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Afghan Women Prefer Self-immolation to Escape Their Fate

Updated on November 13, 2010

Woe upon any woman living in Afghanistan that is native. Women in Afghanistan and in adjacent countries generally despise women culturally and are sub-serviant to their husbands. Their movements in a day are so restricted still, despite the "liberation" from the Taliban. Cultural legacies do not die easily in tribal, primitive countries.

For many women, it is a dire existence of boredom, restrict laws that stop their own dreams and just simple movement in society. Their man comes home, the master wants this, wants that. If she refuses, she is abused, hit, shoved, treated like a dog-guess the honeymoon is over! The woman seeks a way out. She becomes despondent.

Take the fate of Gul Zada. She took her children to her sisters for a party for her son Juma. When presents were given, Gul suddenly realized that she had forgotten one! Family members began to give her a bad time. Juma thought little of it. For Zada, 45, it was the straw that broke her. Up until then, she had six children and even was allowed to work as a maid cleaning houses, rare in Afghanistan. Still, she suffered from depression because of her life, or lack of. She was not educated, had no choice about the man she married, she was a slave to her husband. When she went outside, she felt like an outcast. Up until the breaking point, she had thought about just leaving him and the family, but fear of being raped and caught (easily done in this country) and then sent back home to her master where she would be beaten stopped her. Even worse, maybe her husband would just kill her as a honor killing because she spent time unchaperoned out in public where single men roamed. She could also be stoned in public.

By western standards, or any standards, all this is as alien as satanic rituals. But it is true in Afghanistan for women.

Zada, decided to self inflict burns over 60% of her body and fought for her life in a Herat sanctuary, the hospital. Just last month, the hospital had an influx of 75 women who did the same thing. Some of these women were not burned by men, but, family female members who agree with the men and their roles. Zada had hoped to escape by this self burning using match and cooking fuel. If successful, she would get a divorce and her husband would just marry another woman.

Some women arriving at the Herat hospital were not self inflicted. Some, were shoved into an oven by their masters after they had been knocked out, only to awaken in the hospital. For Zada, the self immolation was a painful way to get out of the hell of living with a sharecropper husband who was liberal by Afghanistan standards. He allowed her to work and she would clean their own two bedroom earthen floor and brick home. The thankless task was endless as winds brought in dirt every day. Juma, her 32 year old son who earns $140 a month, she was the provider, not his dad. Her two 10 year old daughters felt the same.

Zada, at first improved. Her sons and daughters were elated. However, sepsis, a deadly infection began to set in, common in severly burned victims. Sepsis is hard to stop even in the USA, expensive antibiotics are needed and they do not always work. Juma had managed to beg and borrow enough for many of the antibiotics.

Zada died two weeks after she lit herself up hoping to escape Afghanistan's hell for women. Juma thought about murdering his dad.

Stay tuned.........


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