A Woman Named Isis Asks You to Stop Saying ISIS

Isis Martinez
Photo via Raul Hernandez

The rise of the Islamic State, better known as ISIS, has meant suffering, death and destruction for the people living in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls. But another group of people are feeling like needless collateral damage—people named Isis.

Leading the charge to get the media to stop using the ISIS acronym is Isis Martinez, the leader of a nonprofit based in Miami. "I couldn't just sit back and let it happen," she said in an interview with Newsweek. By using social media, Isis hopes to give a platform for others named Isis to share their experiences and ultimately persuade news media to exclusively use the ISIL acronym.

In her Facebook group, "Thousands of Women are Named Isis – Petition the Media to use ISIL," Isis explains the incident that led her to start the campaign on August 23:

"The reactions to my name can be awkward sometimes but the straw that broke the camels [sic] back happened this morning when an intake nurse in the emergency room asked how I pronounce my name and I answered, her phase [sic] showed such incredible sadness for me and she said she felt bad for me."

Isis is the name of an ancient Egyptian goddess. She inspired Apuleius's writing, Bob Dylan mentioned her name in one of his most famous songs, and many parents have used her namesake for their children.

Since creating the Facebook group, carrying the campaign over to Twitter and starting an online petition, she says many others have shared their plight. Some women report being asked if Isis is their real name. Parents say their children, who they've proudly named Isis, are being bullied in school. And Isis says it's getting increasingly difficult to deal with her name being used to refer to the terrorist group, especially as they are covered more often in the news. "People just cringe" she says, describing the reaction when she introduces herself.

Some people have suggested Isis use her middle name, but she flatly refuses. "If I go by a nickname or a middle name, the terrorists win." And people named Isis from around the world are thanking her for it. "Save our name!" some have written in encouragement.

But others are not as impressed and criticize her campaign. "I realize there is a much bigger problem," she says. "We get comments that we should be focusing on the terrorists, stopping the terrorists, but I can't do anything about that."

Isis's petition has gained 225 signatures since Wednesday morning, but it is unlikely to be successful.

The media first called referred to the group as ISIS as an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Some referred to them as ISIL—the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (for those who want a closer Arabic translation). In June, when the group declared themselves a caliphate and rebranded to IS—the Islamic State—some people started calling them that. But even though President Obama called them ISIL in his address last night, the majority continues to use the ISIS acronym with which they are most familiar.