of birth if we do not have one officially registered?”, He pleads. .

The situation is changing gradually. In recent years, in major cities, hospitals have begun issuing birth certificates for newborns, which previous generations had been asking for in vain.

Ⓒ AFP – Shah MARAI – | A newborn at a maternity hospital in Kabul, December 26, 2017 but his birthday will be celebrated by ease every January 1, lack of official birth certificate

The authorities are also trying to launch e-Tazkiras, or electronic ID cards, which would include the holder’s date of birth, if it exists. But the project has been stalled for ages because of technical difficulties, the internet is often too slow for online formalities, and a lack of political consensus.

In the absence of official documents, some parents, regardless of their level of education, are reduced to copying the date of birth of their offspring to pieces of paper, which they then insert into the family copy of the Koran, in order to do not lose them.

Samad hopes that “one day, all Afghans will have their own date of birth”. “Like that, social networks will not have to tell them how old they are.”

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