Dr. Fakhruddin Attar was arrested in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Michigan Friday, accused, along with his wife Farida Attar, of involvement in the same female genital mutilation conspiracy that led to the landmark arrest last week of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala.
The three suspects now charged represent the first prosecution in the United States for female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice common primarily in Muslim countries, particularly those in Africa. For example, UNICEF estimates that 98% of Somali girls and 87% of Egyptians have endured the procedure.
FGM perpetrates a range of different mutilations on its victims—mostly young girls. In its most extreme from, called infibulation, the girl is left with virtually no externally visible genitalia. The clitoris and labia are removed entirely and what is left is sown together, leaving only a small hole from which to urinate and menstruate.
As in the case of Dr. Nagarwala last week, the 16-page criminal complaint issued against Dr. Attar and his wife in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Friday refers to “a particular religious and cultural community” without specifying that community. It is now believed that that community is the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect, whose world leader, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, has called for the tradition to continue.
According to the complaint, Dr. Attar owns Burhani Medical Center in Livonia where the seven-year-old victims from Minnesota that Nargarwala is charged with mutilating were brought. He and his wife were both allegedly present when the girls arrived with their parents for the procedure.
According to the complaint against Nargawala, the victims’ parents brought them to the Detroit area for the grusome procedure. The girls were told it was to be a “special girls trip.” The parents also allegedly said the cutting would “get the germs out” and that they were not to talk of what happened inside the Burhani clinic.
One of the girls later told the FBI she screamed in pain as she endured what Dr. Nargawala called “getting a shot.” She then said she was barely able to walk as she left the clinic. Upon examination by doctors working with the FBI, both seven-year-olds were found to have genitalia that was “abnormal looking” with “scar tissue” and “small healing lacerations.”
Farida Attar, the clinic owner’s wife, is alleged to have held girls’ hands in the examination room as Dr. Nargawala went about her work. According to the complaint, she was later caught on a federal wiretap telling parents of FGM victims to deny they had brought their daughters to Burhani clinic for the procedure.
Authorities believe the conspiracy extends beyond the two named victims and that the defendants have been carrying out FGM on girls from the Detroit area and beyond since 2005. According to the complaint, multiple Michigan girls have come forward to say Dr. Nargawala mutilated them in Dr. Attar’s clinic years ago. Authorities believe Nargawala was invited to the Burhani clinic from her normal job as a hospital emergency room doctor to carry out FGM on the weekends when the clinic was officially closed. Farida Attar is alleged to have told authorities she came in to see six to nine girls a year.
In a statement accompanying the first arrest, Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said, “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.”
Each count of FGM could yield the co-conspirators up to five years in federal prison.