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WADI-ONLINE.DE | 27.12.2010 . original text

Female Genitale Mutilation in Kirkuk – outlook for a campaign

Preliminary data from a study conducted by PANA in cooperation with WADI indicates that 40 % of the women in Kirkuk have been mutilated.

By Falah Muradkhan Shakaram, WADI Project Coordinator in Iraq
(This article was first published in Kurdish in Awene newspaper)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has become one of the main focuses of our work over the last few years. During this period, we have been able to organize the most comprehensive campaign in Iraqi-Kurdistan against this practice and to raise public awareness about the harms and dangers of the practice as well as its consequences. The scale of our activities has been broad and we have been able to make the far-reaching achievement of breaking the taboo of shame and silence attached to FGM, so that nowadays many organizations and governmental bodies as well as the media are working on the issue. This work became more prominent especially after the publication of a Human Rights Watch special report on FGM in June 2010. Consequently, on the 25th of November Dr. Barham Salih, President of the Council of Ministers announced in a public governmental address his opposition to the practice of FGM. On the 11th of December the results of the official study of FGM in Kurdistan, conducted by a group of physicians, were made public. The study involved 5112 women, 41% of whom were circumcised. However, the only scientifically conducted study in the region – a study conducted by our organization and published in 2010 – indicated that from a total of 1408 women in Sulaymaniyah, Hawler and Germyan 72.2% were circumcised; 57% of the women less than 20 years old and 95.7% of the women over the age of 58 were cut.

FGM in other regions of Iraq

During our work on FGM we heard often and from many people that this practice is not an established Kurdish tradition but instead has been adopted from the Arabic “Islamic” traditions. This type of statement and reasoning was always suspicious, although we are convinced that no one in Kurdistan would deny such explanations. However, when the majority of the citizens in other regions of Iraq are faced with the question of the origins of FGM they deny such an association between Islamic traditions and the practice. Although the principal factors that underlie FGM are also present in the other parts of Iraq – namely, religion (the Shafi’ school), patriarchal societal culture and tribal traditions – there is no evidence that the practice of FGM is prominent in these areas. In the light of our experiences from Kurdistan, it may be the case that, rather than not being practiced, FGM in other regions of Iraq is being practiced but still hidden. The taboo of silence has not yet been broken so that the problem could become a publicly discussed issue, as it is being discussed in Kurdistan.

FGM in Kirkuk

FGM is a grave violation of human rights and it is the responsibility of the Central Government to work on prohibiting and preventing it. Clearly the political climate between the central government and the Kurdistan regional government did now allow the allocation of a great deal of attention or responsibility to the issue of FGM. We, therefore, considered it valuable to collect data from other areas of Iraq about FGM, and in the coming years we will make Kirkuk one of the focuses of our activities and sample it as a window to the other parts of Iraq. In doing this we will be following the maxime “Kirkuk is a miniature Iraq”, since it includes all the ethnic groups, religions, cultures and unfortunately all the political complexities and struggles which are tangible in this governorate.

Until now FGM is basically considered a Kurdish problem, therefore The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdish Parliament were requested to deal with it. But the significant numbers of FGM found in Dyala and Kirkuk are telling another story. Both governorates are not part of the KRG region. Therefore the Central Government in Bagdad and the Iraqi Parliament are responsible to deal with the issue. Thus we are planning to address both the Parliament and the relevant Ministries in Baghdad in order to raise awareness and lobby for a legal ban of FGM throughout the country.

As a preliminary survey to identify the prevalence of FGM in Kirkuk, we formulated a plan – in cooperation with  PANA organization, an independent and active organization involved with combating violence against women in Kirkuk – to conduct 36 public meetings for Kirkuki women and young girls, 12 of which will be held in the city centre and 24 in the surrounding cities and villages allocated on the basis of radial distance from the city.

In these meetings we were able to gather 741 women whom were able to question about the issue of FGM. A pilot study was conducted by asking the participants about their personal and family experience of FGM. From a total of 1807 women 738 were mutilated (41%).

From the same study it became clear that the prevalence of FGM among the Sunni Shafi’ Kurds and Arabs was higher than that among the Shiites, and the highest prevalence in an ethnic group was among the Kurds. However, the majority of the participants were citizens from the Kurdish districts and areas, and because of the poor security situation of some majority-Arab areas we were unable to conduct meetings as we would have otherwise wanted to. We hope that in our future programs we are able to involve Arabic and Turkmen organizations in order to complete the survey.

