Police in the north Iraqi city of Arbil said on Saturday they have arrested a teenage construction worker suspected of raping 14 young girls.
Tareq Nuri, the head of "asayesh" or Kurdish internal security forces in Arbil, said the accused confessed to raping the girls, all aged between six and nine, in deserted buildings or houses under construction.
"Some families kept the subject of the rapes to themselves because of the conservative traditions of the city," Nuri said at a news conference.
Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region is regarded as conservative even by Middle Eastern standards.
It has passed laws criminalising female circumcision and domestic violence that have been lauded by rights groups, but these laws have yet to be fully implemented.
Police in the region are widely seen as reluctant to investigate deeper in cases involving violence against women, aid workers and rights groups say.