Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Increasing number of young Kurdish women dying from burns

The number of women dying from burns is increasing in the Kurdish villages of Iraq. According to a recent Newsweek article on msnbc.com, statistics show that, since August 10, nine deaths have been reported from the cholera epidemic in Kurdistan and during that same period, 25 young Kurdish women have died of burns.

The women who come to the burn units are often reported to have been in an accident, and in many cases their families will tell the doctors that the wounds were from a “cooking accident.”

According to the article, “ninety-five percent of the victims are under 30, and roughly half are between 16 and 21” Half of these girls have suspicious stories to tell about how they got hurt and according to the doctor it’s impossible for an accident to cause the degrees of burns that they often have. In some cases, the burns cover over 90 percent of the victim’s body. According to the article, “Kerosene, the fuel used to cook here, is not particularly volatile; if a woman comes in with burns over the majority of her body, it is likely intentional.”

Death by immolation has a long history among Kurds. “Burning, traditionally, has been the way to die among the Kurdish people,” says Zryan Yones, the Kurdish health minister. According to the article many of teenage girls imitate each other and Heshw Mohammad, a 20-year-old woman, says that self-immolation has become a sort of fashion among teenage Kurdish women.

Many of the burn cases in Kurdistan – whether they are suicides or honor killings – are related to either love or dating.

For the full article, click here.

An LCHR fellow spent several weeks in Iraqi Kurdistan this summer and visited a burn unit in Sulaimaniya, where she spoke with doctors, nurses and patients. Her report will soon be available on LCHR’s webpage: www.leadership-council.org.


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