كشفت وزارة العمل والشؤون الإجتماعية،اليوم الثلاثاء،عن وجود اكثر من 3 ملايين امرأة تكافح مع أطفالها للبقاء على قيد الحياة في العراق.
وقال الوزير نصار الربيعي في تصريح صحفي "إن عدد النساء المعيلات يتجاوز 3 ملايين امرأة وفقا لإحصائيات وزارة التخطيط" ، مشيرا الى "أن دائرة الرعاية الإجتماعية التي تتكفل بدفع رواتب للنساء المعيلات كانت مرتبطة بوزارة العمل، إلا أنه تم فصلها قبل عامين عن الوزارة وربطها بمجلس الوزراء".
وتابع "ان الاسباب غير واضحة وقد تكون أسبابا انتخابية تم على اثرها ربط دائرة الرعاية الاجتماعية والتقاعد بمجلس الوزراء "،حسب قوله.
واوضح الربيعي "أن وزارة العمل والشؤون الإجتماعية تقوم بتوفير الرواتب الشهرية وتزويد دائرة الرعاية الإجتماعية بها فقط من دون أن تتدخل بالبرامج الموضوعة لزيادة رواتب النساء المعيلات أو تحسينها" ، مؤكدا "أن وزارته تعمل على إعادة الدائرتين للوزارة من اجل توفير برامج لرفع مستوى دخل النساء المعيلات وتحسينها".
من جانبها ذكرت بعثة اللجنة الدولية للصليب الأحمر في العراق وجود اكثرمن مليون أسرة في العراق تعيلها نساء منذ عام 1980 ولاسباب مختلفة.
وافادت كارولين دوييه التي تدير برنامج (النساء والحرب) في البعثة إنه بغض النظر عن ظروف الخسارة فإن مجرد غياب المعيل التقليدي يؤثر مباشرة على وضع العائلة المادي".
واضافت "ان ملاحظات اللجنة الدولية في أنحاء العراق قادتنا إلى الاستنتاج المؤلم بأن غياب الموارد الكافية والمنتظمة على مدى السنوات الماضية ألقت بالكثير من العائلات في فقر مدقع".
كشفت وزارة العمل والشؤون الإجتماعية،اليوم الثلاثاء،عن وجود اكثر من 3 ملايين امرأة تكافح مع أطفالها للبقاء على قيد الحياة في العراق.
By April 2004, just a little over a year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and before the sectarian violence began, the Iraqi Association of University Teachers (AUT) reported that 250 academics had been killed. Award-winning British journalist Robert Fisk had warned early that year of the assassinations of Iraqi academics, but few U.S. newspapers picked up on the story. By the end of 2006, according to The Independent, over 470 academics had been killed. Another British paper, The Guardian, reported that about 500 academics were killed just from the Universities of Baghdad and Basra alone.
Based on multiple sources, the BRussells Tribunal sifted through such reports and published on its website the names of over 400 murdered academics and when they were killed. Although the exact total number of assassinated academics is not really known, the indefatigable advocate for human rights Dirk Adriaensens gives a detailed analysis of the data available so far in his contribution to the book Cultural Cleansing in Iraq. According to Adriaensens, most of those killed were from the Universities of Bagdad (57 percent) and Basra (14 percent). In addition, 35 percent died in detention after being arrested/kidnapped by some security forces. The modus operandi for the killings was a professional, well-organized assassination. Fifty-four percent of the deaths occurred as a targeted killing, at point-blank range with hand guns or automatic weapons. The killing of academics did not follow any sectarian agenda since the murdered were Sunni and Shia. No one has taken responsibility for the killings, and no one has been arrested.
The reports of these murdered Iraqi academics have been around for a few years, mostly in the foreign press and on websites. I admit to an initial skepticism about their veracity. I was even more concerned about who was responsible for these heinous crimes and why. Iraqis living in Iraq knew of these murders first-hand, but did not know the culprits. Their suspicions fell naturally on the occupying power.
