Pajhwok Afghan News, August 5, 2007
Cases of Self-Immolation among Women in Balkh Province
"In the past one-month around 20 burn cases came to the hospital and out of these 20 incidents, 10 to 15 were cases of self-immolation."
By Zabihula Ihsas (translated by RAWA)
Mazar-e-Sharif: In the last one-month, cases of self-immolation have considerably increased in Balkh province and four women have committed self-immolation.
Muhammadulah Hamnawa Zada, a doctor in the nursing section of the Balkh provincial hospital, told Pajhwok that in the past one-month around 20 burn cases came to the hospital and out of these 20 incidents, 10 to 15 were cases of self-immolation. He added that these 15 women either set themselves on fire or were set to by their husbands and family members.
RAWA Video Clip of self-immolations in Afghanistan
Dr. Hamnawa Zada says that only five of these incidents have happened accidentally (owing to electricity or explosion of gas cylinder) claiming the lives of two women and three children. He asserts that in the past few months, there used to be three to four burn cases at average every month in his hospital but "now there is considerable increase in such cases".
Shekeba, in charge of the burn section at Balkh provincial hospital, says that burn cases where 50% of the body is inflicted, death is inevitable. According to her most of the above 20 women, have committed self immolation or their husbands or husbands' family members have set them on fire and the percentage of the burns was 80 and there was no chance of them surviving. She says that one of the women who committed self-immolation, died three days ago.
Abdul Hakeem, resident of the Sholgara district of Balkh province whose wife Nasima succumbed to burn injuries in the hospital, said in our village my wife and other women of the village quarrelled over my child and she was beaten up by one of the women. "When my wife wanted to fight with them, one of them with her daughters threw kerosene oil and burnt her," he says.
Some of the main factors behind self-immolation are family disputes, disputes between husbands and wives and violence against women.
Gulafroz, a 35-year-old woman who committed self-immolation, says that ten years ago she was married but she was beaten up throughout by her husband and finally divorced her last month. Because of her husband's brutality and oppressions, she soaked herself with kerosene oil and burnt herself so that she "can be free from all the oppressions", but she survived and now after spending 20 days in hospital, she feels better.
Fariba Majeed, director of women's affairs in Balkh, is of the opinion that forced marriages and domestic violence especially in villages are the main reasons behind women's self-immolation but according to her these problems can be solved through raising awareness among people.
But for Said Ahmad Sami, director of Independent Human Rights Commission in Balkh, there are reasons behind women committing self-immolation. According to him, women and girls have high and great expectations and demands which are not met since husbands' family is unable to fulfil them and it drives women to self-immolation.
Sami states: "Another factor is that men are dominating at home and outside home. Since most women are housewives, they cannot do what they want to do in their families and this makes them to find suicide an option to get rid of these conditions."
He confirmed increase in self-immolation and violence against women but did not give any exact figures.
Self-immolation and suicide first (five years ago) started in Herat province where so far hundreds of women did it and tens of them died.
Human rights activists and women's affairs directors in Herat say that self-immolation is imported phenomenon from Iran but they believe such heart-rending incidents have decreased due to awareness among people.
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