Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Community activists in Iraq change laws

(October 31, 2013)

There is a film-maker called Nabaz Ahmed. He is from Iraqi Kurdistan. Here are some pictures of that northern part of Iraq:

City ...

Countryside ...

Nabaz Ahmed knew that female genital mutilation (FGM) was widespread in Kurdistan, but the Iraqi government was in denial.

For example, the man above is the director of the government's Department for the Fight against Violence towards Women. He said that his team had been to many schools, and had not found a single circumcised girl. This was in 2004.

So the filmmaker Nabaz decided to take matters into his own hands, dig up real evidence, and put it all on camera. He knew that people would not talk about such intimate topics to a man, so he got help from a lady called Shara Amin.

Here are the two filmmakers together as they go about their investigation:

Here is a great shot of Mr. Nabaz's nose-hairs:

And here is Ms. Shara. She is also Kurdish. She was motivated to work on the film because she felt so strongly about it. She said: she hoped that the film would have some sort of impact and change some attitudes and provide some help for women.

And here is one of the Kurdish ladies they filmed, who practices FGM, displaying her knife of choice as she administers her purifying magic:

Sometimes, the BBC Arabic will devote a whole hour to covering a topic in-depth, and this week, they kept showing this documentary about the making of Shara and Nabaz's film nine years ago, and its after-effects.

First, Shara and Nabaz drove all over the mountains of Kurdistan, and documented just how widespread FGM is:

They found out it was all over the place.

Here they do some interviews:
Everyone's clothes and colors are so pretty.

They'd go to villages where nearly all the girls had been circumcised, with some exceptions. For example, this little girl called Fernaz.

She said when the witch doctors came to circumcise her, she told them to leave her alone! Then she grabbed a big stone and threw it at the older women. That part of her story made the other girls laugh:

After producing their film, Nabaz and Shara took it to the Iraqi Parliament. The women in Parliament decided to watch it all together. They were driven to act, and wrote up a law about it.

But the men in the Iraqi Parliament were too embarrassed, so they refused to watch the film, and the law never came to a vote!

At that point, I think that Human Rights Watch got involved. They wrote a report that was published internationally about FGM in Kurdistan. This embarrassed everyone, because Kurdistan likes to project an image of being more modern than the rest of Iraq.

All of a sudden, female circumcision was being discussed all over the Kurdistani TV, which was previously unheard of:

So finally, the men in Parliament were forced to talk about it, they voted, and the law passed. Now you can go to jail for practicing FGM. The law was passed in 2011:

That made the man below very happy, because the UN has also been urging all countries to do what they can to stop the practice. "Now, if anyone from the United Nations asks what we've done to stop FGM, Iraq can say, well, we have a very beautiful law against it. This is a great thing. I like this law a lot, but it needs to be implemented."

I thought this was Nabaz nine years later, but it is not. It is a man who works for an Iraqi NGO called Wadi, who helped Nabaz make the film. Wadi means valley in Arabic. 

On the other hand, the law made this Kurdish man below very angry. I think he is a religious leader. Female circumcision does not have a basis in Islam, but some Muslims think whatever they like.

If you read the subtitles in the picture below, he is saying, "female circumcision is a must in our religion!" This man looks like he enjoys yelling and screaming and shouting, so that's probably his proper state no matter what law is being passed.

But others amongst the religious leadership said there was nothing in the Quran to support circumcising your girls, so the debate went both ways.

Here is a leader of a Kurdish village:

He said, once we heard about the law, and found out you can go to jail, we prohibited the practice in our village.

And here are two women being interviewed by the filmmaker Shara recently. She and Nabaz tracked down the people they had interviewed in 2004, to see what had happened to them.

These women are saying: we were poor, simple people, and were cut off from knowledge. We did not know this was not an Islamic practice.
The lady in the flowered dress: I had all six of my daughters cut. I regret it.
The lady in the purple dress: But I can't do anything about it now. If this is a thing without a religious basis, why were we doing it?
The lady in the flowered dress seemed upset; the lady in purple seemed like she didn't want to think about it.

The filmmakers met this girl, Nisar, in 2004. She had refused to be circumcised. In 2013 they went back to talk to her. She had avoided being cut even so many years later, but said that if she ever got married, she'd tell her husband she was, for tradition's sake.

They even went back to talk to Fernaz, the girl who had thrown the stone at the witch doctors. She also remained uncircumcised, in spite of many attempts. She did not want to be cut, and neither did her dad. Her dad said: I have only one girl, and I don't want her to go through such pain.

This little girl is going off to school. In 2004, her mother had been debating whether to circumcise her or not. Now, upon the return of the filmmakers, she has decided 'no', although, says the mother, if anyone asks me, I'll tell them 'yes.' You can just see the mother sitting on the right edge of the picture. I thought I should include the picture because it is such a family values sort of moment.

This is one of the witch doctors proud of her skill with the knife. Unfortunately, I did not catch the shot when her face was at its smuggest.

Ah! This is a little better:
She says: I don't care what the law says. I don't care what the president or vice-president say! I don't even care what Mullah says! I swear to God! I will keep circumcising girls because I am a true Muslim (when you have debates about Islam, it usually ends up as a fight over who is and who is not the true Muslim!)

But there were other witch doctors, a little gentler in appearance, who said, "since you can go to jail now, I won't be doing it any longer."

The documentary ended with this parting information:

It says: after passage of the 2011 law prohibiting female genital mutilation, the government of Kurdistan promised to produce statistics about FGM in its territory through a partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

You can watch the program by clicking here to get to its YouTube link.

No comments:

Post a Comment