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 Of women who set themselves on fire in Iraq's Kurdistan

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Of women who set themselves on fire in Iraq's Kurdistan  23.11.2011  

November 23, 2011

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Women all over the world are immolating themselves for all sorts of reasons, against all sorts of social abnormalities and the same is true in Iraqi Kurdistan where the practice is said to be on the rise.

The figure of women burning themselves alive has gone up from 39 in 1991 to 441 cases in 2010, the London-based Dar al-Hayat reported on Wednesday citing cases registered by the police in Kurdistan region in Iraq's north.

According to the newspaper’s estimates, one girl commits suicide every 20 hours while 14,000 have self-immolated since 1990.   
Until mid- 2011, the percentage of the women committing suicide through self-immolation was slightly more than the same period last year, a female official who wished to remain anonymous told the newspaper.

The official did not want to disclose the exact figure for fear of implicating herself and staff members from investigation.

The figures, however vague, do not indicate how many of the women were killed by their family or forced to take such drastic action because they were accused of tainting their family’s honor. The figure also does not include those who committed suicide and were buried in the mountains in small cemeteries in villages without the knowledge of the region’s authorities.

Abdul Jabar Zibari, a researcher, told the newspaper that the inability of civil organizations in getting the exact figure of the cases, and the reluctance by many investigation centers to follow up with these files, has resulted in the loss of important information that can lead to understanding why women immolate themselves.

Another researcher Ezz al-Din Hafith said that the “the absence of the truths,” from the police files and treating the incidents as just “accidents” make it impossible for any researcher to understand what is happening in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“A lot of these so-called accidents were not convincing to even some of the police officers,” Hafith said.

“Many of the police officers did not want to delve into these files [for fear that it would] embroil them in tribal issues that they did not want to be involved in.”

One policeman told Hafith that after studying dozens of such cases, he learnt that the women chose to kill themselves and with them, bury whatever secret it is they didn’t want their husbands or families to discover.

A former MP and activist in women’s rights, Bakhshan Zanka, said that the violence against women is the number one reason behind the rise in such suicides.

Another activist, Jimin Mohamed Saleh said that “violence, social suppression, and the feeling of oppression and loneliness are also factors that cause the incidents.”

Forced early marriages, failed romances, honor killings in the Iraqi Kurdistan region are all reasons researchers and activists agree are reasons behind this brutal phenomena.

By Al Arabia - Dubai

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