Culture vs Crime 87 Comments


She sits before a broken desk looking at her daily schedule. She makes notes and plans for the future of an organization she single-handedly created.

Children rush into the classroom; shouting, yelling and waking her of her daily routine.

"Good morning Mrs. Amina", the kids greeted her as they enter.

"Good morning children, please have a seat," she spoke politely to the kids as usual.

It was no surprise that Amina sees herself in the eyes of these children. She was one of them. But her childhood had taken a twist and turn that was bizarre and painful that the last thing she wishes is for these kids to go through it all.

"Aren't they beautiful?" She confirmed to herself. But a memory of past experiences suddenly pulls her 22 years back in time, and she begins to re-live the horror.

She was only 6 years old. Ambitious for her age, smart and active in every aspect of life that belonged to her. She was happy, and loving until that one day, that it changed it all forever.        

She remembers sitting nervously by her bedroom window terrified and highly disoriented. She kept an absolute silence while the other children from the village and her siblings are by the veranda chanting. Most amongst them are also victims of female circumcision. They had been through the pain and suffering of this practice and those that hadn't been circumcised yet can only imagine the physical and psychological torture of what was about to take place.

There is a festivity during every circumcision process. The parents invite their neighbors, relatives and some of the community leaders to be present while they perform such practice. Her mother is preparing the freshly slaughtered chicken into a stew to present as one of the delicacies for the ceremony while her brother and her father are outside skinning the goat.

Her older sister has traveled a long way with her children to be present at her little sister's circumcision ceremony. She sees the innocently terrified look on the face of her little sister. So she approaches her and tries to comfort her with words.

An old woman, with half her face wrinkled and eyes that would almost terrify every walk of life, arrives carrying a small bag, in which, placed are the un-sanitized blades. As usual, she takes out an aluminum plated little box from her bag and walks into the room to see Amina, who is already paralyzed with fear.

Amina, after seeing the old lady enter the room, jumps fearlessly in pursuit of an escape, and with a lot of bravery. But the old lady was in her way between her and the door. Amina immediately became rebellious, and pushed the old lady hard on the floor and runs out the door.

Her mother, seeing what just took place, suddenly jerked from her seat.

"Hurry! Hurry! Catch her. She shouted to her oldest son." 

The oldest son and another cousin of Amina immediately run after her. But Amina keeps on running, really not knowing where she was running to. She runs barefoot tirelessly. But finally her body gives up on her and she trips and falls with her face diving in the mud. The boys start closing in on her. But Amina doesn't quit. She wipes the mud off her face using the front of her shirt and continues to run.

Her feet is hurting. She looks back frequently as she is running to determine how much time she has left before they catch up with her. They are closing in on her faster and faster, when finally; one of the boys grabs her by her shirt and pulls her towards him. She immediately slips out of her shirt leaving the shirt in the hands of the boy so she can be free again. She runs for another minute cutting through a crowd of local teenagers in the area. 

But the other boy is now too close; he catches her by her hand ending her attempted escape.

The boys begin to drag her back into the house. She breaks in tears while she struggles, shouts and sometimes tries to bite the hand that had a strong grip of her body. Everyone is outside waiting to see her return. In the mean time, her big sister stands outside emotionally disturbed as she watches her little sister's anguish. She once again attempts to comfort her. She hugs and kisses her on her cheeks and tells her that it would all be over soon.

Her mother orders the boys to lock the front gate.

Meanwhile, the festivity preparation at home was in order. The old woman is organizing the necessary tools to perform the duties she was paid to do. The blades and the thin threads are now all in place at a small table next to Amina's bed.

Gifts brought by the neighbors and other community members are also placed just right underneath a little table. There are candies, gums and biscuits amongst the gifts. 

The neighborhood children are still playing outside by the veranda. Some are dancing, and some are peaking through the door to witness the process of Amina's circumcision while the old lady begins to strap Amina's legs to the chair.

Her legs are now spread open and her face covered with a cloth. But what is going to be cut and removed is now visible for the old lady.

Holding the blade on her right hand, the old lady performs a short prayer before proceeding.

Allah is great! Mohammed is our prophet! Allah, please disguise the devil around us."

Immediately she grabs Amina's genital by her left hand and runs the blade from left to right and torn out a chunk of her genital organ. The crowd is suddenly disturbed by the heavy screaming coming from Amina's bedroom. Blood from Amina's genital organ immediately covers a portion of the floor.

