Marie Claire Magazine, Feb.2004: Fatonah is an elementary-school teacher at one of Herat's freshly minted girls' schools, and a graduate student at Herat University.
But her education has not protected her from domestic violence. "For 13 years, Fatonah’s husband beat her," her sister, Hatifah
Khairkhowa, says. "Every time I saw her, she had a new bruise or cut." Fatonah confided in her colleagues about her husband’s abuse, but
they felt powerless.
For years, Fatonah debated whether to leave her husband. But under Islamic law, in cases of divorce, fathers get custody of children over the age of 7, which meant Fatonah would lose two of their children: a 9-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. "I chose my children’s lives over mine," she says. The day that Fatonah burned herself, she’d gone to the bazaar in the morning; at lunchtime, when she returned, her husband castigated her for dallying, and they argued. He told her he would deal with her later. That night, he pressed his knee into her stomach and wrapped his hands around her neck until she gasped for air. Fatonah flailed, hit him in the face, and crawled away. First, she tried electrocuting herself; then, she poured kerosene over her body and lit a match.