Self ImmolationPosted: July 10, 2012
I’m trying to be inspired and getting my writing back, but it’s taking a while. So in the meantime I thought I’d share this post for you. I wrote it just over a year ago on my old blog, and it gives a glimpse into what I do in Central Asia, and why.
Self Immolation is the act of setting oneself on fire, normally with the purpose of ending one’s life. As with all suicidal means, it is also used as a way of escaping their current life, or as a cry for help.
Self Immolation is a common issue among women in this country. I am told that across the country cases seem to be lessening, over the past few years, as women’s rights increase and more freedoms are given.
Women who survive and are treated in the various burns units across the country often tell tales of how they were unhappy with their standard of living. Forced marriages, domestic violence, abuse from in-laws, being forced to stay inside the home, lack of access to education, extreme poverty, all these are given (often combined) as reasons for the suicide attempt.
I often go to visit organized groups of poor women in their homes as part of my work here. The other day I went to one of these groups and one staff member noticed that one of the ladies (We’ll call her Obeda) was missing, we asked after her and this is the story that was given to us:
“Obeda died last week. She was very upset with her life, she was not given permission to do anything, coming to this group was the only time she could leave her house. Her husband would be very angry at her, and if she did something wrong he would hit her. Her life was very difficult, and she was sad. One day X and I heard her scream, it was the daytime and I knew her husband was at work. I ran to her compound and when I went through the door I could smell the diesel, I saw fire on her body, then X came into the compound too. We fetched water and put it on Obeda but her burns were very bad. We took her to the hospital, the doctor said she was very ill. The next day she died.”
I had never met Obeda, but some of my colleagues had, she was a young women, late 20’s. I am told that she was always eager to learn, and that the group was where she found her identity and breathing space.
Stories like that of Obeda are far too common here, the issues she faced in life, and the way she chose self immolation to end it. This is one of the reasons I do the work I do, to help women realize their rights, to help them be able to discuss issues of domestic violence, forced marriages, lack of education, to teach them how to cope with emotional stresses, to diffuse conflicts in the household, to try and break the cycle of some of the negative things, and to reenforce and encourage the many positive aspects. To work to bring joy, hope, and freedom.