Along with these tragic deaths was the concomitant wave of death threats and intimidation against other Iraqi academics, which resulted in tens of thousands of Iraqi academics literally running abroad for their life. The Washington Post recently described the plight of one Iraqi family living in the United States after the husband, a professor, was assassinated and the wife, a physician, survived but gravely wounded. For some, the escape abroad was only temporary. A professor and a dean who left and returned in the past six months to Iraq were professionally assassinated. Iraq has suffered the decapitation of its intellectual class on a staggering scale, which has thrown the country back to the dark ages.
According to the new revelations of Wikileaks, in some cases the United States, through the military, contractors, and others, killed innocent Iraqi civilians including women and children. As a matter of policy we handed over Iraqi detainees to Iraqi security forces with full knowledge that they would be subjected to torture, rape, and murder. Moreover, when our military received the reports of torture, rape, and murder it chose to ignore them. Such a policy is contrary to international law, U.S. laws, and American values.
It’s not clear whether the U.S. government or the U.S. military knows who assassinated the Iraqi academics. We don’t know if U.S. officials or military commanders looked the other way when local security forces committed those crimes. But the Wikileaks documents raise many disturbing questions about a possible U.S. role in these assassinations. Even the Gulf Cooperation Council, and its half-dozen U.S.-friendly Arab members, has called on the Obama administration to "open a serious and transparent investigation" into possible "crimes against humanity."
The evidence so far is sufficient to warrant a thorough investigation by an independent body. Iraqis, Americans, and the world need to know the truth.
- Defects in newborns 11 times higher than normal
- ‘War contaminants’ from 2004 attack could be cause
A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.
The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.
The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja’s genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.
BAGHDAD, 7 December 2010 (IRIN) – Displaced Iraqi female-headed families who have returned home are still experiencing major livelihood challenges, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
An IOM survey of 1,355 female-headed displaced families who have returned to their places of origin found that 74 percent are struggling to secure adequate nutrition for their families.
Delays in receiving subsidized government food rations or lack of some food items in the rations force women to buy food with whatever money they have, adding to their struggle, the report, issued on 3 December, states.
The survey also found that health problems and social norms had prevented nearly 40 percent of them from finding jobs. Of those who are able to work, 71 percent are unemployed.
About 40 percent of those surveyed said they depended on relatives, neighbours, NGOs and religious groups to meet their needs. And more than 25 percent had a family member with chronic disease while one in four lacked access to healthcare.
"These women have to support their children and elderly family members. Without a steady income, they become reliant on support from whoever can give it but it is not systematic," said Antonio Salanga, IOM’s head of the Baghdad regional hub.
New approach needed
Iraqi activist and former lawmaker Salama Smeisim said a swift and new approach had to be taken by the government, local and international organizations towards female-related issues in Iraq, especially the displaced.
“The oppression against women is still continuing in Iraq,” Smeisim told IRIN. “The plight of the displaced women has not been dealt with seriously. They need adequate houses to preserve their dignity, schools for their children, electricity and drinking water.”
She said Iraqi women in general, but mainly the displaced, faced a series of challenges, beginning with securing their livelihoods if they headed their families to the hardship in finding work either because of the social norms or discrimination, lack of awareness of their rights and the corruption that prevents government funds from reaching them.
“I do believe that we need a special programme to spread awareness among women about their rights and support them on how to start a project that can secure a steady income for their families without relying on anyone,” Smeisim said.
The IOM survey also found that domestic violence against women had substantially increased in the past five years due to the country’s unprecedented displacement, with one in five Iraqi women subjected to physical violence and a third to psychological violence.
Political and security turmoil
Mohammed Abdul-Jabbar, a Baghdad-based analyst, said that neglect of women-related programmes was due to the political and security turmoil experienced by the previous governments.
