Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1154

05MUSCAT11542005-07-20 12:46:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1.  "Our Daughters: Circumcision and Concealment" was the 
cover story in the inaugural issue of "Futoon" family 
magazine.  The hardhitting article described the four types 
of surgical procedures in detail and recounted personal 
stories of how the procedure harmed the lives of four Omani 
women.  The result: divorce, chronic urinary tract 
infections, and other repercussions.  It also featured an 
interview with a female circumciser who bemoaned the decline 
of mothers wishing to circumcise their daughters, and quoted 
a government religious scholar who declared the practice in 
conformity with Islam and therefore "unlikely to cause any 
harm to women."   End Summary. 
Press Tackles Taboo Issue of Circumcision 
¶2.  In ground-breaking public coverage of a sensitive and 
normally taboo subject, a newly launched family magazine, 
"Futoon," tackled the controversial topic of female 
circumcision as its cover story on July 18.  (Note:  "Futoon" 
is a new weekly supplement in the privately owned Arabic 
daily "al-Watan" and primarily covers family, youth, and 
women-related topics. End note.) 
¶3.  Author Badriya al-Ismai'li asserted in her article that, 
although there are no formal statistics, female circumcision 
is a common habit in the Arab world and in Africa. 
According to her, FGM is prevalent in both rural areas of 
Oman as well as parts of Muscat proper; she said that the 
practitioners believe the procedure rids females of dirt in 
their bodies and is usually performed on young girls between 
the ages of 3 months and 9 years (reftel).  Referring to the 
World Health Organization's definition, al-Ismai'li described 
circumcision as "all procedures involving partial or total 
removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to 
the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious, or 
other non-therapeutic reasons." 
Circumcised Women Share Their Stories 
¶4.  In a brief but frank discussion, al-Ismai'li recounted 
the stories of four young women who experienced firsthand the 
impact and life-long trauma of female circumcision.  She also 
described an interview with a Khatanah (female circumciser), 
a lady in her seventies who said that she feels sad that so 
many women are turning away from having their daughters 
circumcised, even though, "It's a must for Muslim women." 
The Khatanah briefly described the procedure, saying that she 
uses a razor to remove a tiny bit of foreskin covering the 
clitoris and charges a price of $12-$26 for the operation. 
She prefers to perform the operation when girls are 1 year 
old and claims she's never witnessed a "bleeding."  The 
Khatanah argues, however, that in other areas, pharaonic 
circumcision done by inexperienced Khatanahs could be the 
cause of "improper circumcision." 
Four Types of Circumcision 
¶5.  The author interviewed Dr. Shirin Raof MD., a 
gynecologist at Ibra Hospital, for the medical perspective. 
According to Dr. Shirin, circumcision is an old habit and an 
abuse practiced by non-professional women.  Dr. Shirin 
described in detail the four types of circumcision she has 
encountered:  removal of the foreskin and part of the 
clitoris; removal of the clitoris and a part or all of the 
labia; removal of all genital organs and narrowing the vagina 
through stitching; and destroying the clitoris and the labia 
by burning the areas near them.  According to Dr. Shirin, 60 
percent of the women she has helped give birth were 
circumcised (removal of the clitoris and part of the labia). 
She has also witnessed cases where 3 and 4-year-old girls 
have come to the hospital bleeding profusely because of the 
operation.  Dr. Shirin highlighted the lifetime problems that 
tend to plague women who have been circumcised, including 
chronic urinary infections. 
Religious Scholar Comments 
¶6.  The author made a brief attempt to address the prevalent 
notion that female circumcision is mandated by Islam. 
Al-Ismai'li interviewed a scientific advisor, Shaykh Said bin 
Mabrook al-Qanobi, at the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious 
Affairs.  According to al-Qanobi, both male and female 
circumcision are mentioned in the hadiths (the Prophet's 
sayings) and that, therefore, circumcision should not cause 
any harm to women.  Al-Qanobi added, however, that only a 
tiny part of the foreskin should be removed. 
¶7.  Although the Ministry of Health (reftel) is attempting to 
address the phenomenon of female circumcision in Oman, the 
local media rarely addresses this sensitive and controversial 
topic.  While there are no firm statistics, according to a 
survey conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund 
(UNICEF) and the World Health Organization in conjunction 
with the Ministry of Health (MOH), almost 80 percent of young 
Omani males and females believe that female circumcision is 
"necessary and important."   According to a contact at the 
MOH, the government agreed to include female circumcision in 
its national health planning as a problem needing to be 
addressed.  The increasing openness in discussing the topic 
may facilitate efforts to do so.