Fighting female genital mutilation, one Kurdish village at a time
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Amena Omer Mirhan practised female genital mutilation in her remote village in Iraqi Kurdistan for so many years that she struggles to recall how many girls passed through her hands.
I couldn't count them, said the midwife, sitting in a garden in Tutakal, her hair in a black headscarf and her chin marked by a faded traditional blue tattoo.
Ten children, a hundred children, a thousand children, I just can't count how many.
More than a year after lawmakers in Iraq's self-governed Kurdistan region passed a law banning FGM - also known as female circumcision - activists say the practice still goes on.
Autonomous from Baghdad since 1991, Kurdistan has its own government and enjoys an oil boom that has helped make it one of Iraq's safest areas, enjoying modern services, glitzy hotels and shopping malls unavailable in the rest of the country.
In remote rural areas, however, ancient traditions often rule. Honour killings, where women are murdered to protect the family's honour, still occur, and FGM is widespread, in part because it is supported by some clerics who say it is part of sharia or traditional Islamic law.
This could be changing, however.
In Tutakal, the donation of basic school services and a small classroom by a German-funded non-governmental organisation called WADI has helped convince residents to stop the practice.
It is a promising model, activists involved in the campaign to stop FGM say, one they hope will spread to other Kurdish villages. The activists work to convince villagers the practice has no basis in Islam and spread the word that it is now against the law.
More people understand this is a crime, and they can't practice it any more, but we still need to implement the law, said Suaad Sharif, a field worker with WADI. They say their grandmothers did it, their mothers did it, it was a habit that they had to carry on.
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