In Iraqi Kurdistan, 40 percent of women and girls between the ages of 14 and 22 have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), surveys suggest, a practice that involves cutting out the clitoris. The practice is perpetuated by women — often mothers, aunts and grandmothers – who say they want the best for the children, as they believe it makes their girls “clean” and marriageable.
Some link the practice to Sunni Islam’s Shafi’i school of thought, to which most Kurds belong.
Human Rights Watch researchers Nadya Khalife and photographer Samer Muscati traveled to the rural villages and farmlands of Iraqi Kurdistan to interview and photograph women about their experiences with FGM.
The ensuing Human Rights Watch report had immediate impact. Shortly after its release the Kurdistan Islamic Scholars Union issued a fatwa declaring that FGM isn’t an Islamic practice and that people should abandon it if it is proven harmful.