Womanhood Brings Pain To Kurdish Girls

The Washington Post's Andrea Bruce, whose previous work on the orphaned grandmothers of Baghdad caught our eye, recently headed to Kurdistan to document the practice of female genital mutilation there.

She documents with her words and her unflinching camera the FGM of Sheelan Anwar Omer, whose mother promised her a party and gave her a mutilation instead.

... a local woman quickly locked a rusty red door behind Sheelan, who looked bewildered when her mother ordered the girl to remove her underpants. Sheelan began to whimper, then tremble, while the women pushed apart her legs and a midwife raised a stainless-steel razor blade in the air. "I do this in the name of Allah!" she intoned.

As the midwife sliced off part of Sheelan's genitals, the girl let out a high-pitched wail heard throughout the neighborhood.

A study conducted this year showed that more than 60 percent of the women in the Iraqi province of Kurdistan have been so mutilated under a practice the Kurds claim is required by Islam (a claim that is not backed by Arab Koranic scholars). There is legislation in the Kurdistani parliament to outlaw the practice, but it has been stalled for more than a year amid reports that the government doesn't want the West to realize it's a problem.

The Kurdish region's minister of human rights, Yousif Mohammad Aziz, said he didn't think the issue required action by parliament. "Not every small problem in the community has to have a law dealing with it," he said.

That attitude, of course, doesn't reflect the very large problem it represents to the now-mutilated children pictured in Bruce's photographs, or the 13-year old would-be anti-FGM activist, Ghamjeen Shaker, whose mutilation more than 8 years ago continues to cause her daily pain. Who needs a law for "small" problems like that?

For Kurdish Girls, a Painful Ancient Ritual [Washington Post]
Sheelan's Circumcision [Washington Post]

Earlier: Widowed Grandmothers Of Baghdad