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July 2007: The Afar impose harsh penalties on Female Genital Mutilation

The Afar have introduced exemplary tribal legal sentences following the decision against Female Genital Mutilation of the Scholars Conference in Cairo in November 2006.


First TARGET Desert Conference - Ethiopia, Assayta, 31/01/2002

With support from Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfary from the people of Afar (1.6 million people in Ethiopia) TARGET was able to arrange the first TARGET desert conference on 31/01/2002.

Rüdiger got to know the Afar in 1977, when he crossed the Danakil Desert with his own caravan. He knew that these people practised the worst form of Female Genital Mutilation. He led the first trip back to these people with Annette Weber after TARGET was founded in 2001. They documented the barbaric ritual and made contact with Sultan Hanfary. They were able to attract him to the Pro-Islamic Alliance (see menu item of same name).

The 58 tribal leaders, the Senior Council for Islamic Affairs and a representative from the Health Ministry were invited to this conference in the Danakil Desert. However, it was not just the invited guests who appeared, but more than one thousand people! Above all women.

The Sheikhs Mohamed Darassa Moussa and Ismail Abdallah Ismail from the Senior Council for Islamic Affairs in the Afar region: "There has never been a gathering of this size here. And certainly not on such a topic. This must be a turning point in our history."

The vote took place after two days of long, courageous and very moving discussions. It was a sensation. An unanimous decision. Not one dissenting vote, no abstentions. You can access the entire decision text using the aforementioned link.

Sheikh Darassa announced the result: "In the name of gracious and merciful God! The Administration of the Senior Council for Islamic Affairs in the Province of Afar hereby declares that the ancient, inherited, bad tradition of the Afar peoples of female circumcision and treatment of the genitals is not compatible with the Islamic Shari'a and general human nature. It is banned immediately, judges are obligated to implement the commands and to report offenders."

Adepts seem to be sure that the new fatwa (legal opinion) will be followed. "Tribal law has always been superior to state (Ethiopian) law," guarantees Abdul Khader, ex-fighter of the Afar Liberation Front. And for Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfary, it is just a matter of time, "until the law also finds its way to our Afar brothers and sisters in the neighbouring countries of Eritrea and Djibouti."

He was the last to sign the new law and did so in the presence of Dr Pohl, representative of the German Embassy in Addis Ababa.

Sheikh Darassa expressed joy on the decision with a letter of thanks to TARGET (see link above). Extract: "This initiative of TARGET was very positive and very important with regards to changing the life of the Afar. Many thanks and our respect!"

We would now like to extend these thanks to all patrons, friends and supporters of TARGET. This TARGET desert conference became a pilot project. What has been possible here must be feasible in other places. Right to Mecca - our vision.