Jihadists in Iraq have ordered that all women between the ages of 11 and 46 must undergo female genital mutilation, which could affect up to four million women and girls in the war-ravaged country, a UN official said last night.
The UN’s second most senior official in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, said, “It is a fatwa (or religious edict) from ISIS, we learnt about it this morning. We have no precise numbers.”
The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), took over large swathes of the country last month and has begun imposing its extreme Salafist interpretation of Islam.
Ms Badcock said that if you took UN population figures as a guide, around “four million girls and women could be affected”.
Female genital mutilation is unusual in Iraq and is only practised in “isolated pockets of the country”, she added. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution in 2012 calling all member states to ban the practice.
The statement came after gunmen attacked a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad yesterday, setting off a gunbattle with troops in which 52 prisoners and eight soldiers were killed.
Security and medical officials said many of the prisoners were burnt beyond recognition.
“At least 60 people, prisoners and policemen, were killed in a suicide attack followed by several IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and shooting,” an interior ministry official said.
It was not immediately clear who launched the dawn assault, which began with militants firing mortar rounds on Iraqi army bases in the town of Taji, prompting officials to evacuate the facilities, fearing a jailbreak.
Yesterday’s violence erupted hours before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to hold talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in an effort to spur international mobilisation against a jihadist insurgency.
Iraq was closer to breaking months of political limbo yesterday after a deal on the post of president paved the way for the formation of a new government.
Mr Maliki has talked tough since the Islamic State and allied Sunni groups overran huge swaths of land last month, plunging Iraq into a crisis threatening its existence as a unified country.
But his forces, despite some limited foreign military assistance and the mobilisation of Shia militias, have failed to claw back lost ground, leaving Iraq’s front lines looking increasingly like the future borders of a partitioned country.
According to an unofficial power-sharing deal reached in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion, the post of parliamentary Speaker goes to a Sunni Arab, that of president to a Kurd and of prime minister to a Shia Arab. Salim al-Juburi was elected as Speaker last week and in a late-night meeting held behind closed doors, Kurdish legislators settled on their candidate for the presidency.
“Fuad Masum is the only candidate of the Kurdish blocs for the position of president,” said a senior Kurdish official who witnessed the vote. Others confirmed Mr Masum, the first prime minister of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992, had won the most votes.