The old lady's hand is now covered with blood but she is not done yet. She is just beginning. She continues with the removal of the ruminants from the genital organ. Amina's pain and shouting has increased more than ever. But the old lady continues with removing the ruminants for the third time and keeps throwing it on the floor as if it's a piece of garbage

Taking a deep breath, the old lady finally confirms that it was over(the cutting that is). Amina has exhausted all efforts to stop the crime being committed against her body and soul. But now, her genital has to be sewed.

The children outside are now paying close attention to her screaming and all of them silently standing by the front door listening.

Her big sister is outside the backdoor already in tears.

But the criminal act on this little girl is continuing. The old woman now has a snare like needle and is piercing the genital organ and running a thread through it. Joining both ends of the threads firmly tight together into a strong knot, she confirmed it was all over.

Amina's body is covered in so much sweat, tears and a lot of blood; and her eyes fully red. She immediately looks at her mutilated genital organ. Nothing seemed real, yet at the same time, it was too real and too painful that she continues crying. She stares at the old woman with anger and hate.

The old woman, pretending like nothing has happened, untied the ropes from the Amina's legs, and opens the door. The children outside are now visible for Amina to see. She is now one of them. They all understood her pain and somehow kept a complete silence.

Mrs. Amina, are you okay? The children in the classroom brought her back to the present moment in time. That was a real-life nightmare she lived through everyday until she realized that the only way to walk away from it was to walk right back into it as a rebellion and go head-on with whoever dares to practice it ever

87 Responses to “Culture vs Crime”

  1. 1 yonas

    OMG … that was very painful to read. is this for the film you’re making?

  2. 2 lulu

    Sad, sad, sad…ohhh. And yes, tremendously painful to read. No question that this is nothing but crime in the name of culture.

  3. 3 Shanti

    This was indeed a very painful read. The topic is excellent as it was the reality for many young, defenseless, innocent girls in the past and unfortunately, this torture and immoral practice continues till today!

    Glad you were able to bring this topic out in the open for discussion, your writing skills as always, deserve kudos… thanks!

    Question for you: Will you have a follow-up to this topic, such as WHY there was/is such a practice and WHY it continues today?

  4. 4 chelema

    Yonas, yes, it circles around this issue. But I put this out just to get people’s perspective on the issue and to see where you guys stand on the subject matter. This is mainly a summary of one scene in the film used as a turning plot point. I have been warned by a lot of people lately that this imagery would create a lot of contraversy amongst Ethiopians.

    My big brother, inspired by a true story, wrote the original 267 pages of the manuscript (currently in publishing). I aquired the film right on the story and turned it into a 100 pages feature film script. But when he wrote it, he didn’t have the explicit horrific image of what you just read. He pretty much summarized it into a single paragraph and focused on what happened afterwards. But I personally want to portray this image for what it should be (horror).

    So you guys, give me your honest feedback on how you think Ethiopians in general react to this image. Don’t focus so much on the style of writing. But tell me if you can, your honest and sincere feedback of what this image brings to you and how it could be mis-interpreted as being damaging to the country’s image.

    No matter how people see it, I am determined to make it happen. Nothing is going to get in my way. But feedback will open my eyes to some of the things I may have overlooked and should consider. The story takes place partly in the Shinele region (somali region of ethiopia) and Dire Dawa.

  5. 5 adey

    This is protrayed as a muslim and country-side problem. It is very much alive in our cities. I am sure most of our guys here have realized the difference b/n non-abesha/western & abesha setoch

  6. 6 lulu

    Chelema – The world already knows that this is a practice that is still going on in parts of Africa, including in Ethiopia. If your movie helps even one little girl from facing such atrocity, you have done a remarkable job.

  7. 7 chelema

    Okay picture this,

    At least 1 in 3 women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Usually, the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her. (Amnesty International)

    Now imagine sexual intercourse without the pleasure. FGM can completely eliminate a woman’s ability to have an orgasm(what a woderful gifts we’re giving to our women ha?).

    Many Muslims see passages in the Qur’an which, by implication, oppose FGM. they reason:

    God apparently created the clitoris for the sole purpose of generating pleasure. It has no other purpose. There is no instruction in the Qur’an or in the writings of the Prophet Mohammed which require that the clitoris be surgically modified. Thus God must approve of its presence. And so, it should not be removed or reduced in size or function.