“Of course politicians, whether inside or outside the government, were not dealing with women’s issues as one of the urgent needs to [rebuild] the society as they set a list of priorities in the political and security fields,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
“It is highly unlikely that any progress could be achieved in this field by the next government as the same problems in the security and political arena still exist and are deep,” he added.
Nine months since Iraq held its national elections, no government has been formed as politicians are struggling to reach an agreement to share power and distribute government posts.
The persistent lack of security is hampering efforts to provide essential services for civilians. The ICRC is doing its utmost to help meet the most pressing needs. This is an update on these and otherICRC activities carried out in Iraq in September and October.
Despite improvements in the security situation achieved over the years in many parts of Iraq, ongoing violence continues to claim the lives of hundreds of men, women and children every month, and to have a serious impact on the lives of many more.
Over the past year, the lives of many Iraqi civilians have not changed for the better. Civilians continue to carry the heaviest burden amid the widespread violence. They are still the main victims of the indiscriminate attacks and mass explosions that have taken place in cities such as Baghdad, Ninewa, Diyala, Anbar, Najaf, Kerbala and Basra, and that have left, on average, hundreds of people wounded or dead each month this year.
"Indiscriminate attacks against civilians inflict tremendous suffering. They are clearly unacceptable. They are contrary to international humanitarian law and to the most basic principles of humanity," said Magne Barth, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq. "Civilians must be protected against violence, as must be medical personnel and facilities".
The humanitarian situation in Iraq remains serious. Iraqis are filled with anxiety and uncertainty about what the future holds. Vulnerable people, such as women heading households, disabled people and detainees, continue to depend to some extent on outside help to meet basic needs.
The persistent lack of security and wanton violence have had a considerable effect on the feasibility of providing essential services for the population. The ICRC is doing its utmost to help meet the most pressing needs, especially in rural areas and in the places hardest hit by the conflict and other violence. ICRC activities aim primarily at ensuring that people have access to adequate health, water and sanitation services, and at helping the destitute and other needy people.
Visits to detainees held under Iraqi, Kurdistan Regional Government and USF-I authority remain a priority for the ICRC. "Ensuring that detainees are treated humanely and are held in conditions that respect their dignity has been our constant concern since we started working in Iraq 30 years ago," said Mr Barth.
The ICRC continues to speak out about the plight of conflict victims in Iraq. It does so in dialogue with as many parties as possible that can influence the situation on the ground. Its aim is to bring about greater respect for civilians and detainees, and to ensure that unimpeded access is granted for humanitarian action to help the people in greatest need throughout the country.
"The role of the ICRC, as an impartial humanitarian organization, is crucial to efforts to protect civilians from harm and to ensure that detainees are properly treated and held in decent conditions," said Mr Barth.
In September and October 2010, in response to the unstable and often changing security environment, the ICRC made further adjustments to its working procedures so that it could continue to provide services to those who need them most.
Bringing aid to vulnerable people
The ICRC has maintained its support for people facing special difficulties earning a living and supporting their families, such as women heading households and people with disabilities. In September and October:
- hygiene kits and food parcels were provided for more than 5,600 people in the governorate of Mosul;
- emergency aid was provided for more than 170 displaced people in Sulaimaniya governorate;
- 95 grants were made in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Dohuk, Sulaimaniya and Erbil governorates to enable disabled people to start small businesses and regain economic self-sufficiency. Around 700 disabled people have received such aid since 2008;
- the livestock of 731 needy farmers in the Kifri district of Diyala governorate were vaccinated;
- around 950 metric tonnes of wheat seed were delivered to some 3,800 farmers in the governorates of Diyala, Anbar, Salahadin, Baghdad and Babil to help them restore their food production;
- 50 kilometres of irrigation canals serving over 7,000 people were cleaned and renovated in the Khalis and Kifri districts of Diyala governorate;
- 600 sheep and 38 metric tonnes of fodder were distributed to 200 farmers in the Baaj district of Ninewa governorate.
