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
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.