I was cut, but today I am proud to be standing up for myself

(First published on March 16, 2016)

Name: Alifya Sulemanji

Age: 42

Country: United States

I, Alifya Sulemanji went through the atrocity of Female Genital Mutilation. It’s been 35 years but I haven’t forgotten that day of my life even today.

One morning my mom told me we were going to visit my aunt who lives in Bhendi Bazaar in Mumbai, where many of the Bohras live. In the midst of the day my mom, aunt and her daughter (my cousin) told me that they were taking me somewhere to remove a worm from me. I was barely 7 years old then and didn’t know what they were really talking about. I blindly followed them. We entered some building and went up the stairs and got into this lady’s house. I had no clue what was going on.

They told me to lay down on the floor assuring me that it was so they could take out a worm from my body and it was going to be very simple. My mom told me she was so devastated, she decided to leave the room and wait outside. They took off my underpants and I saw the lady remove a brand new sharp Topaz blade from the wrapper. They caught my legs and hands so I couldn’t move. I was watching them innocently, not knowing what’s going on. In a few moments, I was screaming in pain. My private part was in terrible shooting pain and I was crying.

They told me to be quiet and I would be fine. The lady dabbed some black power on my cut area to stop me bleeding. After the procedure was done I was told to keep quiet; it was a secret not to be told to anyone.

But today I am sharing my experience with the world.

My life has been different since then. Not that I am not happy and successful, but it has left some everlasting effects on me. I have two lovely daughters. Most of the time I am paranoid about their safety and protection. I keep getting bad thoughts that someone might harm them. People have judged me as an over-protective and possessive mom, but they don’t know where it’s coming from. My husband told me that sometimes at night when we are sleeping, he hears me cry in my sleep. Many times I get nightmares about my daughters being in trouble and I wake up screaming. I have unknown fears and phobias. I have seen a psychologist regarding this.

Today, I am happy and proud for standing up for myself.

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