Assisting hospitals and physical rehabilitation centres
In some rural and conflict-prone areas, health-care services are still struggling to meet the needs of the civilian population. The ICRC continues to help renovate the premises of health-care facilities and train staff. Limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation services are provided by the ICRC to help disabled people reintegrate into the community. In September and October:
- 10 doctors and 28 nurses successfully took part in a course intended to strengthen emergency services given in Al Sadr Teaching Hospital in Najaf;
- 273 new patients were fitted with prostheses and 1,148 new patients with orthoses at 10 ICRC-supported centres throughout Iraq.
Providing clean water and sanitation
Access to clean water remains difficult in much of Iraq. ICRC engineers continue to repair and upgrade water, electrical and sanitary facilities, especially in places where violence remains a concern and in rural areas, to improve the quality of services provided in communities and health-care facilities. In September and October, these activities included:
The ICRC delivered water by truck:
● in Zharawa district, Sadr City, Husseinia and Maamal to 6,384 internally displaced people;
● to the 385-bed Al Imam Ali General Hospital;
● to the 400-bed Al Kindy General Hospital in Baghdad, which was struggling to cope with summer water shortages.
Support for health-care facilities:
The ICRC completed work upgrading:
● Tarmiyah General Hospital, which serves between 250 and 300 outpatients daily, in Baghdad governorate;
● Tamour primary health-care centre, which serves 50 patients per day, in Kirkuk governorate.
Water supply in hospitals:
- The ICRC completed the installation of drinking-water purification units in Baquba General Hospital, Muqdadiya General Hospital, Baladrooz General Hospital and Al Zahraa Maternity Hospital, with an overall capacity of 600 beds, in Diyala governorate.
- Five main projects benefiting around 725,000 people were completed throughout the country.
ICRC delegates visit detainees in order to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive. In all cases, the ICRC shares its findings and recommendations confidentially with the detaining authorities, with the aim of obtaining improvements where necessary.
In September and October, the ICRC visited detainees held by the correctional service of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defence and various Kurdish Regional Government authorities in places of detention in Basra, Thi Qar/Nasiriya, Baghdad, Babil, Kirkuk, Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniya governorates.
In some of these places, to help the detaining authority improve conditions of detention, the ICRC gave detainees mattresses, blankets and recreational items such as books and games.
The ICRC makes a special effort to restore and maintain ties between detainees and their families. In September and October, over 1,000 Red Cross messages were exchanged between detainees and their families in Iraq and abroad. The ICRC also responded to around 800 enquiries from families seeking information on detained relatives. In addition, it issued 249 certificates of detention to former detainees. The ICRC facilitated the voluntary repatriation of two released detainees, and issued two travel documents to refugees to enable them to resettle abroad.
Clarifying what happened to missing people
In its role as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC continues to chair the mechanisms set up to address the cases of people who went missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War. At the 67th session of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission, held on 28 September in Kuwait, the members of the sub-committee reaffirmed their commitment to accounting for people who went missing in connection with the war. At the sub-committee’s next meeting, which will take place in Kuwait in November, preparations will be made for a joint field mission to the south of Iraq to check on suspected burial sites.
On 27 and 28 October, representatives of Iran and Iraq held a high-level meeting in Geneva under ICRC auspices with the aim of determining what happened to people missing in connection with the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. The meeting was the first of its kind following the signature in October 2008 of a memorandum of understanding between Iran, Iraq and the ICRC aimed at expediting the search for information on people previously registered as, or presumed to be, prisoners of war and on others who have gone missing, and at identifying mortal remains.
Relieving the suffering of the families of missing persons by clarifying what happened to their loved ones is one of the ICRC’s priorities. The ICRC continues to provide the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and Baghdad’s Medical-Legal Institute with the technical support they require to exchange information and build up their capacity in the area of forensics.
Promoting international humanitarian law
Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s work. The organization also endeavours to promote international humanitarian law within civil society. In this framework, it organizes presentations for various audiences, which include military personnel, prison staff, students and professors.
