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CPT | 04.11.2013. original text

IRAQI KURDISTAN: WADI shifts attitudes toward Female Genital Mutilation

by Rosemarie Milazzo

On 30 October 2013, CPT’s partner organization, WADI Iraq office, organized a press conference—which media representatives from six major Kurdish satellite channels and several newspapers attended —about the decline in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kurdistan. The WADI project coordinator, Falah Muradkhan said his organization had called the press conference because of the huge international attention stirred up on the topic caused by the recent BBC World and BBC Arabic's airing of two documentaries and the reporting of the Guardian newspaper.

WADI used this occasion to present new data about the FGM situation in Kurdistan and WADI's current activities. Two years ago, the Kurdistan Regional Government banned FGM as part of a wide-ranging law to improve women's rights, after years of grassroots campaigning run by activist and civil society organizations, including WADI. In a region where honor killings still happen, journalists write about Kurdistan as a "rare success story."

The documentaries about FGM tell the amazing story of WADI traveling to a remote village and accidentally learning about girls being cut. WADI began a strenuous grass roots campaign, doing further investigation, enlisting the help of the mullah and other leaders of the village. The mayor of the village was proud to help in the campaign. He and his wife had daughters they wanted to protect from this practice. The mayor went on to say, "We believe that your body is yours and cutting it is an act of violence."

Many Kurds believe that "khatana" or Female Genital Mutilation is part of Islamic practice. However, numerous mullahs oppose FGM. One of them, Mullah Omar Chngyani, an Islamic scholar, has written extensively about the subject. He says "This practice is not in Islam, it's a traditional practice, not a religious one—it's a form of oppression for women.” Chngyani says, "… if you read and understand deeply you'll know that Islam could never tell us to hurt anyone."

At the press conference, which CPT attended, Falah Muradkhan, Project Coordinator of WADI presented the details of its work against Female Genital Mutilation. His PowerPoint presentation explained the results of their work. Traditionally, in some areas of Kurdistan where FGM is practiced, more than 90% of women aged twenty-five and older were already mutilated. In Halabja and Garmyan, where WADI has worked extensively, the percentage of young girls ages six to ten subjected to the practice is now close to zero. In Ranya, WADI's most recent operation area, the rate of FGM used to be 100%, and it has dropped to 48%. I rejoiced with all the media present as we listened together to this good news.

I wondered, in countries around the world where FGM is still practiced, how many women might rejoice now that it is publically declared an act of violence in Kurdistan?