Afghan Women Continue to Burn Themselves to Death
"I'm Laura Bush, and I'm delivering this week's radio address to kick off a world-wide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the al-Qaida terrorist network and the regime it supports in Afghanistan, the Taliban. That regime is now in retreat across much of the country, and the people of Afghanistan -- especially women -- are rejoicing."
-Laura Bush, November 17, 2001
Blood dripped down the 16-year-old girl’s face after another beating by her drug addict husband. Worn down by life’s pain, she ran to the kitchen, doused herself with gas from a lamp and struck a match.
Desperate to escape domestic violence, forced marriage and hardship, scores of women across Afghanistan each year are committing suicide by fire. While some gains have been made since the fall of the Taliban five years ago, life remains bleak for many Afghan women in the conservative and violence-plagued country, and suicide is a common escape.
Young Gulsum survived to tell her story. Her pretty face and delicate feet were untouched by the flames, but beneath her red turtleneck sweater, floral skirt and white shawl, her skin is puffy and scarred.
Reliable statistics on self-immolation nationwide are difficult to gauge. In Herat province, where the practice has been most reported and publicized, there were 93 cases last year and 54 so far this year. More than 70 percent of these women die.
“It’s all over the country. The trend is upward,” said Ancil Adrian-Paul of Medica Mondiale, a nonprofit that supports women and girls in crisis zones.