In September and October, information sessions on international humanitarian law were organized for members of the Iraqi Army, the Peshmerga forces and Assayesh security forces. In October, a "train-the-trainers" course was organized for 14 members of the Iraqi Centre for Military Values and Professional Leadership Development. One member of the Iraqi armed forces attended an advanced course on international humanitarian law at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy, and another attended a workshop on rules of engagement, also held in Italy.
الموضوع: عوائل عراقية فقيرة في طابور امام جامع الشيخ عبد القادر للحصول على الشوربة
Note for our English language readers this photo essay of 6 photographs shows the queues forming for widows, orphans, and street children in several days on Ramadan 2010. The Arabic title "الموضوع: عوائل عراقية فقيرة في طابور امام جامع الشيخ عبد القادر للحصول على الشوربة" means "poor Iraki families in a queue in front of Sheik Abdel Kader mosque for soup".
Diya al din
بغداد:تزايدتْ في الاونة الاخيرة ظاهرة اصبحت تنتشر بصورة ملحوظة في جميع محافظات العراق الا وهي زواج القاصرات وصغيرات السن من اللاتي يقوم اولياء امورهن بتزويجهن وهن صغيرات لاشخاص متمكنين مادياً على حسب اراحتهن لتأمين مستقبلهن،الامر الذي يؤدي الى حدوث مشاكل اجتماعية تهدد مستقبل تلك الفتيات .المواطن ابوعلي الربيعي( 55 عاماً )يقول “ان ظاهرة
زواج القاصرات يعتبر جريمة ينفذها اولياء الامور بحق بناتهم، وهن صغيرات في السن حيث ان زواج القاصرات في العالم العربي والاسلامي ما هو الا حكم بالاغتصاب المقنن على قاصرات لا ذنب لهن سوى انتمائهن الى وسط اجتماعي متخلف،يرى في البنت عارا يجب اخفاؤه في اقرب وقت، وهو شكل من اشكال الوأد الذي كان يطبق ايام الجاهلية”.المواطن منتظر مصطاف( 33 عاماً) يؤكد “ان ظاهرة زواج الصغيرات اللاتي لا تزيد اعمارهن عن 13 و 14 عاما لا يمكن القضاء عليها إلا بوجود قوانين مدنية للأسرة تضع من الجهات المعنية للحد من هذه الظاهرة،وذلك بأن تجعل الحد الأدنى لسن لزواج هو 18 سنة، وتمنع الرجال واولياء الامور من التحكم بمصير الإناث”.مضيفاً “انها جريمة ترتكب بحق الفتيات صغيرات السن بوحشية بجميع المقاييس الاسلامية والانسانية والاجتماعية والثقافية”.المواطن بلال ميرزا علي( 45 عاما )يقول “ان هذه الظاهرة هي جريمة ومنظمة تقترف بحق الاطفال القصر من الاناث باسم التقاليد والمعتقدات البدائية،وعندما ترتكب هذه الجرائم باسم الدين يكون الامر ادهى وإمر”.مبيناً “ان كان الامر يحدث في الدول الاجنبية بصورة عادية وطبيعية،فيجب ان يكون العالم الاسلامي غير موافق وراض عن فعل هذه الظاهرة اللا اخلاقية، اذ ان هذه الظاهرة آفة واجب منعها لأن هذه الشيء شرعاً حرمه الله عز وجل،فأين ضمير اولياء الامور تجاه هذه الظاهرة الخطيرة التي تتزايد يوماً بعد اخر” .المواطنة وسيلة محمد( 44 عاماً )تؤكد ان هذه الظاهرة هي جريمة عظمى تعاكس الحياة الطبيعية،بل تعمل ضدها وضد الاناث في العالم العربي ككل،اذ ان القاصرة في بعض الاحيان ماتزال صغيرة جدا،ولم يكتمل لديها النضوج العقلي والعاطفي والجسدي،وولم تكمل دراستها في المدرسة مع اقرانها، وفجأة يجبرها ربّ الاسرة او والدها على الزواج من شخص لم تره قبل ذلك،ما يشكل صدمة حقيقية للفتاة الصغيرة ويدمر حياتها”.مضيفة “ان من المخجل والعيب والعار أن نحمل القاصرات طاقات لا يستطعنَ مواجهتها،وهذه القضية مهمة وخطيرة ويجب ان يعالجها ويقضي عليها كل من بيده الأمر”.