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Film review: “In the name of tradition” – FGM in Iran

29.6.2015. By Stop FGM Middle East. Together with his comprehensive study on female genital mutialtion in Iran, the Iranian anthropologist Kameel Ahmady has released a 30-minute film “In the name of tradition” about female genital mutilation (FGM) culture in Iran and how it is changing these days. The film has been shot already in 2006, but was re-edited and has been made publicly accesible for the first time now.

The film team interviewed mostly mothers and circumcisers in different regions where FGM is prevalent in Iran, namely the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermansheh, West Azerbaijan and Hormozghan. FGM has been known to be practice mostly by Sorani speaking Kurds of the Sunni Shafi’i law school and by Sunnis in the Southern provinces of Hormzghan and Qeshm island. However, the film team has also found adherents of the Shia creed who endorse FGM in both Hormozhan and Kermansheh. In his study, Kameel Ahmady mentiones that some Shia communities in Hormozghan practice FGM and some communities in Kermansheh and Kurdistan have at least done so in the past.

Many of the women explain their decision to “circumcise” their daughters with known motives such as to curb sexual desire, to ensure the food she cooks is clean and because it is religiously prescribed. But there are also a number of women who have heard about it being harmful and say they have decided not to have their daughters cut. Several mention “Kurdish foreign” television and radio, referring to Iraqi Kurdish stations which have reported about WADIs information campaign against FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan since many years and run TV clips informing about the law against FGM.

Yet, there seems to be a change in attitudes which took place even earlier. A few women act amused by the question if they would “circumcise” their daughter: No, of course not! But then they affirm that it had been a tradition before.

This change in attitudes is also reflected in interviews with religious authorities and doctors. While one Mullah shown in the first part of the film promotes FGM saying it enhances sex life for both women and men, a different religious scholar also adhering to the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam strongly condemns it stressing that it harms girls and reduces or eliminates sexual desire which is in contradiction of Islam. Two doctors stress the harmfulness of the practice.