We are glad the StopFGM Kurdistan campaign Wadi initiated in 2004 is now seen as an example for other projects. In an article titled “How violence prevents healing after Islamic State” Judit Neurink explains:
“In Iraq, introducing policies that involve local women and tribal heads could be one way to reintegrate these families. It’s a policy that is already working in Syria, where thousands of Syrian women and children have been released from the Al Hol camp on the basis of guarantees provided by their tribal heads.
But this policy will only work in the long run if it is accompanied by an active campaign against radicalisation. The best tactic here is to offer alternatives to the IS discourse. Using the arguments of people who left the group could also prove a powerful method, and statements made by many of these leavers to the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism are already online and ready for use.
As they develop their campaign, authorities and NGOs could look at the strategy employed by the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to fight Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
By using information as the main tool, and making the practice punishable by law, NGOs and authorities were able to decrease the number of women subjected to the practice from almost 60 percent in 2014, to just over 37 percent in 2019.
This involved going to villages and mosques and recruiting imams, village elders and local women to persuade mothers and midwives that the practice was harmful to girls, who would still be able to marry decently if they were left untouched. The campaign helped villagers change their minds about FGM and reject the notion that uncut girls were somehow unclean.
A similar change in mentality is going to be needed in the campaign against IS. First and foremost, the dehumanisation of its members must end. They are criminals, who brought violence and ruin to Iraq and Syria, but they are also part and parcel of the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein.
They could not accept the change and fought it, using religion as their weapon. They were mistaken – and some of them were despicable, cruel and criminal – but they are human beings and have a right to justice.”