Cursed number "39" haunts Afghan car owners

Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:41am EDT
 
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By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's booming car sales industry has been thrown into chaos by a growing aversion to the number "39," which almost overnight has become an unlikely synonym for pimp and a mark of shame in this deeply conservative country.

Drivers of cars with number plates containing 39, bought before the once-harmless double digits took on their new meaning, are mocked and taunted across Kabul.

"Now even little kids say 'look, there goes the 39'. This car is a bad luck, I can't take my family out in it," said Mohammad Ashraf who works for a United Nations project.

Other "39" owners flew into a rage or refused to speak when asked whether their car was a burden.

No one is quite sure why the number became so contaminated so fast, but Kabul gossip blames a pimp in neighboring Iran, which shares a common language with much of Afghanistan.

His flashy car had a 39 in its number plate, the story goes, so he was nicknamed "39" and the tag spread.

The shunning of 39 comes just weeks after drivers raced to remove rainbow decorations that were spotted on imported cars and became fashionable until conservative Afghans learnt they were also gay pride symbols.

Dealers say thousands of dollars of stock is now sitting unwanted in their yards, with even a prime condition vehicle almost unsaleable if its plates bear the now-hated numerals.   Continued...

 
<p>Cars are parked at a car selling lot in Kabul June 14, 2011.Afghanistan's booming car sales industry has been thrown into chaos by a growing aversion to the number "39", which almost overnight has become an unlikely synonym for pimp and a mark of shame in this deeply conservative country. Picture taken June 14, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani</p>