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KURDISH MEDIA | 2008-02-07 original text

Kurdish woman are also victims of circumcision

Research indicates that circumcision is also practiced by Kurds. Most people react surprised by this information. "Isn't this an African problem?" According to some Kurdish Iranian based NGO's and women organizations on both side of the borders of Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan 70% of the Iranian Kurdish women is circumcised. According to a WADI report 65% of the rural regions of Slemani also practice circumcision.

Kurdish anthropologist Kameel Ahmady wrote several articles about gender and studied this subject amongst the Kurds of Iran and in the diaspora. His new published research targets the obscure existence of homosexuality and trans sexuality inside Kurdish culture. In 2007 Kameel traveled to Iran in order to make an ethnography film about Female genital mutilation (FGM). His film tries to explore this issue and was partly screened on BBC and recently on the London Kurdish film festival. In this interview he tells more about FGM.

Why I have never heard about female circumcision? Do people keep this secret?

FGM has been being practiced amongst the Shafi Kurds of Iran and Iraq for generations. The public only become more interested on these issues when the western media and UNICEF focused on this issue by covering Africa to start with, surly top models such Ms. Waris Dirie and her foundation also greatly helped to expose this matter to the greater public.

Your data and recent research indicates that approx 70% girls in Iran ( East Kurdistan) are still circumcised. How did you reach this conclusion? It sounds a bit unrealistic.

According to UNICEF Female genital mutilation is performed in 28 countries ranging from Africa to the Middle East and some of the Islamic Asian countries. It is estimated that the most severe form of the practice affects 130 million women, most of who were circumcised before puberty. The date I referred to was gathered by a team of activist also from number of NGO,s , women groups and university of Tabriz which through the time I was studying such data and shooting a documentary film in west of Iran (Iranian Kurdistan).

According to Wadi 65% of 116 villages of the region Slemani has FGM. Isn't this only a rural practice?

My information about FGM in Africa is limited to a number of reports from her foundation and other sources , but the case in Question (Iran) revealed that that FGM is widely practiced in North western Iran in particular Mokrayan and Baban regions. However FGM is not widely performed in larger town and cities or among families with educated parents.

Is FGM a result of Islam?

FGM does predate Islam, but most Muslims do not practice this. FGM was also practice by Falasha (Ethiopian Jews). The remaining FGM society's follows traditional Animist religions. In countries where Muslim's practices FGM, they can justify it, in the words of the Prophet Mohammed. In two controversial sayings that are found in the Sunnah (words and actions of Mohammed)

Recently TIME magazine reported about a possible new law banning the practice. Is this enough to combat it?

Some positive action has been taken in Iraq (South Kurdistan) to ban such practice and enforcing a law to combat this. Surely support from the government is very welcoming news, but at the same time implementing such laws in societies like the Kurdish society, where clergy men publicly encourage parents to carry out FGM on their beloved ones is a very big challenge. In the case of the Kurds in Iran that's even harder, because there is a lack of support from the government and existence of organized NGO groups.

A chief cleric in Slemani said the Shafi'I school of Islamic law says that circumcision is obligatory for both men and women, but not among Hanbali school of Islamic law. Is FGM only practiced by Shafi'I Sunni Muslim Kurds in Iran?

Although a clerical point of view may differ from one region to another or even within the same region, it's possible that one may hear different account of advice from different clerics from the same religious Shafi law school. But by large the Shafi Kurds of Iran practice FGM. Having said that FGM isn't performed amongst Kurmanji (upper Kurmanji) speakers of Kurdish language for example in Kurdistan of Turkey, with the exception of few Kurmanji speaking region of Iran at the borders of Iran to Turkey.