    The Qur’an promotes the concept of a husband and wife giving each other pleasure during sexual intercourse. For example: “It is lawful for you to go in unto your wives during the night preceding the (day’s) fast: they are as a garment for you and you are as a garment for them.” (2:187)
    “…and He has put love and mercy between you.” (30:21)

    Mutilated genitalia reduce or eliminate a woman’s pleasure during the act.

    The Qur’an (An-Nisa’: 119) states that Satan will try to trick humans into body modification: “And I will surely lead them astray, and arouse desires in them, and command them and they will cut the cattle’s ears, and I will surely command them and they will change Allah’s creation.” This might be interpreted as forbidding FGM as well as tattoos, piercing and any other modification that alters the design of the human body as Allah created it.

    But anyway, the film is not just about FGM. We fall so we can learn to get up. so this girl falls, but she gets up to do the unthinkable.

  8. 8 adey

    In light of the recent ruling in Atlanta (Khalid Adem), there may be a strong reaction from unintended groups and you might become a pariah.

  9. 9 Uncle B

    Man, this is a terrifying, heart trenching story. I really feel for these little girls going through this as I speak. The myth behind this harsh practice apparently is that a mutilated genitalia reduce or eliminate a woman’s pleasure during sexual acts; which I never understood why it’s a sin for a woman to have these feelings. I don’t know if there’s anything about this written in Qu’ran or any other religious books. The fact is this practice still being conducted back home not just among muslims but in rular areas. Just weeks ago one of our own convicted of child cruilty by conducting genitial mutilation on his own daughter in Atlanta area and sentenced to 10 years in prison. I thought we came a long way from doing somthing like that, but I was wrong.

  10. 10 chelema

    Adey, I am glad you brought that up. I have been following the trial very closely. But he is found guilty. If he didn’t do it, I prey that the truth comes out soon and he gets to be released. But if he actually did it, then 40 years in prison is where he belongs. I was also surprised with all the rallies and movements in support of his innocence but the little girl was simply left alone. No one really cared about her, and the fact that she was mutilated by him or whoever.

  11. 11 celebratelife

    Chelema, I cannot wait for your movie. This is a very sad story indeed and I feel for the Amina’s of the world. Honestly speaking I think most Ethiopians would rather think of it as a problem taking place in other countries. The same as the fistula issue no one wants to address it but it exists.

    So if the removal of the clitoris is to take away the sexual pleasures then what’s the purpose of sewing up the vaginal opening? That’s what I totally am not getting. So she has no desire to have sex and chances are she is severely traumatized by the act of mutilation. Are they afraid she’ll get raped? I’ve also heard there is an increase of homosexual activities in the regions that practice female circumcision how true is that?

    I wonder if the purpose of this act is to take away the females sexual pleasures as much as the man wanting to control his wife. Ok so I read on some site that in certain regions if a man has to go away for several days he has his wife’s vaginal opening sewn until he returns. I also heard in the old days a woman gets married to lose her virginity to her husband only to have sex with the man she really desires. Wonder how much of this is actually true?

  12. 12 munit

    it did hurt to read. I am just wondering if this issue is discussed openly in Ethiopia and whether the government is doing anything to stop FGM.

  13. 13 chelema

    Munit, the Ethiopian government is actually taking actions against FGM. I was surprised and highly overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from the Ethiopian government when we asked for filming permit. The American embassy through it’s small grants has also been contributing tremendously towards this effort to stop FGM. But unfortunately, there is still work to be done. So the fight must continue, and the stories must be told.

    Celebratelife, you asked a very good question. But there are many answers. The most popular one is to prevent the girl from practicing sex before marriage and also to prevent her from rape.

  14. 14 Debritu

    This is practiced by both Christian and Muslim families in Ethiopia. It might be predominant in some ethnic groups than others. According to the attached article, although the government has criminalized this act in 2004, the practice is still very prevalent and deeply rooted in our culture especially in the countryside.

  15. 15 adey

    There was this abesha guy who beat his wife all the time (in this city I used to live in). Police gets called to the house. He is taken away. The wife takes him back. The abuse continues. One day the kids call 911. The wife is found unconconcious with broken bones, bruises..
    The man ends up in jail for years this time. There was a group who pleaded and witnessed on his behalf claiming his innocence saying it was a cultural misunderstanding. There would always be people who support these deeds.
    Did you listen to Dr Mekdes on NPR yesterday?

