“I still feel the fear,” Runak recalled as she told her story of undergoing genital excision at age 7..
The 26-year-old recounted her experience to Gola Ahmad Mohammad, an activist for the Assn. for Crisis Assistance and Development Cooperation (WADI). “When they tried to circumcise me, I ran away from one village to another to avoid the process. But they found me and brought me back home. I heard my mom when they were cutting a piece of my genitals say to me, ‘This will make you pure and the water of your hands become halal [permissible],” indicating she would otherwise consider her impure.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mohammad shared that many girls and women who spoke to WADI stressed the deception and secrecy of the process as particularly painful. The excision also reverberates with immediate and permanent physical damage.
It most commonly involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce, also known as a clitoridectomy. Some adult women undergo the procedure in a more invasive manner though it serves no medical purpose.
While the procedure is practiced in various parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, it has begun to receive greater global awareness. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch held a news conference in Irbil, Iraq, to rally international outcry against the practice.