FGM threat to 4m women in rebel-held Iraq

Women and girls queue for aid at a refugee camp near Irbil providing sanctuary for people fleeing occupied Mosul. Picture: Getty
Women and girls queue for aid at a refugee camp near Irbil providing sanctuary for people fleeing occupied Mosul. Picture: Getty
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THE Islamic State militant group is reported to have ordered all girls and women in and around Iraq’s northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, a United Nations official ­revealed yesterday.

The “fatwa” – apparently issued in an online statement by the Sunni Muslim fighters – potentially affects almost four million women, UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq Jacqueline Badcock told reporters in ­Geneva by video link from the Kurdish provincial capital, Irbil.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said. “This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists.”

Miss Badcock said the religious edict appeared to apply to females aged 11-46.

Iraq is facing a Sunni insurgency formerly led by fighters of the Islamic State, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or Isis, with cities in the north-west under its control. The group was also known as Isil, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, but no longer uses the name, raising doubts over the authenticity of the FGM ruling.

The ritual cutting of girls’ genitals – or female circumcision – is practised by some African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities as a rite of passage to womanhood and marriage.

FGM poses many health risks, including severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth.

The UN General Assembly in December 2012 called for the practice to be banned.

However the BBC last night reported that some bloggers were suggesting the alleged fatwa was a crude attempt at discrediting the Islamic State insurgency, which has made major territorial gains in northern Iraq.

Isis militants seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June, and have since taken over areas of the north-west and closed in on cities near Baghdad.

It has also been imposing radical Islamic practices, said BBC Arab affairs editor Lina Sinjab.

Isis forced Christians out of Mosul this week, marked their homes with the letter N and ­apparently confiscated them.


FGM involves “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

• It is practised in 29 countries in Africa and some in Asia and the Middle East, according to Unicef.

• An estimated three million girls and women are at risk each year.

• About 125 million women are now living with the consequences

• It is commonly carried out on very young girls, from infancy to the age of 15

• It is said to be motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure “pure femininity”.