Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Female circumcision continues in rural Iraq

During a recent fact-finding mission to northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region, LCHR staff met with many women, including villagers living in a remote valley near Rania, about issues affecting their lives such as child marriage, honor crimes and female circumcision, known within the human rights community as female genital mutilation (FGM). The practice is observed in many rural regions where traditional cultural mentalities still prevail, including in the areas visited by LCHR.

The practice can be dangerous and can result in serious physical injury, psychological damage or even death. Despite sometimes dire consequences, women interviewed said that they continue the practice in order to preserve tradition, and because of the negative associations that accompany being uncircumcised. “An uncircumcised woman cannot even accept a glass of water,” one woman reported, noting the crippling stigma associated with not undergoing FGM. Even young girls interviewed said that those who remained uncircumcised would be considered dirty.

In spite of its widespread practice, local women’s advocacy groups have questioned the tradition and pointed out the severe effects this custom has on women. A June article in the Kurdish English language newspaper Zhyanawa focused on one FGM related health problem. The article reported that a 5-year-old girl, Choman Azad Mohammed, was taken to the hospital from Takiya sub-district after heavy bleeding from circumcision persisted to the point of endangering her life. Mimka Marjan, the 81-year-old woman that preformed the circumcision, is said to have done the procedure on more than 10,000 girls for a fee of about 75 cents.

Dr. Shama Saed Maroof, the Childbirth Hospital manager of the facility where Choman was treated, released a statement in response to the incident. Dr. Maroof stated, “Physiologically she is alright, but psychologically, I think that she will face problems and never forget what she has undergone.”

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