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Afghan Wives, Self-Immolation

For many Afghan women, circumstance can lead to desperation. Forced marriages (for girls as young as 12), extreme poverty, family shame. Mental illness sometimes complicates the situation. New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin and photographer Lynsey Addario report on these women and their devastating solution: self-immolation. Setting oneself on fire is a common form of suicide in this part of Afghanistan.

Family members of the survivors are equally devastated. The mother of a teenage wife prays that her daughter does not die with her burns: “That would leave a scar of a thousand years on my heart.”

In October alone, seventy-five women arrived at the Herat Burn Hospital. According to Rubin:

It is shameful here to admit to troubles at home, and mental illness often goes undiagnosed or untreated. Ms. Zada, the hospital staff said, probably suffered from depression. The choices for Afghan women are extraordinarily restricted: Their family is their fate. 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.

The Times sheds light on this disturbing trend. How might these Afghan women find options to setting themselves on fire to escape the entrapment of their daily lives?

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» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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