New survey reveals that majority of women in Kurdistan have undergone genital mutilation.
Mariam Nadr, 77, has a fine home in an upscale neighbourhood of Erbil and is a prominent member of the community. She has a bright smile, a calm demeanour and wears the white shawl of a respected Kurdish matron.
Part of Nadr’s social standing stems from her past: for many years mothers came to her to perform genital mutilations on their daughters. For these women, the act was a cultural and religious rite.
The custom of female genital mutilation, FGM, upheld by Nadr and other women of her generation, has been condemned in recent years by activists, medical groups and religious leaders who consider the practice barbaric. They argue that FGM is physically and psychologically damaging to girls and women.
Change has come slowly, and Iraqi Kurdistan remains a battleground where education and awareness campaigns must overturn centuries of ingrained tradition.
“No one told me mutilation is bad; I did it for the sake of religion,” Nadr told IWPR.