  16. 16 Nolawi

    Bravo Bravo Bravo Bravo Chelema,

    Yet another amazing article, & from an art point of view I think this subject would make an interesting subject matter. We have many untold stories in the Ethiopian community ena this would be a step forward for the Ethiopian film industry to make a docu or even a feature film on FGM…

    The story sounds good too, I think in general Ethiopia had made major strides against FGM lets say the last twenty years…

    Some of you guys mentioned that a film would educate and maybe even save the lives of a few girls; and well maybe… but to make a real stride the education would have to be grassroots… a grassroots movement against it would be best IMHO… because most of the people that practice this in non-urban regions (although not limited to) most of this peasants do not have any education and are limited to religious /cultural opinions on the matter…

    But a film does a lot more than that.. so I support… Chelema.. good luck

    11 Celebrate life… I don’t think they cut of just the clitoris? I think there are three types of FGM..

    Also wondering what percentage of currently living Ethiopian woman have gone through FGM

  17. 17 Dinich


    I know you are sold out for this project and nothing is going to stop you but since you asked for opinions here is mine:

    No doubt that this is a practice that has to stop. But, if this is a movie I would very much prefer that it be directed at the people who practice these things than North Americans. If this becomes a movie for North Americans, it will only demonize the people who practice it and not help the problem. I bet you very few people practice this in North America, if any. Those who do get sentenced.

    In other regions for the most part it is practiced by normal people who know nothing better. Any effort on our part should be at fighting the ignorance instead of demonizing the practitioners.


  18. 18 chelema

    Dinich, I agree with you. This is not in anyway to portray a false image of the people; but rather, to teach the physical and psycological consequences of such actions on women. Its not for north Americans, Ethiopians or Europeans for that matter. Its for the Global community. The people who practice it today, do it because they don’t know any better. Its not because they hate their children. That fact will also be shown in the film. But what it comes down to is the girl’s struggle to do something about it. I mentioned way back that my one and only objective for making a film is to create present day heros in every aspect of our life one film at a time. So this particular girl can become an inspiration; and people that practice it could see the consequences of their actions. The images are not gonna look pretty. Its gonna be high intense and engaging but focused only to educate, inspire and help raise global awareness.

    So you’re right, and thanks for mentioning that as well.

  19. 19 munit

    I am just wondering if it makes any difference for the GUYS during sex if the girl is circumsized.

  20. 20 adey

    Dinich – I agree with you but at the same time Chelema mentioned “We fall so we can learn to get up. so this girl falls, but she gets up to do the unthinkable.”
    There is a lot of women who went thru this experience here in the States. We might all learn one thing or another from these characters’ experience.
    Your comment about “demonizing the practitioners” makes me think of the regular evening news where they don’t show the white criminal or where during Katrina how whites were protrayed as ‘victims’ while others were ‘stealing’.

  21. 21 chelema

    One little note, there was an egyptian movie made a while back about a dancer, who apparently was victim of FGM. The movie was almost banned in egypt because they felt it portrays a bad image of the country (though egypt is one of the leading countries that practice FGM).

    We have a lot of untold stories that are so inspiring and engaging that we just don’t have enough people with a lot of guts to tell them. There was one story I considered before I committed myself to this one. That story was about the university students that were killed on the streets of Addis Ababa a year and some months ago. If I told that story, it would have certainly revealed the darkest images of our current government and God knows where I’ll end up after making the film. But it’s still under consideration, and so is the story of Ethiopia/Eritrea deporation and how the lives of many families from both sides dramatically changed in just an instant. A lot of stories to be told.

    Thank you guys for your inputs. As always, you guys have been great. Thanks to Bernos family (though my large size t-shirt fit like an extra-small, lol).

  22. 22 adey

    ooops i was trying to play swing b/n work ‘n bernos
    derishe simeles I am reiterating

  23. 23 Dinich


    I am not clear on two things.

    One, if your movie is as graphic as this article, no matter what your intentions are, it will do the damage of demonizing those parents who practice it. Even though this may be about rising and falling, the unitended message may turn out to dominate the minds of viewers.

    Two, I am not sure how you are going to target the global community. This is a kind of show very appropriate for Ethiopian TV, Somalian TV or in one of those remote areas. Otherwise you won’t be able to hit the right audience.


