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Fighting against Female Genital Mutilation in Iraq

31.7.2013. The British Independent interviewed the vice-president of the Pana Center in Kirkuk, Iraq – a partner organization of Wadi. The women’s rights campaigner Awezan Muri talks about her own experiences in her family and the challenges she encounters fighting FGM in Iraq. Figures from the Pana Centre show that 38 per cent of women in Kirkuk are victims.

As a nine-year-old growing up in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Awezan Nuri narrowly escaped female genital mutilation. “My mother was 12 when she was mutilated,” says the 31-year-old women’s rights campaigner, who is also a renowned poet. “She has told me about the terrible pain, how much she bled that night and how ashamed she was to tell her family she was hurting. She couldn’t talk to her mother, because her mother was the one who’d taken her to be cut. She felt alone and scared.”

Despite the trauma of that experience, Nuri’s mother still pushed for her six daughters to undergo the same process themselves. “She thought it was the responsibility of every Sunni Muslim to do this. Logically, she disagreed with it, but there was so much pressure from society.”

It is a misguided belief among Muslim communities in dozens of countries around the world that the practice is mandated in Islam. For Nuri, it was an intervention by her father that saved her sisters from the knife – he said he did not agree with it. But most Iraqi Kurds are not so lucky.  Figures from the Pana Centre – of which Nuri is vice president, in charge of the campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) – show that 38 per cent of women in Kirkuk are victims. Among ethnic Kurds, that figure rises to 65 per cent.

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