News from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
News from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)






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BBC Persian, September 2, 2007

Anger of Fire: 46 Self-immolation in Six Months in Herat

Women who in their bid to escape domestic violence, poverty or forced marriages have committed self immolation.

By Wasi Sorosh (translated by RAWA)

Heart - Officials in charge of the Heart city central hospital say that since the beginning of this year (Afghan year), 26 cases of self immolation have been registered in the hospital.

Doctor Mohmad Arif Jalali, director of Burnt Center at the hospital, said that most of the victims who have approached us were women who in their bid to escape domestic violence, poverty or forced marriages have committed self immolation.

RAWA Video Clip of self-immolations in Afghanistan

Dr. Jalali told BBC that most of these women have used kerosene oil to burn themselves and as a result the percentage of their burns was above 90 per cent and ‘there is neither any treatment for such patients inside Afghanistan nor even in foreign since such patients have very little chance'. Mr. Jalali said that mostly the families of the victims in order to escape accountability and legal prosecution, refrain from talking about the self immolation of their family members. He says: "Relatives of the victims make the patients not to say anything about the incidents because if they do so, the doctors and the administration will not treat them."

Little chance of survival:

Dr. Barakut Allah Mohammadi, in charge of emergency section of Heart hospital, also confirms that less than one forth victims who have come to be treated here had any chance of survival. Mr. Mohammadi asserts that the numbers of patients were not coming merely from Heart but from provinces such as Badghes, Ghor, Farah and Nimroas are rushed here because ‘we have better equipments here'.

In the past two there were reports of high rate of burn cases in this province because of violence, abuses and torture of victims by their husbands and despite the presence of consultation centers for women and women's rights, institutions this rate is still very high.

Mr. Mohammadi thinks the main reason behind the self immolation of women is lack of awareness, economic poverty and family problems.

To him the most effective way to reduce self immolation is raising awareness in this regard. He says: "Women's council, religious administration and scholars and media in cooperation with health ministry are raising awareness among people which has resulted in reduction of burnt cases in cities but in remote areas where people are not aware of while literacy is not high, self immolation among women is very much visible''.

Mr. Mohammadi adds: "In rural areas, level of awareness and literacy is so low that when they rush a victim of burns to the hospital, they refrain from telling the truth about the burnt women and say it has happened accidentally."

Responsible personnel of Heart central hospital and public health administration of the city are trying to change this strong belief and raise awareness in this regard.

Last option?

Dr. Sayeed Sabor Mansori, a psychologist, while expressing his views regarding women's self immolation, said: "The most important reason behind self immolation is domestic problems. Most of the women are abused by their families especially their husbands and when they resist they are beaten up and are brought under pressure but when they find no one to defend them the only option left to them is to put themselves on fire."

According to Mr. Mansori, another cause of self immolation among women is media's wrong approach to this issue. He says: "Some sections of media without consulting psychologists publish reports about women's self immolation and by publishing such reports the media paves way for women who were not educated that self immolation is the only way if they want to get rid of domestic violence."


Photojournalist Paula Bronstein, who has photographed tens of self-immolation victims in the Herat Regional hospital Burn unit, wrote:
"The medical staff at the Herat hospital says that they have registered around 700 self-immolations cases so far this year."
Getty Images, November 16, 2006

One of the methods Mr. Mansori is proposing to prevent and reduce self immolation is to train journalists' on reporting these cases so that people do not deduct wrong conclusions from the reports published. Mr. Mansori also stresses steps, in order to eliminate self immolation among women, awareness and solutions to overcome domestic violence.

Mr. Mansori stresses that the awareness should not be about preventing self immolation because in his opinion such information may backfire as these would instead of reducing burn cases would rather lead to an increase and will even drive those women to commit self immolation who never before had considered self immolation.

Self immolation remains one of the most critical social issues in Afghan society especially in western parts of the country where the rate has been very high and on daily bases a girl who is forcibly married or a woman who wants to be free from domestic violence is becoming a victim of this phenomena.

Afghanistan is one of the countries where violence against women is wide spread and civil society and human rights organizations' efforts to reduce such violence against women who are called black head or weak have little achievements.

Category: Women - Views: 10604


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