Istanbul, Turkey

Circumcision is not compulsory according to the Koran, but the practice is part of the sunna that the Prophet Muhammad decreed as proper observance of Islam. Summer is high season for the circumcision industry in Istanbul and at this time of year many boys clad like sultans and about to be circumcised can be seen among the crowds.

Newly circumcised boy

Newly circumcised, this nine-year-old boy living in a suburb of Istanbul proudly poses in his sultan outfit. As is the custom, his family has worked hard to make his bed fit for a sultan.

Boy waiting for circumcision

At three-and-a-half, this boy is younger than usual because his parents want him to undergo the ritual with his older brother. The ceremony will be performed at home by a licensed circumciser.


Many are circumcised by the famous Kemal Özkan, who in the peak season receives 30-40 boys a day. Here the operation is performed by his son Murat, while the family, who have been called up on stage, give the boy their support.


A few days before or shortly after the circumcision, a henna party is held at home. The boy’s fingers are smeared with the red dye which is associated with good luck and happiness. Relatives and friends, who arrive with gifts, also celebrate the boy by dancing.

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