Rahimawa is the most famous Kurdish quarter in Kirkuk and has a remarkably high record of FGM. People in this district still consider FGM as an Islamic Sunna and have markedly little information about the harms of the practice. From a total of 88 women from the quarter, 58 of them were circumcised (65.9%). For the sake of comparison the quarter of “Hey Al-Mutanaza”, an Arab area, was surveyed and from a total of 56 women and girls only 10 were cut (17.8%), and no woman or girl was cut from a total of 43 women living in the Turkmen-quarter of Yayjy Awcheshly. It suggests that among this ethnic minority FGM is not widespread – a very encouraging fact. However, in the city of Dubz, a place where Kurdish, Turkmen and Arabs live, 66% of those questioned were circumcised (33 out of 50 participants).

Clearly, this preliminary study is not without limitations, but it signals that FGM is spread beyond the borders of the Kurdistan region. We hope that through the results of this study we will be able to put pressure on the central government, to take the issue of FGM more seriously. We will designate Kirkuk and other areas of Iraq as the focus of our activities for the coming years in combating FGM, and for this purpose many international organizations have expressed their interest in cooperating with us and are willing to support our activities. The detailed data on the surveyed areas and observed prevalence of FGM is found below.

Data from the study of PANA Centre in Kirkuk:                     

# Area No. of Partici-pants Ethnic Origin No. of female fam.members inc.Particip. Circumcision No. of women who prev. heard of bad conseq.

Done/Not Done

1 Kurdistan 18 Kurdish 53 18 35 14
2 Penja Ali 22 Kurdish 83 31 52 17
3 Rahim Awa 32 Kurdish 88 56 32 18
4 Hei Almuntezeh 20 Arabic 56 10 46 18
5 Muhafeze 20 mix Arab,Turkmen 47 1 46 11
6 Newroz 19 Kurdish 59 36 23 19
7 Prde/Selahie 18 Kurdish 49 18 31 14
8 Prde/Briaty Village 20 mix Kurdish,Turkmen 52 20 32 12
9 Prde/Qeli Bashe Village 18 Kurdish 63 38 25 14
10 Dibz/ Chkhmaxe Village 23 Kurdish 52 25 27 16
11 Dibz/Qirder 18 mix Arab,Kurd,Turkmen 50 33 17 17
12 Dibz/Heware Berze 22 mix Arab,Kurd,Turkmen 66 20 46 19
13 Laylan/Newroz 22 Kurdish 55 11 44 16
14 Laylan/Serjil 19 Kurdish 44 12 32 14
15 Serchnar 25 Kurdish 75 27 48 19
16 Bagler 22 Kurdish 42 15 27 18
17 Kirkuk/Chublige Village 30 Kurdish 74 44 30 19
18 Sa7et Omal 18 Kurdish 42 15 27 15
19 Tepe 23 Arabic,Kurdish 51 12 39 19
20 Qadsie 2 24 mix Arab,Kurd,Turkmen 42 7 35 13
21 Qadsie 1 20 mix Arab,Kurd,Turkmen 52 1 51 11
22 Qerehenjer/Chimani Gew. Vil. 24 Kurdish 49 25 24 17
23 Qer./Chimeni Seru Village 19 Kurdish 40 20 20 10
24 Qer./Chimeni Shehid Kakil 17 Kurdish 29 25 4 12
25 Daquq/Mame Rishe 20 mix Kurdish,Arab 60 7 53 17
26 Daquq/Dur Alashair 17 mix Kurdish,Arab 38 12 26 10
27 Yaych/Tobzawe 17 Kurdish 38 23 15 7
28 Yaychi/Taze 20 Kurdish 27 10 17 4
29 Yaychi/ Auchishli 24 Turkmen 43 0 43 11
30 Prde/ Esari Gewre 19 Kurdish 42 27 15 12
31 Shwan /Ashti 18 Kurdish 44 25 19 15
32 Shwan/Bextirai 20 Kurdish 40 31 9 17
33 Qerehenjeer/Shex Jibri Seru 17 Kurdish 42 16 26 11
34 Qerehenjeer/Shex Jibri Xuaru 17 Kurdish 47 28 19 10
35 Qerehenjeer/ Bashblax 21 Kurdish 38 24 14 15
36 Qerehenjeer 18 Kurdish 35 15 20 8
Total Numbers 741   1807 738 1069 509