  24. 24 Nolawi

    munit, i doubt it makes a difference for the guy, although what is the point of sex if you can’t satisfy your partner..

  25. 25 temari

    The story is heart wrenching, and it is a sad practice … but i don’t think it is wise to mix what is a traditional custom with religion. Plus I agree with Nolawi that this is singing to the quire [not a bad thing in itself but depends on what you hope to achieve with the film]

    If you present it as this abhorrible savage practice, people who practice it today are going to dismiss you as someone who doesn’t understand their customs [because you are making it as outside observer]; if you start from their point of view and dispel their reasons for carrying it out, then you actually may have a chance to make a difference.

  26. 26 celebratelife

    Chelema, I’m looking forward to anything you do and I appreciate you being the voice for these girls that would otherwise have no chance to have their story told.

    Nolawi, don’t be a SA…so the 3 types being removing tip of clitoris, the entire clitoris and sewing of the vagina. The major nerve endings are located in the clitoris, which is easily stimulated, and removing it takes away her desire for sex. I still don’t get the purpose of sewing her up as well…guess that’s double protection. Maybe that makes her more suitable for marriage once he sees his property is well preserved and protected for him.

    Munit, Interesting question, wonder if guys have been with both types and find any difference. You got me thinking about the percentage of men without circumcision.

  27. 27 adey

    ..can be done like ‘Paradise Now’ & get the message across

  28. 28 chelema

    temari, you have a good point. I did try to approach it that way but intentionally failed to do so because I became biased to the story itself. The story is about the girls who suffer not the parents who embrace it. If they dismiss me as someone who don’t understand their culture, then so BE IT.

    … but i don’t think it is wise to mix what is a traditional custom with religion.

    you’re right about this one. I do not intend to mix the two. It’s still an issue that’s creating a lot of contraversies. According to…

    FGM is a social custom, not a religious practice. However, in those Muslim countries where it is practiced, FGM is often justified by a controversial saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed that seem to favor sunna circumcision. The authenticity of these sayings are unconfirmed, and some scholars have refuted them. Even if true, they only permit the practice; they do not mandate it.

    FGM has probably been performed for at least 1,400 years (some references estimate 2,000 years), and started during what Muslims call “al-gahiliyyah” (the era of ignorance). The Qu’r'an, Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Christian Scriptures (New Testament) is silent on the subject. The Sunnah (the words and actions of the Prophet Mohammed) contains a reference to female circumcision.

    According to the Muslim Women’s League:

    “Those who advocate for FGM from an Islamic perspective commonly quote the following hadith to argue that it is required as part of the Sunnah or Tradition of the Prophet:

    ‘Um Atiyyat al-Ansariyyah said: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (pbuh) said to her: Do not cut too severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband’.” 1,8

    One interpretation of this passage is that the woman was going to proceed with the circumcision anyway; Muhammad suggested that she remove a smaller amount of her genitalia than she had perhaps intended to.

    This passage is regarded by many Muslims as having little credibility or authenticity. The Muslim Women’s League comments: “According to Sayyid Sabiq, renowned scholar and author of Fiqh-us-Sunnah, all hadiths concerning female circumcision are non-authentic.”

    Dinich, you’re correct. The images will sure paint a bad image on those who practice it. But it is what it is. I stand firmly on the side of the girls who are defensless and suffering due to culture.

    On your second question, this issue is not unique to ethiopia and somalia. Many countries around the world practice FGM in some form. Sure it will show all around Ethiopia, but my intention is to go GLOBAL about this issue and show it anywhere and everywhere I can. Specially to NGOs that wish to screen it, i will do it for free.

  29. 29 Blue Blood

    Weyne..i got light headed reading some parts..

  30. 30 adey

    have you guys heard about kinona and dogma?
    I think what you are refering to about FGM being a social custom not a religious practice equates to some of our orthodox customs such as not eating pork..

  31. 31 adey

    There are some traditions we follow that overtime have become part of our religion.

  32. 32 Temelkach

    Chelema, Good topic and you’re right about the importance of graphic details and how it hits home that way. In regards to the ETH govt’s participation, Chelema, do they do any awareness signs like they do for AIDS n’ all? Maybe that’d be a good move cos a movie reaches all that have access to it which doesn’t always reach the majority of the ppl who don’t have access to TV n’ movies.

