'Pimp' number 39 haunts Afghan car owners
Cars with license plates bearing the now-hated digits are unsaleable; drivers are mocked and taunted
By Hamid Shalizi
updated 6/15/2011 10:59:45 AM ET
KABUL — 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 learned they were also gay pride symbols.