In certain African regions FGM is supported also by Christian clerics. Here an example from Ghana. Bishop Akwasi Sarpong, taking a culture-relativistic stand, claimed FGM “although rejected by other societies, serves a purpose in certain African societies.” We have been waiting for a clear message from the vatican regarding this issue since many years already.
when it comes to the issue of FGM – it’s ‘community’ and ‘culture’.
Many discussions about FGM are just full of empty talk. But listen to this one, it is a bit different.
Awezan Nuri grew up in Kirkuk, a city outside the KRG, and divided mainly among Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens. There, the Pana Centre estimates that 38% of the local women have suffered FGM, with the number rising to 65% among Kurds in the region.
The Kirkuk Provincial Council, denying the local frequency of FGM, has rejected these figures. In March 2013 the local English-language newspaper, Kirkuk Now, published a shocking interview with a well-known local “practitioner” of FGM, Pura Gullstan, now in her mid-60s. Gullstan stated, “I perform female genital mutilation on women daily, in all the age groups; I performed FGM on a 25-year-old woman last week.”
Kirkuk Now pointed out that the frequency with which Gullstan claimed to implement FGM suggests that the rate with which the savage custom is forced on young woman may be higher than that charged by the Pana Centre. “I am the saviour of the honour of women and girls,” Gullstan declared. “Some of the women and girls hate me as I perform FGM on them, but as their pain fades away, or they get older, they begin to praise me.”
Iraqi Kurdistan also resembles Egypt in that FGM is not limited to Muslim women. According to Kirkuk Now, “other ethnicities as well as religious groups prefer female genital mutilation.”
The Pana Centre has appealed to the Iraqi central government in Baghdad for a national regulation against FGM.
We just got an excited phone-call from Sarhad Ajeb. He is the anjuman (major) of Tutakhal, one of the free FGM villages WADI helped to set up in Iraqi Kurdistan and maybe even the most famous one, since Reuters and Al Jazeera as well as many local TV station reported from here.
Finally Tutakhal as well as the neighboring villages are connected to the general electricity supply. Ajeb is convinced this happened solely because they joined the Free FGM campaign in 2011 and got so much attention that finally the government reacted.
Since all villages in the region profit from being connected to electricity supply, Ajeb just promised, all of the villagers in Tutakhal will now step up efforts to convince their neighbors to stop FGM too.
Sarhad Ajeb, lobbying against Female Genital Mutilation on a February 6th event in Suleymaniah
Egypt criminalized all forms of FGM in 2008 and rights monitors say the number of girls undergoing the operation has dropped by about one third.
But Nehad Abud Komsan, director of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, said the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood and more conservative Salafist politicians threaten those gains.
“They come to say ‘we may have a law to make it [legal] in a certain condition, or to say it is good for protection. They are destroying years of efforts to protect girls and women in Egypt and, unfortunately, by using religion,” said Komsan.
A global campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation [FGM], often misnamed “female circumcision,” continues. While foreign NGOs have made Iraqi Kurdistan a center of the effort to do away with this practice, many observers have argued that it is not a “Kurdish” problem.
FGM is also not just a “Muslim” phenomenon. However widespread it may be among Iraqi Sunni Kurds, its acceptance in Islam is limited. According to the German relief organization WADI [The Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation], in the four provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan, only the farthest north, Dohuk, which borders on Turkey, shows little evidence of FGM at any age. Among the remaining three “governorates,” in the province of Erbil, named for the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), 63% of women have undergone the atrocious custom; in Suleymaniya, 78%; and in Garmyan/New Kirkuk, the southernmost, 81%.
Tunesia’s ruling Ennahda party has its FGM scandal. MP Habib Ellouze allegedly said: “In the (African) regions where it is hot, people are forced to circumcise girls … because in these regions clitorises are too big which affects the spouses,” and “There are more circumcisions but it is not true that circumcision removes the pleasure for women. It is the West that has exaggerated the issue. Circumcision is an aesthetic surgery for women.”
Last year Egyptian preacher Wagdy Ghoneim caused an outcry when he recommended FGM during his Tunesia trip. Ennahda distanced itself from the Islamist who meanwhile also called on Muslims to kill the opponents of Mursi.
In a recent fatwa a certain Sheikh Al-Hajji Al-Kurdi from the Saudi Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs endorsed female genital mutilation in its “sunna” form which stipulates the cutting of the clitoris prepuce. He distinguished this allowed “Islamic circumcision” from forbidden “Pharaonic circumcisions”.
On the ground, however, it is common opinion that “sunna circumcision” includes the cutting of the clitoris.
A fatwa like this one raises serious questions about the prevalence of FGM in Saudi Arabia.
Latest data collected by Wadi’s teams in Raniya/Qaladiza and Garmyan (Iraqi Kurdistan) where WADI has been raising awareness for years indicate that the FGM rate has dropped considerably.
The Raniya/Qaladiza area is known for its extremely conservative and traditional way of life. It used to be a FGM stronghold: Raniya holds 95,5% and Qaladiza 97,4% FGM prevalence among women above the age of 14.* Now the rate among girls under 14 years was found to be 50.7% (sample size: 1599).
In Garmyan the overall FGM rate is 81.2%*. Recently it was found to be 21.3% among girls under 14 years of age (sample size: 970).
These numbers are encouraging! They show that while the Middle East is changing profoundly people are ready to rethink old traditions and adopt to modern standards in a strikingly short period of time. There seems to be a new spirit in the air which hopefully will allow us to eradicate FGM much faster here than in Africa.
*According to Wadi’s comprehensive region-wide study conducted in 2009, see http://stopfgmkurdistan.org/html/english/fgm_study.htm
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