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Why did Iceland ban the name Harriet?

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Written by Mary Fetzer   

Passport rules can be strict, but denying someone a passport because of her name?  That just seems ridiculous. Yet that is exactly what happened to a 10-year-old Icelandic girl named Harriet. Read on to find out why the child's passport renewal was rejected.

No Harriets allowed


In Reykjavik, Iceland, Harriet Cardew's parents attempted to renew the child's passport but were told she cannot have a passport because her name is Harriet.

The law in Iceland states that children born in the country must be given a name that is approved by the National Registry. Names must be submitted to the National Registry within six months of the baby's birth. If the name is not on the Registry's existing list of approved names, then parents must seek approval from the Icelandic Naming Committee. The law does not apply when both parents of the Icelandic-born baby are foreign.

Names such as Aagot, Bebba and Etna are perfectly acceptable for passports. Harriet, on the other hand, is not. To make matters worse, Harriet's brother was also denied a passport. His name: Duncan.

"The whole situation is rather silly," says Harriet's father, British-born Tristan Cardew. He and his Icelandic wife, Kristin, are appealing the Reykjavik National Registry's ruling.

Icelandic girl, Icelandic boy


The couple has four children — Lilija and Belinda (born in France) and Harriet and Duncan (born in Iceland). On previous passports, Harriet was identified as Stulka Cardew (which means Girl Cardew) and Duncan as Drengur Cardew (which means Boy Cardew). Authorities obviously preferred these vague names over the children's non-Icelandic monikers.

Tristan and Kristin were advised to get around the problem by giving their 10- and 12-year-old children Icelandic middle names to obtain passport approval. "But it's a bit late for that and way too silly," said Tristan, who got around the problem by applying for an emergency British passport for his children.

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Photo credit: Aurelie and Morgan David de Lossy/Cultura/Getty Images

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