Desperate Afghan wives choose self-immolation

The New York Times reports:

“Why did you burn yourself?” asks the doctor. “If I threw myself from a building, I’d break an arm or a leg, but I wanted to die,” Halima answers. “That’s why I set myself on fire. I thought I would die instantly.”

As an answer it is more how than why, but it is enough for Dr. Arif Jalali, the senior surgeon at The Burn and Plastic Surgery Center of Herat Regional Hospital, in western Afghanistan. Afghan women who arrive here have either set fire to themselves, or their families did it to them. Halima did it to herself.

But why, at just 20 years of age? Halima’s circumstances, like those of many of burn victims here, have to be painstakingly pieced together by the doctors and nurses.

It is hard at any time to see another human being’s suffering, but the burns center is pain of a different order. There is every noise a human being can make to express pain — cries, whimpers, groans, pleadings — as bandages are removed, burns cleaned and then wrapped again to protect them from infection. The women inside grip the hands of anyone nearby, digging their fingernails into the nurses’ arms, into my hand if I offer it.

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