New Delhi: Jihadists in Iraq have ordered that all women between the ages of 11 and 46 must undergo female genital mutilation, which could affect up to four million women and girls in the war-ravaged country, a UN official said Thursday.
But doubts emerged on social media about the basis for the report. One document posted on Twitter suggested it may be a year old and have been issued by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, the group's previous name.
Other internet comments, including from Middle East analysts, questioned whether the order fitted with the cultural traditions of the region.
A UN spokesman in Geneva said that it was seeking clarity and trying to establish the facts.
Such a "fatwa" issued by the Sunni Muslim fighters would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Jacqueline Badcock told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Arbil.
There was no immediate comment from Islamic State which has led an offensive through northern and western Iraq.
The world body has zero contact with Islamic State, but works through tribal leaders in the affected areas.
FGM, the partial or total removal of external female genitalia, is a tradition practised widely in many African and Muslim countries and often justified as a means of suppressing a woman's sexual desire to prevent "immoral" behaviour.
Worldwide, more than 130 million girls and women have undergone FGM and more than 700 million women alive today were children when they were married.
The practice of FGM previously occurred only in isolated pockets of Iraq, mainly Kurdistan.
Mosul city currently has about two million residents, more than half of whom are women as there are many female-headed households in the area.