Afghan Wives Set Themselves On Fire

For some Afghan women, the only way out of lives of poverty and abuse is to set themselves on fire.  This form of suicide is common partially because the tools are so readily available: even for the most impoverished of families, matches and cooking fluid are easy to access.  In a medical center specifically designated for burn victims, about 75 women came in with mostly self-inflicted burns through early October, numbers up about 30 percent from last year.

The reasons for this particularly desperate and horrifying form of suicide are simple: women, as Alyssa Rubin points out in the NYT,

“There is little chance for education, little choice about whom a woman marries, no choice at all about her role in her own house. Her primary job is to serve her husband’s family. Outside that world, she is an outcast.”

Women who run away from home may be raped or put in jail; women and girls are still stoned to death.  Other burn victims arrive with wounds that seem to be self-inflicted but were actually attempted homicides.  Rubin writes,

“Doctors cited two recent cases where women were beaten by their husbands or in-laws, lost consciousness and awoke in the hospital to find themselves burned because they had been shoved in an oven or set on fire.”

Afghan women marry extremely young, and some girls are given as payment for debts.  The tendency toward this brutal form of suicide or homicide clearly reflects a wider cultural norm of misogyny that needs to be addressed, or more women will suffer severe consequences.  There isn’t a clear political solution, but the U.S. government should take a clearer stand in demanding rights for women.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

Sadly noted.

Cami O.
Cami O.7 years ago

I completely agree with Tori W. and your thoughts on the subject. The American Government cons, bribes, and bullies everyone and everything. All the while claiming to be innocent and just.

Kendra Richards
Kendra richards7 years ago


Petra Luna
Petra Luna7 years ago

Why are mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, and cousins being treated this way? There's no logical reason.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal7 years ago

How sad that we as human beings treat one another in such a manner.

Tori W.
Past Member 7 years ago

first of all for the US to "demand" equality for woman, is unbelievable. No wonder so many find it easy to hate us without knowing us. We demonstrate such prejudicial, judgmental perspectives while all the time lying to the voters of this country and stealing them blind. Yes, it appears that the ugly american is alive and well. however, maybe we need to take a lesson from the British...earlier this week their representative went to China, observed their cultural norms and requested that the nobel prize winner be freed. the british made no demands, they requested. maybe we should start doing more requesting and less demanding of other countries. giving a country financial or other aid in no way gives us the right or the power to tell them how to live in their culture. now, i am against honor killings and abuses of women, but if we truly want to help these women, this is not the way. we need to find a better way to make it possible that these women will receive more and better rights. i have no other answers yet.

Geynell Eskite
Geynell Eskite7 years ago

I can't imagine what it would be like to live in the Stone Age kind of existence these women face. To have no rights, no hope and no choices must be unendurable. This is what life looks like in a misogynistic, theocratic world.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p7 years ago

very sad situation

Michele C.
Michele C7 years ago

This is really horrible!

Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago

How desperate to escape their circumstances these women must be! I cannot imagine the depths their desperation must reach in order for them to chose such an agonizing death over life the way it is.