  33. 33 Wudnesh

    You are doing a great job…I shudder just picturing the scene!
    Temari, Dinich and others who are concerned about the effect the film will have in demonizing the parents…I understand where u r coming from but the helpless kids are the victims here! We all know those loving parents are not doing it to harm their kids. I’m sure people who are familiar with Africa know the value of family and tradition in those regions. In my opinion, it would be right to show it both in the regions practicing it…and outside (N America etc.) I feel it’ll have similar effect as that of ‘children brides of Ethiopia’(was it children or young brides..?) In that film, although it was obvious it was the local custom to give away the girls as young as 8-10 in marriage, the girls’ suffering make you feel you need to do something. Chelema, I’ll def. watch the film.

  34. 34 Mengedegna

    Much respect to you, chelema! Great work. I like the way you came to shed light to the subject in the scene as well.
    Like the others, I also found it very disturbing readin through the excerpt. You’ve captured well the ordeal that Mrs. Amina and many young girls around the world went and still continue to go through. This is a very sensitive and volatile issue tha needs to be dealt with with great care, if the movie is indeed to deliver its intended message.
    There are people who argue that female genital “circumcision” or “mutilation”, as many prefer to call it is as bad(or as good) as male circumcision, which is widely accepted as long as it’s done properly and safely. There are also others who embrace it as their culture, and not necessarily see it as a religious obligation (even though culture is sometimes infused into religion), and hence they view abolishing what we see as a traumatizin’, cripplin’ and life-threatenin’ practice, as a cultural invasion by the West.
    I, personally see this practice more tha anythin as a violation of human rights. It’s often the voiceless and defenseless girls who suffer from this horrendous practice. Wha is even more agonizin and heart-breakin is the scars and all the health complications tha stays with them for life.
    So it’s my greatest hope tha this story/movie will encourage people, especially in the rural areas where the practice is believed to be prevalent, to openly discuss this issue, and come up with viable solutions to curb it.
    Good luck on ur endeavors, and thanx for sharing ur works with us!

  35. 35 meron

    Please chelema don’t let anything deter you from making this movie. Our image in the western world is a mall price to pay if your film in any way makes a difference to this cause. I remember being young and my grandfather telling stories about people in Addis denying there was a drought because they thought it’d damage the countries image. And by the time they reached out for help it was too late for a lot of people.

    I’m all for portraying our country in the most positive light. However, a change to issues such as this can only be brought about by information. Prior to reading this post I would have bet this practice did not exist in Ethiopia, but rather in Somalia. Now I know better. Like you said these people don’t know any better. So bringing the issue to the media will widespread the message.

  36. 36 nyalasmoke

    [quote comment="13167"]have you guys heard about kinona and dogma?
    I think what you are refering to about FGM being a social custom not a religious practice equates to some of our orthodox customs such as not eating pork..[/quote]

    but there is no doubt that religion inspires these social customs. So when we indict these backward culture we shouldn’t forget its inspiration and root. Otherwise it will be another whitewash. So next time u thank JC or Big Al make sure to thank them for clitoral mutilation as well.

  37. 37 Mengedegna

    While it’s probably not wise to call any culture ‘backward’, it’s however true tha religion does inspire social customs(though not quite sure if not eatin pork is a religious custom among the Orthodox church followers).

    meron – you’re right. We sometimes care too much for our image than our own well-being and we just pretend and cover up grave situations tha need desperate attention. The 1984 famine is a good example, and the FGM issue affectin millions of girls every year should also be given the proper attention.
    It’s time people woke up and smelled the coffee.

  38. 38 Uncle B


    This would make a great film. I’m expecting some graphic material apocalypto shit, pain and suffering. Cause really that what the story is all about. And just may be the aftermath of the practice and the terror indulging in life.

    You probably should look into talking to an actual victim of this “practice” from back home so that it will give you some sense of realty to add in the movie.


  39. 39 Soloda

    If we are talking honestly then lets speak frankly; I beg to differ regarding the 1984 famine it was intentionally ignored, it was nothing but systematic genocide aimed to eliminate Tigrians.

  40. 40 adey
  41. 41 nyalasmoke

    [quote comment="13242"]While it’s probably not wise to call any culture ‘backward’, it’s however true tha religion does inspire social customs(though not quite sure if not eatin pork is a religious custom among the Orthodox church followers).

    meron – you’re right. We sometimes care too much for our image than our own well-being and we just pretend and cover up grave situations tha need desperate attention. The 1984 famine is a good example, and the FGM issue affectin millions of girls every year should also be given the proper attention.
    It’s time people woke up and smelled the coffee.[/quote]
    can u tell me how else you would characterize it?

