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Field Trip to Oman: FGM is acknowledged but everyone is afraid to tackle it

Shopping in Muscat

The Sultan modernized the country but values traditions: The dishdascha is obligatory in government jobs

by Stop FGM Middle East

30.11.2013, Muscat. The activist Habiba Al Hinai has asked women in shopping malls and clinics about female genital mutilation. 78 percent reported to be circumcised – more than even the most FGM-critical Omani bloggers estimated (“Linoleum Surfer” assumed 20 percent victims). What is even more surprising about Al-Hinai’s ad-hoc-study: The women interviewed come from all regions in Oman: Muscat, the Batina, the Dakhiliya, the Sharqia. Only 2 came from Dhofar. So far, most people believed that FGM was mainly practiced in the Southern province of Dhofar.

A team of Wadi’s and Hivos’ Stop FGM Middle East campaign is currently in Oman, talking with local actors about these findings, their own assesment and ideas how to campaign against female genital mutilation.

The account of the blogger “Omani Princess” in Muscat supports Al Hinai’s finding. She tells us that it is practiced by her in-laws. They come from the mountains near Muscat, the Dakhiliya. “It is done with a hot needle”, she has heard. Her husband knows that in some cases a nail clipper is used.

At the Omani Women’s Association the women are surprised. “No, it’s not a problem here in Muscat and not in the mountains,” insists Nashia Al Kharusi, the president of the local Muscat branch. She has long heard of the practice in Dhofar and thinks the Ministry of Health should do something to stop it. “Maybe some do it in the North because they are influenced by the Emirates?” she ponders.

That FGM is practiced widely in the Emirates is well known in Oman. Also the Omani Princess tells us about it. She is well connected with other women in the region and since she believes that FGM is a crime she has talked with them about it. She can tell us: It is practiced in Bahrain, in Kuwait and also in Jordan.

But the “Omani Princess” doesn’t know how to overcome the social taboo surrounding the topic. “Unthinkable to write about it in an Arabic newspaper, only the English ones can publish articles on it.” This is also the opinion of a journalist from the Muscat Daily we meet.

Habiba Al Hinai explains to us why only the official Women’s Association can initiate a campaign. “There are no independent NGOs, you won’t get a license and you won’t be allowed to work.” She must know. As one of the main protagonists of the small Omani spring she has tried to found several groups with others, among them the Omani Human Rights’ organization.

Yet, the women at the Women Association don’t seem too confident. Al Kharusi has been trying to get an appointment at the Ministry of Health to talk about FGM. “They must do something, because in Oman things have to be official.” She is certain that FGM could be eliminated within few years “because if something comes from the government, people follow.” This may well be true. Sultan Qaboos is a popular monarch for he integrated all ethnic and religious groups, modernized the country and improved the status of women to such an extend that the Thomas Reuters Foundation recently rated Oman as the second best Arab country for women.

Even the activist Habiba says: “If it wasn’t for the Sultan we would still live imprisoned. These people (the religious) would lock us in the house not allowing us to work or even go out.”

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Robert F. Kennedy Center honours Egyptian attorney Ragia Omran with human rights award

Daily News Egypt, 26.11.2013. Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), presented Egyptian human rights attorney Ragia Omran with an award to honour her work and commitment to human rights in Egypt. Ms Omran, a cutting edge advocate for advancing women’s rights and ending the use of military tribunals against civilians, was nominated in March 2013 for her two decades of advocacy, and was selected for the award on 24 June out of a field of 111 total nominations. The ceremony was held at the Kennedy Caucus Room at the Russell Senate Building in Washington DC, with journalist Soledad O’Brien as emcee.

“With dedication and courage, Ms Omran is often the first to arrive on the scene at jails, police stations, court houses, and military and civilian prosecution offices. Hundreds of peaceful activists have her to thank for successfully securing their release and protecting their rights to freedom of speech and association,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. “She is a beacon of hope for the women of Egypt and a champion in the global human rights movement. We are proud to honour her with our 30th annual award.”

“Robert F. Kennedy and the Kennedy family have been a lifelong inspiration for me. They are a testament to the idea that one person can make a change in the community and that this change can eventually transform the world,” said Ragia Omran, 2013 RFK Human Rights Awardee. “It is with great honour and humility that I accept this award on behalf of all the courageous Egyptians who have come before me and who have worked alongside me.”