المواطنة سهى مضر(28عاماً) تقول “ان زواج القاصرات امر جاء للعالم والدول العربية كافة من العالم الغربي والدول الاجنبية إذ تتزوج الفتاة وهي صغيرة في السن، واطالب الجهات المعنية بوضع ستراتيجية شاملة للحد من ظاهرة زواج القاصرات،وكفى ان نقول عندما نرى الخطأ في مجتمعنا (اذا كان القاضي راضياً نحن ما نفعل)”. المواطنة بشرى أم رانية (33 عاما) توضح “ان زواج الفتيات وهن صغيرات في السن بإجبار اولياء امورهن يعتبر شيئا منافيا للاخلاق والشرع وتربية مجتمعنا،إذ ان هذه الظاهرة كارثة تنمو شيئا فشيئا في المجتمع، وتنخر فيه دون علم الجهات المعنية التي يجب لها التنبه للامر ومعالجته بأسرع وقت ممكن”.المواطنة ليلى جاسم(34 عاما) كان لها رأي اخر في هذا الموضوع حيث تؤكد “ان هناك العديد من الاسر والعوائل العراقية المتعففة تلجأ الى اجبار بناتها القاصرات على الزواج من اشخاص طاعنين وكبار في السن من اجل دعمهم بالجانب المادي من الشخص المتزوج الذي دائماً ما يكون من اصحاب الثروات والاموال الطائلة بغض النظر عن حرية ورأي الفتاة
Villages and rural areas have suffered a lot, the agriculture is collapsing or has collapsed in many places and many people have moved to the cities to try to find work. Mostly there is no work to be found and what work they find is badly paid day labourer work. So they live in a squalid squatter camps and try to survive.
For those who stay life is almost as tough. The rural areas have been neglected for a very long time and lack basic infrastructure and facilities the most desperate need is for clean drinkable water. Even for those villages on riverbanks or with wells or streams the water situation is desperate. The water is untreated and so it is often contaminated with fertiliser or faecal organisms. But an added hardship is that the women and the children have to go to the ponds and the stream to fetch the water and then carry it back. I recently visited my mother who lives in a small village in a quite difficult to travel to part of Diwnaiyah. She decided this year that she was too frail to make the journey to the city where I live with my husband and children for a holiday. So her holiday this year is that my sisters and I have travelled to her and fixed things in the house and in her field where she grows her food.
I had forgotten how very very hard work it is to fetch and carry water.
In this first photograph the women and children set off to fetch their water. If you look at the sky and their shadows you can see that they have left it quite late. I can tell you from experience that it is best to get this job as early as possible before the heat of the sun make the job even harder than it already is.
The third photograph does not really give you a clear idea of how heavy water is. Even a small pot like this is quite heavy.
If you use a small pot you have to carry many small pots to the stream and then go back many times this makes you very tired and takes a long time. Or you can use or one or two big ones to have enough water for the day but carrying a big pot is very very hard work!
I want to finish by saying a big "thank you!" to Erdla for fixing my English and getting the photos to look right.
