Although FGM is associated often with Islam, it is found commonly in non-Muslim areas of Africa and among immigrants to the West from that region. Muslims should take the initiative in opposing FGM; campaigns against this violation of women’s rights are underway already in several Muslim lands.
The best known such effort has taken place in Iraqi Kurdistan. In a recent interview, Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, who is affiliated with WADI, an Iraqi-German organization supporting human rights and civil society in the Middle East, described the beginning of the Kurdistan campaign. Von der Osten-Sacken recounted, “Following the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, mobile teams we organized [went to] various Kurdish villages and towns to offer medical services. One year later, women started approaching the team members about having been cut… It was a taboo to discuss but… we started helping women in 35 villages.” The Kurdistan anti-FGM movement gained attention in media.
In 2011, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq made FGM a crime, and interviewer Heidi Basch-Harod states that FGM “in Iraqi Kurdistan has significantly decreased, from 90 percent to zero percent in some areas. Nevertheless, the practice has not disappeared.”
In neighboring Iran, researcher Rayeyeh Mozafarian, of the University of Shiraz, conducted interviews about FGM there between 2007 and 2009. In her work, which she was permitted recently to publish, she explained, “why FGM is carried out in private houses by midwives and not by surgeons in hospitals.” Iranian law does not mention FGM, but does punish mutilation of the body. Yet Mozafarian found, “Despite the practice being liable to prosecution, practically nobody is charged… No victim files charges against her own parents.” Women cut as adults “accept the mutilation as a religious necessity as demanded by local religious authorities.” Since such women are liable to have their daughters’ genitals cut, Mozafarian has called for a public appeal by Iranian women to end FGM.