Afghan Wives' Horrific Way Out: Cooking Fuel, a Match

A look at the women who choose fire as a way to escape ... but survive

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 8, 2010 8:19 AM CST

(Newser) – In Afghanistan, the most desperate women turn to items that even the poorest have access to as a way of escape: matches and cooking fuel. The New York Times takes a heart-wrenching look at the women who burn themselves in failed suicide attempts driven by forced marriages, abuse, and crippling depression. The patients of the Herat burn hospital, the country's only center focused on such victims, are growing in number—75 were admitted early last month, up 30% from last October.

The Times looks into the faces behind the numbers: One, Farzana, was married at age 12, and set herself on fire at just 17, tired of years of beatings from her husband and in-laws. "The thing that forced me to set myself on fire was when my father-in-law said: ‘You are not able to set yourself on fire,'" she explained. Others were actually burned by their husbands and mother-in-laws. As for why they take this route, one doctor says the women assume death will be instant, and fool-proof. One patient considered jumping from a roof, but feared she'd only break her leg. With fire, "It would all be over."

Fatima,19, sits in her bed with burns over 55% of her body at the Herat Regional hospital Burn unit.
Fatima,19, sits in her bed with burns over 55% of her body at the Herat Regional hospital Burn unit.   (Getty Images)
This is the second time that Hayato has burned herself, the first time was a year ago.
This is the second time that Hayato has burned herself, the first time was a year ago.   (Getty Images)
Nazgul, 35, a self-immolation victim takes a few steps outside the burn unit at the Herat Regional hospital.
Nazgul, 35, a self-immolation victim takes a few steps outside the burn unit at the Herat Regional hospital.   (Getty Images)
Nazgul, 35, a self-immolation victim sits on her hosptial bed covered by her headscarf at the Herat Regional hospital.
Nazgul, 35, a self-immolation victim sits on her hosptial bed covered by her headscarf at the Herat Regional hospital.   (Getty Images)
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