As a leading member of a number of Egypt’s legal advocacy organisations, Ms Omran and her colleagues at the Front to Defend Egypt Protesters have represented hundreds of civilians ordered to military trial, an increasing trend in Egypt following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

Ms Omran has already achieved remarkable victories in her effort to promote equality and justice. She is a member of the No to Military Trials for Civilians Campaign, established in 2011 to provide legal support to detainees and to advocate against the use of military trials of Egyptian civilians. A year after the campaign launched, the group was recognised for raising awareness of the issue of civilian military trials under emergency law.

In addition, for over two decades, Ms Omran has worked to defend women’s rights in Egypt. In 1995, she helped lead the Egyptian Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Task Force, which successfully outlawed the practice in public hospitals in Egypt, a nation where 91 percent of women are victims of FGM.

Ms. Omran is currently a member of the New Woman Foundation (NWF) that works to defend women’s social, political, economic, and cultural rights, and was one of the first groups to speak publicly about violence against women in Egypt beginning in the 1990s. NWF has been actively advocating for increased civic participation for women and for women to have a say in the newly formed Egyptian government.

The RFK Center will provide ongoing, long-term support to Ms Omran in advocacy and strategic initiatives to help further her progress on a range of human rights issues, from women’s rights and protecting protestors, to ending the use of military trials for civilians. Source

The Jordanian town that still circumcises women

The Daily Star, 13.11.2013. By Rana Sabbagh-Gargour

RAHMAH, Jordan: Tucked away in a valley bounded by steep ridges of mountains and stretching from the Red Sea port city of Aqaba to the escarpment of the Southern Ghor of the Dead Sea, is the town of Rahmah. From the outside, the nondescript ramshackle town of over 500 residents, whose Arabic name means “mercy,” appears little different from any other, with the exception of an ancient ritual performed there: that of circumcision, a practice otherwise unheard of in the conservative Hashemite Kingdom.

The tradition is believed to have been brought to Rahmah and other villages dotting the sand swept Wadi Araba region, by tribes and nomadic Bedouins who roamed across the boundary-less region decades ago, before they were forced to settle down in areas bordering Israel after the 1967 occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev desert and the Gaza Strip. Many of these clans, including the tribe living in Rahmah, trace their origins back to the Sinai Peninsula where the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) endures, despite a ban imposed on it by Egypt in 1997.

Religious leader claims ignorance is behind FGM in Iraq

Figo, 4.11. 2013. Female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Kurdistan region of Iraq has been described as a “practice that results from ignorance or religious fervency” by one of the area’s best-known religious commentators. Adnan Ibraham made the comments to Al-Monitor after a report released by UNICEF revealed the problem is still most rife in Kurdistan – where, in most cases, it is justified by perpetrators based on religious interpretations.

FGM was criminalised by the Iraqi government in 2011 following a protracted period of debate surrounding the decision that lasted six years. Since then, UNICEF has confirmed that recorded cases of FGM have almost halved, but the disproportionately high number of victims in Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Kirkuk is a worrying prospect. Eight per cent of Iraqi women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to some form of the practice.

Mr Ibraham went on to dispel any links between FGM and Islam, saying: “There is no single piece of evidence in the Qur’an or sunna that legitimises or calls for [female] circumcision.”
Source

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation calls to end FGM

An OIC Statement dating March 11, 2013:
The FGM is unfortunately only one of many cultural practices that are disguised as part of religious tradition. Child marriage, violence against women as well as other negative acts perpetuated are often misidentified as being part of Islamic tradition, whereas they are part of the local tradition and we should raise awareness at the local level to de-link these practices from religion. (…)
One activity that we can all take part in is to organize public awareness campaigns about the FGM, and other issue-specific campaigns to ensure that all people receive information regarding the negative impacts of violence against women. This can happen through community gatherings, radio, television, social media, mass text messaging, social media and other forms of media.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: WADI shifts attitudes toward Female Genital Mutilation

Christian Peacemakers, 4.11.2013.

by Rosemarie Milazzo

Falah Muradkhan addresses the media

On 30 October 2013, CPT’s partner organization, WADI Iraq office, organized a press conference—which media representatives from six major Kurdish satellite channels and several newspapers attended —about the decline in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kurdistan.  The WADI project coordinator, Falah Muradkhan said his organization had called the press conference because of the huge international attention stirred up on the topic caused by the recent BBC World and BBC Arabic’s airing of two documentaries and the reporting of the Guardian newspaper.

WADI used this occasion to present new data about the FGM situation in Kurdistan and WADI’s current activities.  Two years ago, the Kurdistan Regional Government banned FGM as part of a wide-ranging law to improve women’s rights, after years of grassroots campaigning run by activist and civil society organizations, including WADI.  In a region where honor killings still happen, journalists write about Kurdistan as a “rare success story.” Read full article