Afghanistan: International Women's Day celebrated with self-immolation

According to the local officials of Herat province, a 45-year-old woman committed self-immolation due to ‘poverty and mental pressures’.
This incident took place two days before the celebration of International Women’s Day in the Oba district in Herat. Including this case, 81 such cases have been recorded in this province’s burn hospital this solar year.
Muhammad Arif Jalali, the administrator of the burn hospital in Herat said, “59 people who were admitted for self-immolation have died. Only four of them were men and the others women.” According to him, 80% of the victims were between the ages of 13 and 25. According to experts, poverty, family problems, forced marriages, age differences between spouses and domestic violence result in women committing self-immolation.

Four months back, 20-year-old Anar Gul chose fire to end her life due to her family problems. She said, “I had arguments with my husband for almost a week. Finally, I was very pressurized one night and threw benzene over myself and set myself on fire. Now it has been four months that I am in this burn hospital and my condition is getting better.”

Lack of Legal Justice

According to the administrators of the hospital, the figures on self-immolation in Herat do not differ much with the last year. But the figures of the city of Herat itself, has decreased by 15%; which at some time, from the year 2004 till 2006 (solar year 1383-1385) took 50% of the total figures on self immolation. But the figures of self-immolation have not decreased in the surrounding districts of Herat city, and 60% of the admitted victims of the burn hospital belong to districts and villages.

Bismullah Bismil, the law adviser of the civic institution ‘Nidae Zan’ (Women’s Voice) states insecurity and lack of law dominance as the reasons for the increasing cases of self-immolation. According to Mr. Bismil, women cannot get justice and therefore commit suicide and set themselves on fire and this is due to the long distance between the villages and the government offices that they cannot reach so there is no justice.

Herat is one of the cities with the highest cases of self-immolation but the local administrators believe that it is because they are officially recorded and at the hands of the media. According to them, women commit self-immolation in other areas of Afghanistan but it is not officially recorded by any government offices nor does it get reflected in the media. According to the experts, such cases will not end until economic and cultural poverty, illiteracy and the lack of legal justice are addressed.

8 March 2009

Source: Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)