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The Cycle of Abuse: Faces of Circumcision

Moslem Boy at Ceremony Circumcision (Turkey)

Moslem Circumcision.jpg (23 KB)

Excerpted from "Knife Edge of Manhood" Text and Photograph by Esaias Baitel
Independent on Sunday/London, p. 44, 23 June 1995

In Istanbul's "Circumcision Palace," 10 boys from three to nine years old are sitting on a merry-go-round waiting for one of the most important ceremonies of their lives to begin. Dressed in colourful pasha-style costumes, they are about to be circumcised, like all Muslim boys in Turkey, and the carousel is spinning to the rhythm of a Muslim cleric's chanting.

"It's like Russian roulette," says Kemal Ozkan, laughing. Ozkan, known as the "Sultan of Circumcision," presides over the mass ceremony, stopping the wheel to pick up the boy in front of him for the next operation. Ozkan has done as many as 2,000 circumcisions in a day, and has performed tens of thousands in all.

"If you don't cut, I'll give you double the money that my father is paying you," whispers the seven-year-old to Ozkan. "I don't sell my reputation that cheap," the Sultan of Circumcision jokingly answers, as he grabs the boy's penis.

When all the boys on the wheel have been circumcised, the celebration begins. Traditional music fills the hall and the boys and their families take to the dance floor. But not for long. The anaesthetic only lasts for about two hours, after which the pain sets in.

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