BASNEWS | 04.06.2017
Female Circumcisions or Female Genital Mutilation in Kurdistan
Circumcision is defined as cutting of female external genitalia which is carried out by traditional...
WEEKLY STANDARD | 17.06.2015
Confronting FGM in Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan
Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) exists in the Islamic Republic of Iran even...
stopfgmmideast | 20.05.2015
Campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan: Paying a visit to a Mullah who promoted FGM
The shock was great when the Iraqi Kurdish Xelk Media Network reported about a Kurdish Mullah...
THE TELEGRAPH | 04.03.2015
"If they mutilate my granddaughter? I’ll kill them’. Meet Iraqi village ending FGM
Amirah vividly recalls the day she was taken into a bathroom by the village midwife and forced to...
biomedcentral | 06.02.2015
The diversity of Kurdish women’s perspectives of female genital mutilation
The 6th February is marked by the United Nations sponsored awareness day, International...
WADI | 10.02.2015
International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM in the Kurdistan Parliament
Wadi, UNICEF and the High Council of Women Affairs launched an event about how...
stopfgmmideast | 05.02.2015
Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM: We need more campaigns in Asia
On the fifth official International Day of Zero Tolerance to female genital mutilation (FGM)...
WADI | 02.02.2015
Four new TV-spots Wadi has produced supported by UNICEF
as part of the ongoing campaign to eliminate FGM in Iraqi-Kurdistan. These spots will be aired by different TV stations...
Female Genital Mutilation a Growing Problem in Iran
The hideous practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is neither an exclusively Muslim nor a...
ORCHIDPROJECT | 17.12.2014
KMEWO Event on FGC
On November 13th 2014, the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women Organisation (KMEWO)...
WADI | 09.12.2014
Radio feature on WADI’s efforts to improve the situation of Free FGM Villages in Iraqi-Kurdistan
“Fichar” program at Radio Deng, an independent Radio station in Kalar, did a feature on WADI as...
WADI | 03.12.2014
Kurdish FGM-Free Village invited to Talkshow
Kurdistan's first FGM-free village as talk show guests on 'Binewshe" (KurdSat TV) to... | 18.10.2014
A Kurdish girl's story of Female genital mutilation FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan
As we all know from news reports from the region, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan have been...
TRUST.ORG | 09.09.2014
Iraqi Kurdistan could end FGM in a generation - expert
Female genital mutilation could be eradicated in Iraqi Kurdistan within a generation, a U.N...
The Guardian | 08.09.2014
Majority in Iraqi Kurdistan oppose female genital mutilation
Survey reveals widespread knowledge of FGM's dangers, with 68% of people saying it...
stop fgm mideast | 29.07.2014
FGM in Iraq: The hoax of a hoax?
Last week a statement by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was circulating in Arab...
WADI BLOG | 22.07.2014
Islamic caliphate labels female genital mutilation obligatory
Recently the Islamic state issued a fatwa which called female genital mutilation a religious...
WADI | 14.07.2014
One in four women in Central and Southern Iraq is affected by Female Genital Mutilation, new study suggests
A first independent study on female genital mutilation in central/southern Iraq finds that...
HIVOS | 13.06.2014
Kurdish villages declare themselves FGM-free
For ten years, Hivos partner WADI has been campaigning against female genital...
wadi | 05.06.2014
Cooperation agreement between UNICEF and WADI to combat FGM in Northern Iraq
UNICEF and WADI just signed a contract to boost the ongoing...
Gatestone Inst. | 07.05.2014
Solidarity Against Female Genital Mutilation
"No victim files charges against her own parents." — Rayeyeh Mozafarian, University of Shiraz...
stopfgmmideast | 30.04.2014
Second Middle East Conference on FGM to tackle myths
The Second Middle East & Asia Conference on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by WADI and...
opendemocracy | 14.02.2014
Embracing shame: turning honour on its head
The challenge that embracing shame poses to the longstanding perversion of honour, is the... | 10.02.2014
Continues battle against Female Genital Mutilation FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan
For many years, people have believed that practicing of female genital mutilation (FGM) is...
wadi | 05.02.2014
Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation; Action in Asia is needed
On the fourth official International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female genital mutilation (FGM), the...
RUDAW.NET | 27.01.2014
A Slow Fight for Kurdistan’s Women
“It is like digging a well with a fingernail. Our work is very slow. But we did make progress.”
DEUTSCHE WELLE | 09.12.2013
Iraqi Kurdistan fights female circumcision
Female circumcision is slowly declining in Iraqi Kurdistan. Years of campaigning and a law...
RUDAW.NET | 29.11.2013
Kurdistan Premier: Stronger Policies Needed to Combat Gender Violence
Two years ago the KRG passed a law banning violence against women including genital...
BBC | 07.11.2013
BBC-Documentary: Dropping the Knife; The Fight against FGM
A BBC-Documentary: Dropping the knife; the fight against FGM...
CPT | 04.11.2013
IRAQI KURDISTAN: WADI shifts attitudes toward Female Genital Mutilation
On 30 October 2013, CPT’s partner organization, WADI Iraq office, organized a press...
AL-MONITOR | 02.11.2013
Female Circumcision Continues in Iraqi Kurdistan
Despite the efforts of Kurdish civil society organizations and the media to shed light on the...
HIVOS | 27.10.2013
WADI’s ground-breaking campaign against FGM: interview
Falah Moradhkin is WADI’s project coordinator in Iraq. He was one of the few who survived a...
BBC RADIO | 25.10.2013
Kurdistan's success in stemming Female Genital Mutilation
Kurdistan is one of Iraq's rare success stories, the region has enjoyed an oil boom and...
GULFNEWS.COM | 24.10.2013
How Kurdistan ended female genital mutilation
Two years ago, FGM was banned as part of a wide-ranging law to improve women’s rights...
the guardian | 24.10.2013
FGM: the film that changed the law in Kurdistan
Two filmmakers spent almost a decade reporting the greatest taboo subject in Kurdish society...
BIOMED CENTRAL | 08.09.2013
Female genital mutilation among Iraqi Kurdish women: a cross-sectional study from Erbil city
Iraqi Kurdistan region is one of the areas where female genital...
wadi | 14.08.2013
Rate of FGM decreases in some regions of Iraqi Kurdistan
The British MP Gary Kent has traveled again to Iraqi-Kurdistan and recently wrote an article...
The Independent | 31.05.2013
Fighting against Female Genital Mutilation in Iraq
It is a misguided belief that Islam requires young women be circumcised...
CIP | 22.03.2013
The Global Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation Continues
A global campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation [FGM], often misnamed "female...
Kurdistantribune | 04.03.2013
Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in the Kurdistan Region
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined by the Word Health Organization (WHO) as...
UN Special | 06.02.2013
The long road to the first FGM-free villages in Iraq
According to a large survey conducted in 2009, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is...





