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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.

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