  42. 42 wudnesh

    how do you connect A and Z? algebagnim. Unless ofcourse u just want to get political.

  43. 43 Yemi

    We moved to Ethiopia and lived there for three years before our current move to China.

    I first worked for an organization called CRDA ( and later ended up working for the Italian Development Cooperation (

    So, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about FGM and the work that is being done to eliminate the practice.

    A lot is being done to protect girls from FGM and to educate their communities about the harm it causes. When a practice is as deep rooted as it is, it is really hard to get across to people why it is a bad thing. They really believe, for one reason or another, that it has to be done. Parents of these kids are not bad. They love their children. They just don’t know/realize how much harm they are causing their little girls by performing FGM.

    So, changing people’s mind about it is a slow process. Yes, it has been criminalized by law but in practice, the government does not have the capacity to imprison, fine, take to court the overwhelming amount of parents who do it. To do so will pretty much change nothing as well.

    The practice that was discussed in the original posting is more common in the Southern parts of the country, the sewing of the vagina that is. Someone asked the purpose of sewing it up… well, they leave a hole big enough for the girl’s period to come out but tiny enough for anything bigger (such as a penis) to come in. Keeps her chaste, in other words.

    The other prevalent type of FGM is the cutting of the clitoris which is not as severe (doesn’t involve sewing) but still very harmful. This type is done almost everywhere else in Ethiopia.

    I once had an honest discussion among friends (girls) about being circumcised. A surprising number among us were. So, it is done in the countryside as well as in the cities.

    An organization that impressed me the most regarding its work against FGM is one called Kembatta Women’s Self Help. Centre that is run by a wonderful woman called Dr. Bogalech Gebre. If you want to read more about her and her work here is a link to an article:

  44. 44 Mengedegna

    [quote comment="13264"]
    can u tell me how else you would characterize it?[/quote]
    nyalasmoke – well , I was tryna suggest tha just because one does not share another person’s cultural beliefs or ideas does not necessarily make his/her culture any better or more “civilized”/”modernized” than the other, and vice versa.

    Culture goes much deeper than just “civilization” or “modernization”. It can be somewha analogous to religion in this case — both are kinda subjective; we can’t say one religion is bad or “backward” (if I may borrow your word) just because we do not believe or fail to understand their perspective.

    People generally have good reasons for everythin they do, although we might not necessarily agree with all of them (or their reasons might not be credible enough for us), which is why we continue to study people/societies to better comprehend why they do the things they do — be it good or evil — and provide help where necessary. (umm…I think I’m gettin a little sidetracked here.)

    So yeah, I would rather choose not to characterize their culture at all.

  45. 45 Mengedegna

    [quote comment="13253"]If we are talking honestly then lets speak frankly; I beg to differ regarding the 1984 famine it was intentionally ignored, it was nothing but systematic genocide aimed to eliminate Tigrians.[/quote]

    Soloda - I do not like to steal the main topic away here; however I will just say this: it was not only the “Tigrians” who died or were terribly affected by the famine/genocide or whatever one chooses to call it.
    May be I gave a not so good enough example, but I hope you understood the idea I was tryna convey.

  46. 46 wliso

    You should do the film about the university students. That would have a larger impact on the overall situation of our country at the moment, plus you live in america who is going to touch you. Don’t get me wrong FMG should not practiced at all, but you can’t wipe it out with one movie, there has to be an eduction program on the effects and there should be laws to protect young girls, but most of all there should be an enforcement mechanism. Now if we send the farmers in the country side or city slickers to jail lets say for 20 years that will make a difference. The question is, does the larger part of the Ethiopian society which I might add lives in the country side agree with thhis?

  47. 47 Soloda

    Mengdegna, thanks for the clarification.The 1970’s famine (known as the Wollo Derqe) got worse because of a cover up by the Emperor, but the one that occurred in the 80’s wasn’t. In fact there are documented facts that Derge intentionaly withheld donated food from reaching the victims mostly in Tigray so not to indirectly benefit the guerilla fighters from that region. I am not trying to divert the topic but we have a habit of denial and re-writing history to save face, which goes hand in hand with the point you were trying to make.Will stop here.

