An interview with Waris Dirie by Zara Majidpour
We have been hearing bad news about Somalia for many years, an unstable country, rape, starvation, piracy and recently the armed group of Al-Shabab which has ties to Al-Qaida.
But within the chaos, some beautiful, artistic and intelligent women rose and are showing another image of the country.
Waris Dairi is one of those women, a “Desert flower” who became the voice of the children. She was born in the Somali in 1965 and as a teenager moved to London. There her beauty was discovered by “Terence Donovan”, a fashion photographer and she became a famous supermodel. As an actress, she played in the James Bond movie “The Living Daylights”. She wrote a book called “Desert Flower”, a powerful story of her life and is a fighter against female circumcision.
I interviewed Waris Dirie and she answered my questions:
Question: Let's go back to the day you were genitally mutilated. Will you tell us what you went through on that day?
Waris Dirie: My mother took me from our nomad camp to the desert, we met an old woman, the cutter. While my mother held me down the woman cut with a razorblade my inner and outer labia, the clitoris and then she stitched up my vagina with thorns of a bush. She left just a tiny whole for urinating. I was only three years old and nobody can imagine the pain I had to go through. It´s the worst torture you can do to a little girl. For days I was fighting for my life, I developed high fever and fainted many. My older sister did not survive, as many other girls. Even I was a little girl, I knew that this was wrong and I knew that I will fight against this crime one day. But I did not know where, when and how.
Q: You left your home at the age of 13 after being forced to marry an old man. It should be difficult for a young girl to challenge tradition in a traditional country like Somalia. How did you do it?
Waris: The only chance for me was to run away from home. Tradition can be a beautiful thing but there are very harmful traditions, like FGM, forced marriages and other crimes on women and that has to be stopped. They harm women and they harm the society the women live in. Societies who are not able to stop harmful traditions belong to the poorest and lowest educated societies in our world. Education is key.
Q: Every day 8000 female children undergo the inhuman procedure of female genital mutilation (FGM). How can this inhuman practice be stopped?
Waris: As I said: Education is key, many people in those countries where FGM is practiced are still illiterate. Parents refuse to send their girls to school as they do not respect them as equal to boys. Furthermore we need laws and perpetrators have to be brought to justice, otherwise they will take this seriously. The international community, the governments and the religious leaders, who have great influence, refuse to protect these girls, their efforts are ridiculous small. I do not understand why they hate women so much. Without women they would not even exist. But things are changing, especially young people oppose those criminal practices, many of them have access to social media via internet. We have more than 2 million people on our social media platforms, from Africa, Asia, Arab World, Europe, America and Australia. Things are on the move!
Q: You have a foundation called Desert Rose. What exactly does it do?
Waris: The name of the Foundation is Desert Flower Foundation – named after my first book, published in 1997 and the feature film, produced in 2009 “Desert Flower”
We raise awareness against FGM through international campaigns, we save girls threatened by FGM and we offer reconstructive surgery for victims of FGM. You can find all information on our website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Q: If you become president of Somalia, what is your plan with children?
Waris: Let them grow up in peace, give all of them the chance to go to school, stop Female Genital Mutilation and the abuse of children and women. Teach them to love and respect each other, the nature and the world they live in.
This interview was translated into Persian (Farsi) and published in Shahrzadnewswebsite.