Dirty digits: Afghans reject ’39’ on number plates that ‘pimp their ride’

Afghan traffic authorities are retiring licence plates containing the number '39' because the figure has long been associated with pimping and prostitution.

Dirty digits: Afghans reject ’39’ on number plates that ‘pimp their ride’

Vice President Amrullah Saleh said a decree to that effect would be introduced this week, eliminating what had become a tempting source of bribery by traffic officials.

“The number [39] will be removed from the traffic system. It is said that people pay $300 [R4,563] bribes to avoid the number,” he said in a Facebook post.

Origin of 39’s street meaning

The origin of 39’s street meaning is lost in time, but said to be linked to a notorious pimp in the western city of Herat, whose car registration plate contained the number.

Now, anyone driving a car sporting the figure risks being linked to an underground sex industry that is taboo in the devoutly Muslim nation.

Afghanistan 39 number plate
In this picture taken on 20 June 2011, an Afghan man stands next to a car with the number ’39’ on its licence plate in Kabul. Picking up dust in a car lot on the outskirts of Kabul – three saloon cars, a crane and a dump truck sit abandoned to a strange Afghan numerical curse that has swept the nation. Image: AFP/ Shah Marai

Resorting to bribes

New car owners have resorted to paying bribes to avoid being issued licence plates with the digits.

“At the traffic department they ask you if you want number 39 or not,” said Hakim, a car dealer in the capital.

“If you don’t, then they ask for a bribe.” 

He said nobody would buy a second-hand car with the digits because they consider it “shameful”.

“Last year, I had to sell two cars at almost half the price because they had 39 in their number plates,” Hakim said. 

The association has even spread beyond vehicles, and Afghans can be teased or shunned for having telephone numbers or addresses featuring the digits. 

By © Agence France-Presse

Source : The South African More