  48. 48 Yalemsew

    Dear Chelema…..go ahead with your project.There should be no excuse if it is religion or culture.Every and each of us must condemn it as criminal act because it is a crime.
    Is it not Man´s fear, that his woman may have a better sexual satisfaction rather than at his side.It is a market
    secret, why a Gojjame women is preferable for sex in Ethiopia.Why do we degrade our women as a mere Birth machine
    and stand only for our lonely sexual satisfaction.It is not
    culture or religion who mutilate our mothers and sisters.
    We are the one´s who practice it in the name of culture and
    religion.Let us keep the dignity of our women and show them
    respect and love.
    Chelema ,i wish you all the best for your Film.

  49. 49 fasil gebru

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  50. 50 Mamitu

    Let me put my two cents here: IMO circumcision of females whether it is cutting of the Clitoris or the extreme infibulations practiced in eastern Ethiopia among the Somali, Aderie, Kotoo-Oromo is a crime. And hats of to Chelema for shining light on this ugly practice. And I am thinking that the people who are not happy with what he is trying to do are traditional men who want to keep the status quo. Thank you Chelema for calling a Spade a Spade.

  51. 51 Mest'wat


    First, I would like to congratulate you for creating a noble meaning to your life.
    May you become the loudest voice for those unheard habesha voices!!!

    On this specific issue, I fully support your endeavour to voice the predicament of our young sisters. Personally, as a Muslim habesha I find the root of all problems we see with Muslims today is the result of not understanding and practicing Islam correctly.
    FGM is no exception. Islam NEVER teaches the practice of such a deplorable act of crime.

    The only long terms solution is to EDUCATE!!! If every Muslim in Ethiopia is educated on the correct Islamic view on FGM, I am sure this tradition will be history.

    People are passionate about practicing their religion. And if you correct their islamic understanding on the issue, the passion to change will be there.

    The majority of habesha Muslims are ignorant about some aspect of their religion, especially in the villages. The main reason is lack of proper Islamic education. There are a lot of local traditional and cultural practices incorrectly taken as Islamic practices.

    The most effective way of getting rid of this crime is to educate the Imams (Leaders) of the local mosques on the correct understanding of Islam on this matter and others.

    I would say, Chelema the best way of addressing this issue from your perspective is to include a message from the heads of Islamic leaders condemning this act at the end of your documentary film and show it through local mosques in every town and village.

    And Allah knows best!!!

  52. 52 sahia

    my god lord that was the most disturbing thing ive ever read i knew this went on but didnt know how painful it was

  53. 53 tata

    good one chelema!BTW I know why all of you are trying to be all politically correct by saying we need to educating the people bla bla bla…that does not work. Look at it you were one of them…I know many females who from the city and circumcised and don’t know anything about orgasm… circumcision hast to be illegal to and need to STOP.. Derg did the same thing for the Adal’s that used to cut dicks to be a man and get married. In the mid ’70, the Adal tribe used to put penis on a stick and walk around to show off. That’s not happening anymore, why do you think you don’t hear about it anymore? ‘cause Derg made it illegal. Come on ya! U.S is trying to pass a bill not to spank kids below 3 years old, can’t we just make it illegal and put the parents in jail. Guy’s think about getting laid and not coming for the rest of your life.

  54. 54 injera

    Chelema, You chose a good subject to tackle. Although I can’t make up my mind as to how effective is the approach you followed, your story does speak to the ‘global community’. I was reminded of a speech given by a white female on ‘genital mutilation’ in my public speaking class. She chose the most extreme practice as a topic, and vividly explained it as you have. The only difference, you do not use the term ‘genital mutilation’, but she did as that is the description used by the ‘global community’. After she finished her speech, I explained, as someone who comes from a region where FGM is widely practiced, the speech is misleading. The practice that I am aware of and most people in the region practice is ‘the partial removal of the clitoris’, the full removal of the clitoris and labia and stitching is practiced in my opinion by few. I may be wrong about the percentage split, but my point is those who practice only partial removal of the clitoris know they dont practice FMG as described by the global community; they abhor the bizarre ‘nomadic’ FMG while their form of ‘FMG’ is perfectly acceptable as far as they are concerned.

    I live it to the artist as to how she wants to tell the story, but I will keep an eye on accurate description with statistical breakdown and historical background.

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