بابل:ذكرمصدر صحفي ان ظاهرة أطفال الشوارع باتت من الظواهر الخطيرة في المحافظة واكد المصدر ان الدراسات تشير إلى ان معظم أولئك الأطفال هم ممن فقدوا أولياء أمورهم، من الأيتام وان 63% منهم لا يملكون سكن الأطفال هم
اقرب الى القنابل الموقوتة في الشوارع حيث يكونون عرضة كبيرة للانحراف او الاتجاه بمسار الجريمة او استغلالهم من قبل ضعاف النفوس لأمور مختلفة بالرغم من ان واجب المجتمع العراقي هو حمايتهم من هذه التهديدات وذكر المصدر ان هنالك أكثر من 30 حدث محجوزين في مواقف ومراكز شرطة بابل أكثر من 22 منهم بدون مأوى.
Violence in Iraq may have abated. But in the northern region of Kurdistan, women continue to suffer. A new report by Human Rights Watch, out this week, calls for a ban on the widespread practice of female circumcision in Kurdistan.
Known locally as "xatana" and described as a "harmful traditional practice" by the United Nations, the procedure is brutal and sometimes enforced on girls as young as 3. Typically, the child is taken to the midwife’s house and, while several women hold the girl down, the midwife cuts her clitoris with a sharp razor that is sometimes unclean or used to cut several girls in succession. Girls who hear the screams and try to run away are dragged back for their turn. Most women recall the intense pain for many years.
The new report from HRW, "They Took Me and Told Me Nothing: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan," examines the complex reasons-cultural, social, and religious-as to why women subject their daughters and other female relatives to this practice.
Many women in Kurdistan refer to FGM as "sunnah," an action to strengthen one’s religion. The girls and women told us that when they were young, their relatives would tell them that they must undergo xatana, or the food and water from their hands would be haram-forbidden. A striking number of older women firmly believe that Islam demands this practice.
However, the Quran does not mention FGM, nor is it practiced in many countries with a Muslim majority. And many clerics in Iraqi Kurdistan have acknowledged that FGM is not a religious requirement.
Sadly, only a few have been courageous enough to take this message public. In 2004, a group of leading Islamic scholars meeting in Egypt to discuss the subject concluded that FGM is not a religious requirement and called on Muslims everywhere to stop the practice.
The clerics aren’t the only ones with an important role in halting this practice. The Kurdistan Regional Government needs to take a clear stand. Although the government has vowed to make eliminating violence against women a priority and has taken significant steps, including abolishing a penal code article that reduced penalties for so-called honor crimes, lawmakers have failed to pass a draft law prohibiting FGM. It also has inexplicably delayed a public awareness campaign on FGM and its health consequences.
Instead of quietly tolerating this practice that blights the lives of so many girls and women, the government needs to move swiftly to adopt a law to ban FGM, and to begin an awareness campaign that targets men, women and families, clerics, health-care providers, and traditional midwives. The government should also ensure that health-care services, including mental-health services, are available for women who suffer pain and emotional distress as a result of FGM.
This is a huge challenge, but the regional government should know that it has an important ally in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden is a strong proponent of combating violence against women, both at home and abroad, and he has longstanding friendships with key players in the Kurdistan Region.
And there are other ways the U.S. can help: by passing the International Violence Against Women Act, which is currently before Congress. This bill would offer American assistance to governments to help curb domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.
When I was growing up in Kurdistan, a shroud of secrecy concealed the widespread nature of female genital mutilation. I was spared because my mother realized its negative consequences, but after my father married again, all my sisters by his second wife were cut, and some in my family still believe in the practice.
Six years ago, I joined a mobile health team funded by the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation, a German nongovernmental organization working in Iraqi Kurdistan. We would travel to remote areas of Kurdistan to visit women in their homes and speak directly to them about health issues.
At first, we didn’t talk about FGM directly because the subject was still taboo and it was difficult to start these types of conversations in these socially and religiously conservative places. Instead, we talked to them about general health problems, and in the course of these conversations, the women began to open up. It soon became clear that FGM was the source of many of their physical, emotional, and sexual problems.
When I speak to women in the villages about the physical and psychological consequences of FGM, they assure me that they won’t cut their daughters. But, after I leave, I wonder whether they will one day bow to community pressure.
Every day, we hear that young girls are still being cut.