Nazar Shabila

Understanding the roots of the practice of female genital mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan Region

Research Fellow of Public Health
Hawler Medical University, Department of Community Medicine
Erbil; Iraq

Capstone Conference Talk

Saturday (8/5) 1:50-2:10PM

Understanding the Roots of the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Iraqi Kurdistan Region

There are many false cultural beliefs around FGM, which is primarily meant to control women’s sexuality. Women are poorly aware of the harm FGM can cause, while men see it as a “women’s issue.” FGM is often perceived as a religious obligation in Islam. Religious leaders, allied with different doctrines, have different views about FGM ranging from being an obligation/ wajib, encouraged/sunna, or optional. The religious scripts that are the basis for FGM are generally weak and inconclusive. People and religious leaders need to seek reliable medical evidence and the advice of Muslim scholars against FGM to fight and stop the practice.


Capstone Conference Research Laboratory

SATURDAY (8/5) 9:30-10:40AM

Discovering Strength In Vulnerability

The purpose of this Research Laboratory is to unfold a differentiated concept of vulnerability that takes seriously that vulnerability is, at the same time, both a resource and a risk. This conception challenges widespread beliefs that vulnerability is a condition that ought to be avoided by persons and communities. In order to clarify the importance of this nuanced concept of vulnerability, the laboratory seeks to demonstrate how individuals and communities can discover strength in vulnerability; address interdisciplinary approaches by bridging the sciences and humanities to explore and understand vulnerability in its diverse dimensions; and to highlight how vulnerable individuals and populations can counter hegemony and thereby envision a future of freedom and flourishing. 

Research Laboratories allow audience members to interact with a panel of ELP Scholars and Interlocutors in addressing a problem of public relevance. We invite active participation from audience members in the creation of new knowledge.

Academic Biography

Nazar Shabila has MSc degree in Public Health in Developing Countries from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and PhD in Community Medicine from Hawler Medical University. He is a lecturer/researcher of public health in Hawler Medical University, Erbil, Iraq. He has more than 30 research papers in fields of women’s health, heath services research, demography, conflict and health and medical education in the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdistan contexts that have been published in well reputed and highly accessible journals. His current research interest is primarily related to women’s health in Iraqi Kurdistan Region particularly in the socially sensitive field of violence against women and its most extreme form of female genital mutilation, which is unfortunately widely practiced in Iraqi Kurdistan region. Dr. Nazar has obtained and successfully implemented a number of research and capacity building grant projects related to women’s health, primary health care and medical education fields. He is a fellow of the United States International Visitor Leadership Program/Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence and the John Smith Rule of Law Fellowship Program/Research and Advocacy on Women’s Health and Violence against Women. Dr. Nazar is a member of the Scientific Committee on Fertility Intentions and Ideals of the Asian Population Association. He has actively contributed to the WHO led efforts to setting strategies for strengthening health sector response to gender-based violence/violence against women in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in 2012 and the UNFPA led efforts to setting strategies for maternity services in Iraq in 2010.

Project Executive Summary

Female genital mutilation is associated with a series of health and psychosocial consequences. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced in Iraqi Kurdistan Region, but the roots of the practice are unclear. It is is often perceived as a positive cultural tradition and an essential part of the culture and sometimes the religion. Understanding the perspectives of different actors in the community regarding female genital mutilation is particularly critical for understanding the roots of the problem and enhancing the effectiveness of preventive programs. Very limited research has examined the driven factors for practicing female genital mutilation in the Kurdish community. Therefore, this project is set to explore the perspectives of different actors in the population like women, men, religious leaders, medical personnel, social activists and law makers to (1) uncover the roots of female genital mutilation practice in the Kurdish community, (2) determine the actionable barriers that have allowed this harmful practice to survive, and (3) identify the aspiration potentials of the community to combat this practice. This project proposes an integrated multimodal method that uniquely combines diverse methodologies and specifically targets different aspects and actors of the female genital mutilation in the Kurdish society. The project should help in understanding how the notions of cultural traditions, social norms and religious obligation have been linked to female genital mutilation. It should also help in determining the possibility of engaging the essential parts of the community in moving the Kurdish community into the future through ending the practice of female genital mutilation.