A handout in Kurdish aimed at spreading awareness about the Domestic Violence Law that was passed by the Kurdish parliament in 2011 which, among others, prohibits the practice of FGM. Photo:Rudaw
DOHUK, Kurdistan Region –The Kurdish province of Duhok was known in the past to be a place where women don’t undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). However, a civil society organization has revealed in a survey that a number of women have been circumcised in this province.
The organization has obtained some funds from The Netherlands consulate in Erbil to raise social awareness through delivering seminars in Duhok regarding circumcision.
Aland Organization for Democratization of Youth in Dohuk has been working for two years to eliminate the phenomenon of FGM in the province. They have been holding seminars to do so. They have also conducted a survey which shows that 100 women have been circumcised in this province, most of whom are above 40 and from the town of Bardarash, southeast of Duhok.
“Two years ago, we with support from UNICEF initiated a program to raise social awareness about circumcision," Director of Aland Organization Sherzad Pirmus told Rudaw in reference to the United Nation's children and women agency, "We held 50 seminars and workshops attended by more than 500 women.”
“We carried out a survey on the rate of circumcision in the province of Dohuk as we were holding seminars and workshops. According to the survey, 100 women were circumcised in Dohuk. These women are above 40, and most of them are from the town of Bardarash. However, some of them are from the city of Duhok itself and from the town of Akre, too,” he added.
“The Dutch consulate in Erbil is providing financial support to some projects in the Kurdistan Region. We announced a project last week which involves giving nearly 600 seminars. We will deliver most of them to villagers in the province of Duhok to raise women awareness regarding the risks of circumcision,” he detailed.
Duhok has the least number of circumcised women, according to surveys carried out in the Kurdistan Region about the prevalance of FGM.
“Our survey shows that the rate of circumcision (in Duhok is 0.76%. It is a very little proportion compared to the provinces of Erbil, Sulaimani and Halabja,” he explained.
A civil society organization which has run many activities to counter FGM said, “There is a very famous family in Dohuk who still believes in circumcising their women. All of their women have been circumcised.”
This source also talked about a Muslim preacher in Erbil, “He has two wives, one of them is from Erbil and the other is from Duhok, both of them are circumcised.”
FGM is counted as a crime, according to the Domestic Violence Law, passed by the Kurdish parliament in 2011.
According to the law, people promoting circumcision will be fined an amount between 500.000 to 1 million Iraqi Dinars.
The law also penalizes people who carry out or participate in conducting the FGM by an imprisonment term between 6 months to 2 years, and a fine between 2 to 5 million IQD.
FGM is neither haram nor right
Khidir Zewkaye is a Muslim preacher who has a master’s degree in Islamic sharia law. He says from a sharia perspective the practice is not banned.
“In Islam, circumcision is not haram [forbidden]. But it is not required, either, as female circumcision takes away freedom. And Islam is against taking away freedoms from humans because they are born free.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone the FGM in the countries where the practice is concentrated, mainly in parts of Africa, and the Middle East. It says that there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing FGM every year, the majority of whom are cut before the age of 15.
Stop the FGM campaign in Kurdistan, mainly run by the relief organization WADI, which published its first comprehensive scientific survey found that there is evidence for a trend of general decline of FGM.
The WADI survey did not include Duhok, but added that there are indications that it is not common in the area, and it may be below 10 percent.
The WADI study also showed a high prevalence of 77.9 percent among those surveyed.