A Detroit-area physician and his wife have been arrested and charged with conspiring to perform female genital mutilation procedures on girls as young as six, the Justice Department announced on Friday.
Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar, conspired with another doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, to perform the illegal procedures at Attar’s clinic in Livonia, the Justice Department said.
Nagarawala, who worked as an emergency room doctor in Detroit, was charged earlier this week in the case.
“According to the complaint, some of the minor victims traveled interstate to have the procedure performed. The complaint alleges that the FGM procedure was performed on girls who were approximately six to eight years old,” the Justice Department says.
The Attars, who are in their 50s, were arrested Friday morning and are scheduled to appear in federal court in Detroit later in the day.
Dr. Attar is a member of the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque in Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb. The mosque’s website lists him as a treasurer. According to The Detroit News, the mosque is part of a small Muslim sect called Dawoodi Bohra. The group, which originates from India, was involved in a female genital mutilation scandal in Australia in 2015. Nagarawala is a member of that sect.
According to a federal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, Farida Attar assisted Nagarwala in performing some of the procedures. Nagarwala is not employed at the clinic, Burhani Medical Clinic, and did not bill for the illegal work.
The federal complaint shows that investigators obtained phone records for the Attars and Nagarwala in February and March. The records showed that Nagarwala made a series of phone calls to the family of a 7-year-old girl living in Minnesota. It is believed that the calls were made to set up an appointment to perform the FGM procedures.
According to the court filing, the girl’s family members took her and another girl to Detroit for what they called a “special girls’ trip.” One of the girls told FBI forensics investigators that she underwent a procedure intended to “get the germs out.”
A person identified as Nagarwala then “pinched” the girls in their private areas, the girl said.
A doctor in Minnesota examined the girl on April 11 and determined that her “genitals are not normal in appearance.” The physician determined that tissue had been “altered and removed,” and that scar tissue and lacerations were present.
The second girl told an FBI forensics investigator that she “screamed” while undergoing the procedure. She also told investigators that her parents instructed her not to talk about the procedure because it was a secret.
That girl’s parents were interviewed by FBI agents and described the procedure as a “cleansing.”
Fakhruddin Attar told investigators that Nagarwala uses his clinic five or six times a year to perform the cutting procedures. He said that she performs them on Friday evenings or Saturdays and does not charge.
The Justice Department believes that other girls were victimized at the clinic, perhaps as early as 2005. Investigators talked to seven other young girls in Michigan, several of whom said that they had undergone procedures at the clinic.
According to the DOJ, the trio are believed to be the first people charged under a federal law which criminalizes female genital mutilation.
Update: Anjuman-e-Namji Detroit, the mosque attended by the accused, released a statement Friday night.
“The Dawoodi Bohras do not support the violation of any U.S. law, local, state or federal. We offer our assistance to the investigating authorities,” the statement reads, noting that 12,000 Dawoodi Bohras live in the U.S.
“Any violation of U.S. law is counter to instructions to our community members. It does not reflect the everyday lives of the Dawoodi Bohras in America.”
“It is an important rule of the Dawoodi Bohras that we respect the laws of the land, wherever we live. This is precisely what we have done for several generations in America.”
The group says it regularly reminds its members to adhere to local laws. The Detroit congregation was provided a reminder about laws regarding female genital mutilation in May 2016. The Minneapolis congregation was given a similar reminder in March 2016.
“It is unfortunate if anyone has not abided by the laws of the country,” the statement concludes.