The Uneasy Fight Against FGM in Kurdistan

By: Suad Abdulrahman 

On the 25th of November 2010, for the first time in history, a political leader in the Middle East acknowledged that female circumcision is a serious problem in his country. He added: “The presence of this practice is dangerous and should not be tolerated.” It was the Kurdish Prime Minister Barham Salih. This statement is a commendable and important step. However, it took years of activism, campaigning and exertion of pressure on the government to reach that point.

Six years ago, in a small office and with only a handful of employees, our organization “Wadi”  decided to make efforts in every way possible to fight this barbaric “tradition”. The decision came after a survey performed by one of our regional teams in 40 villages in southern Iraqi Kurdistan: 902 cases of FGM were recorded from a total of 1534 women interviewed.

We worked on the ground spreading awareness about the physical and psychological harms of FGM, and at the same time we reached out to the media and tried to make FGM in Kurdistan a public and political issue. When our efforts to form a region-wide initiative started bearing fruit, we announced the movement in 2007. “Stop FGM in Kurdistan” , together with many other activists and women’s organizations, collected thousands of signatures, submitted a law to prohibit the practice and formed a media committee with representatives of many newspapers and radio stations. The campaign initiated extensive international and local media coverage and support.

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