A U.N. official says Islamist militant group ISIS has ordered all women and girls in and around the city of Mosul in northern Iraq to undergo female gential mulitlation. There was no immediate confirmation of the report. The “fatwa” would apply to females between 11 and 46 years of age, the BBC reports the UN’s Jacqueline Badcock as saying. It could affect up to four million women and girls.
"This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed," Badcock said, according to Reuters. "This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists."
The Sunni Muslim Islamist group ISIS has been ramping up efforts to exert control over northern Iraq and Syria. ISIS took control of Mosul in June and ordered Christians out of the city earlier this week, the BBC reports.
There has, however, been some doubt expressed about the story and the UN's statement. NPR's Cairo bureau chief, Leila Fadel, tweeted her doubts after speaking with residents of Mosul, and a denial from the ISIS spokesman in the city.
At eight percent, or less than 10 percent of the female population, Iraq has lower rates of FGM compared to other countries in the Middle East and Africa, where some rates are near-universal, according to data from a 2013 Unicef report. In Iraq, FGM is concentrated in the northern regions of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.
Female genital mutilation is the barbaric practice of removing part or all of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The procedure is often performed by people with little medical training using scissors, razors, or knives, and anesthetic is not always administered. More than 125 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM, and it is usually inflicted on girls between infancy and 11 years of age.
Earlier this week, the United Kingdom held an international conference to raise awareness of persistently high rates of FGM and child marriage around the world, revealing that around 137,000 women, twice as many than previously thought, are living with the consequences of FGM in the U.K.