September 28, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 4171

Saudis Ashamed to Reveal Their Mothers' Names

September 28, 2011
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 4171

Following are excerpts from a Saudi TV channel street survey in which a reporter asked respondents for their mothers' names, which was posted on the Internet in August 2011.

In Saudi Arabia it is taboo to reveal one's mother's name, even to friends, as part of the norm of men protecting women's honor by guarding their identities.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit

TV host: "We asked various people a simple question. It is a very easy question that anyone could answer, but the responses we got were strange.

"The question was: 'What is your mother's name?' Take a look at the responses we got."

Reporter: "Good evening."

Saudi man on the street (Talal 'Awafi): "Good evening to you too."

Reporter: "What is your name?"

Talal 'Awafi: "Talal 'Awafi."

Reporter: "Nice to meet you, Talal. What is your mother's name?"

Talal 'Awafi (laughs in embarrassment): "Stop. What kind of question is this – and on TV?! I can't tell you."

Reporter: "Say your mother's name, just for me."

Talal 'Awafi: "I'll tell you in private."

Reporter: "If I tell you my mother's name, will you tell me yours?"

Talal 'Awafi: "Not even then."

Reporter: "Thank you."

Reporter: "What's your mother's name?"

Second man: "My mother's name? What's it to you?"

Reporter: "I'm just asking."

Second man: "No, it's not done."

Reporter: "You're 'old school' then?"

Second man: "No, no.

"What's my mother's name?!"

Reporter: "The show requires..."

Second man: "No, absolutely not."

Reporter: "What if I tell you my own mother's name?"

Second man: "I didn't ask you to. No, I won't tell you."

Reporter: "Come on, it's totally normal. I'll reward you if you do."

Second man: "What will you give me?"

Reporter: "Whatever you want."

Second man: "Okay, maybe I can tell you."

Reporter: "Be brave, there's nothing to it."

Second man: "I'm looking for a nice name..."

Reporter: "Thanks very much. Well done. Do you want to say it? Last chance."

Second man: "I will say it. She is called Raisa, may God protect her." [...]

Reporter: "What's your mother's name?"

Third man: "Umm Abdallah."

Reporter: "No, what's her real name?"

Third man: "Umm Sa'd."

Reporter: "Her given name, not Umm Sa'd..."

Third man: "Eve."

Laughter among the group of young Saudis

Third man: "Eve, daughter of Eve."

Reporter: "But what's her real name?

"If you tell me your mother's name..."

Third man: "I won't tell you. What am I, crazy?"

Reporter: "So I'm crazy then? Very nice." [...]

Fourth man: "The wife of Abu Osama."

Reporter: "Okay, but what's her first name?"

Fourth man: "The same as I said."

Reporter: "Exactly the same."

Fourth man: "No difference."

Reporter: "If I tell you that my mother's name is Fatima, will you tell me yours?"

Fourth man: "Your mother has a nice name, but I'll keep mine to myself." [...]

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