A 21-year-old Afghan woman by the name of Wahida, lies in a hospital bed with bandages still hurting her skin. The bandages wrapping her body, nearly from head to toe, are there to cover her recent burns. Why is her body so badly burned?
According to ABC News, Wahida set herself on fire in a desperate act after being beat by her husband.
Afghan human rights groups have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of self-immolations across the country by women who are so desperate, so unhappy, that they think the only way to escape is to burn themselves beyond recognition.
Some of the women are hoping to die. Those that don’t want to die, however, want to send a message. Having been treated as nothing more than a commodity their entire lives, setting themselves on fire is a final, desperate act to ruin that commodity’s value.
The women believe that if they are considered worthless, the beatings will stop.
TIME reports that in recent years, this dramatic suicide method employed by Afghan women has drawn wide attention,amid speculation that the trend might be growing.
Some people blame Iranian TV and cinema for romanticizing suicide by fire. Other observers argue that self-immolation has always been a method by which Afghan women try to escape their sorrows and that improved monitoring since the fall of the Taliban has only made it more prominent in public awareness.
The Afghan government, however, says that the number of self-immolations by Afghan women have decreased.
Nevertheless, self-immolation remains both common and poorly understood.
Selay Ghaffar, director of the Kabul-based NGO Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA) said:
“There are seven safe houses in Afghanistan that protect victims of [domestic] violence.”
However, most parts of the country, particularly in the volatile south and east areas, have no such services.
“There is not a single safe house, and no legal-aid center,” says Ghaffar of these regions. “There are many cases that need protection.”