By Arvid Vormann
According to a large survey conducted in 2009, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is prevalent in all provinces of Kurdish Northern Iraq, except in the far northern Duhok region. More than 72% are affected, in villages and cities alike, among illiterates and, to a lesser extent, among academics. FGM is almost everywhere.
The area, heavily struck by Saddam’s genocidal poison gas attacks in the late 80s, by civil war in the 90s, and threatened by Saddam’s army and Islamic groups until 2003, is also marked by very high rates of honor killings, domestic violence, forced marriages and other gender-related crimes. Mobile health teams of the German-Iraqi relief organization Wadi first reported the existence of FGM in 2004. After the toppling of Saddam Hussein, time seemed to be ripe. The first few women started to talk about all the pain and agony caused by the physical and psychological consequences of the mutilations forced on them as little girls. Since then, democracy and freedom of the press, despite all their immense shortcomings in this autonomous region, have laid ground for a successful public campaign against FGM. “Stop FGM in Kurdistan” was a grass root initiative – something hitherto unheard of, as usually everything is controlled from above. The feedback was overwhelming. Human Rights Watch further promoted the cause.Nowadays