Ancient practices still a threat to Iraqi women

by Nicholas Birch

Set on the arid, pebble-strewn plain southeast of Kirkuk, Hasira looks like a place forsaken by time.

Fat-tailed sheep amble past mud-brick houses and brushwood pens. The odd sickly palm tree provides shade for children's games. There is no electricity.

Germian and 39 other villages in this region of Iraqi Kurds have made their small place in history.

Surveyed by WADI, a German nongovernmental organization (NGO) based in Iraq for more than a decade, the region has provided the first statistical proof of the existence of female genital mutilation in the Middle East.

"We knew Germian was one of the areas most affected by the practice," said WADI director Thomas von der Osten-Sacken. "But the results were a shock."

Of 1,554 women and girls aged 10 or older interviewed by WADI's local medical team, 907 -- more than 60 percent -- said they had undergone the operation.

WADI is raising funds for a survey of the entire Iraqi Kurdish region.

Look up female genital mutilation on the Web, and you'll almost certainly find yourself reading about Africa. In countries such as Egypt, Sudan and Somalia, almost all women have undergone the procedure.

Less well-known is that the practice exists throughout the Middle East, particularly in northern Saudi Arabia, southern Jordan and Iraq. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest it is present in Syria, western Iran and southern Turkey.

The problem, as one United Nations official in Egypt puts it, "is the attitude of the region's governments."

Mr. Osten-Sacken agreed. When WADI presented the results of its survey in Vienna, Austria, this spring, he said various Islamist groups accused the NGO of being an agent of the Israelis.

Even the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, who have backed efforts to combat the practice since the late 1990s, were rattled.

"The [Kurdish] Ministry of Human Rights hauled us in for questioning," said Assi Frooz Aziz, coordinator of WADI's Germian medical team. "They accused us of publicizing the country's secrets."

But it's not just official obstructionism that has held up awareness of the phenomenon. Unlike parts of Africa, where mutilation is practiced openly, in the Middle East, it is hidden.

"You can't just walk into a village and ask people if they circumcise their daughters or not," said Hero Umar, a Germian social worker. "These people only talked because we've been bringing them medical help for over a year."

Persuading women in Hasira and the surrounding villages to talk to a foreign reporter was no easy task. After long negotiation, Trifa Rashid Abdulkerim, 24, agreed to answer questions.

A farmer's wife from the village of Milkhasim, she said she learned circumcision techniques from her neighbor and took over when the neighbor stopped.

"June is the best time of the year, and the best age for patients is anywhere between 3 and 8," she said. The way she talked about the operation is identical to descriptions heard throughout the Iraqi Kurdish area. Charcoal is applied to reduce pain in the wound. After the cut, the child is sat in a bowl of water and antiseptic solution.

Asked about the specifics of the procedure, however, she faltered. "I just cut off the top," she said, obviously embarrassed.

It's a reference, local anti-mutilation campaigners say, to what is sometimes termed the "Sunna" circumcision, the removal of foreskin and sometimes clitoris that some Muslims attribute to a tradition taught by the Prophet Muhammad.

Anti-mutilation campaigners point out that the practice crosses religious and ethnic boundaries. But as southern Iraqi Kurdistan's chief cleric puts it, "Islamic scholars have complex views on the phenomenon."

"According to the Shafi'i school, which we Kurds belong to, circumcision is obligatory for both men and women," said Mohammed Ahmed Gaznei in his office in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. "The Hanbali say it is obligatory only for men." Personally opposed to female circumcision, Mr. Gaznei said he has done his best to collaborate in campaigns to stamp it out. In 2002, he and other senior Kurdish clerics issued a religious edict, or fatwa, calling for imitation of Hanbali practice.

He has since appeared several times on television to preach against the mutilation.

In Germian, though, where electricity and televisions are in short supply, the information is taking time to filter through.

"They say the food an uncircumcised woman cooks is unclean and that a circumcised girl has more affection for her family," said Shirin Ali in Hasira.

Three months ago in a village an hour north of Hasira, WADI mobile-team workers said a newly married woman was so badly treated by her in-laws for not being circumcised that she did the operation herself. They had to take her to the hospital.

Hero Umar, the social worker, nonetheless thinks attitudes are slowly beginning to change.

"Most imams are cooperative," she said. "The biggest obstacle remaining is the older generation of women."

But, judging by the remarks made by a translator on the dirt track leading out of Hasira, there is still plenty of work to be done.

"I see nothing wrong with the operation, as long as it is done under anaesthetic," said the translator, an educated urbanite. "Because they are unable to control their sexual urges, uncircumcised women are more likely to be deflowered before marriage. That, in our society, is a shameful thing."