THE CIRCUMCISION NEWS LIBRARY
[Warning: Some readers may find this story disturbing.] A Reuters story from the LA Times Sunday, August 19, 1990 Turkey's Circumcision King Savors Boom By: AYSE SARIOGLU REUTERS ANKARA, Turkey Turkey's school summer vacations are boom time for Circumcision King Kemal Ozkan. "Each year about 1 million boys come of circumcision age in Turkey," 58-year-old paramedic Ozkan said. Up to 20 boys a day will pass through his private Istanbul clinic with proud parents paying as much as $200 for the privilege. "Few of them are taken to hospitals because the hospitals are full and mostly equipped for major surgeries," he said. Circumcision is one of the most strictly observed religious practices in secular, though predominantly Muslim, Turkey. Muslim families, 99% of Turkey's 55 million population, regard circumcision as the first step to manhood. Turkish doctors consider circumcision a hygienic and prophylactic practice. Dr. Demokan Erol, chief urologist in an Ankara hospital, said: "Research shows that in communities where early-age circumcision is widely practiced, cancers of the male genitalia have a very low incidence. "I say the best age is from 5 to 9." Why is the operation, usually performed without anesthetic, not done on babies at birth? "The boys must be able to remember the occasion," said Ozkan, with 58,000 circumcisions to his credit in his 26-year-career. And what an occasion it is for Turkish boys as families indulge their every whim and shower them with presents before the painful but blessedly brief surgery. However poor the family, all Turkish boys preparing for circumcision wear an embroidered satin pillbox hat and sash. Though painkillers are rarely part of the ritual, each boy is accompanied by an adult male to give him courage as he faces the knife. The male companion or kirve assumes lifelong obligations to the boy, much like a Christian godfather. The skills of Ozkan and the hygienic conditions under which he performs are not mirrored in much of rural Turkey. In the villages paramedics have rarely had special training in circumcision. Often the operation is performed by handymen whose sole claim to proficiency is inherited from their fathers. There are abundant stories of botched circumcisions leading to severed urethras requiring corrective surgery, infections and even deaths. "We hear of the occasional death occurring from circumcisions made by untrained people," Ozkan said. "Some do not heed rules of hygiene, do not have modern instruments and can cause serious physical or psychological damage to a child." Though the Ministry of Health has no exact figures of deaths or mutilations caused by amateur practitioners, complaints from around the country have spurred government this year to launch a free, nationwide circumcision service. The ministry will provide surgeons, paramedics and nurses to offer supervised health care in each of Turkey's 73 provinces during the main circumcision season. "Unfortunately some of the government-appointed medics are not properly taught to circumcise, but a brief training can make them proficient in modern methods," Ozkan said. Will the free government circumcision service be bad for business? Ozkan doesn't think so.