Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Afghan women choose self-immolation over forced marriage

The women in the new burn unit in Herat tell stories about how they got injured during cooking mishaps or other kind of accidents at home. However, doctors say that the reality is something else - they say that the severe injuries that the women have could only have been caused by self-inflicted burns, CanWest News Service reported Tuesday.

Herat, which lies in western Afghanistan, has the only burn unit in the country because the need is at its greatest there. According to the article: “Setting oneself on fire, or self-immolation, is the preferred method of suicide for Afghan women under age 20 – it’s increasingly seen in Kandahar and common in Herat.”

“This year alone the Herat unit has seen about 70 cases of women setting themselves alight. Some burns at the unit are genuine accidents, but self-inflicted burns make up about 20 per cent of the cases the unit doctors see,” the article says.

The article notes that “Self-immolation is commonly seen among girls and women who have a forced engagement to a man they don't want to marry, or have married into a family where they are beaten or intimidated -- by their husband or in-laws,.” It later adds: “Almost three in five Afghan girls are married before the legal age of 16, according to statistics from the ministry of women’s affairs and women’s organizations. And between 60 and 80 per cent of all marriages are believed to be “forced” – a term that covers a range of practices including marrying off girls to repay debts or resolve conflicts between families, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.”

One medical staffer at the unit, Ebrahim Mohammadi, has his own theory about why even men are turning to self-immolation. “After 28 years of war in Afghanistan, so many people have so many psychological problems.”

For the full article, click here.

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