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Battered for years, Afghan women seek a voice

world Updated: Mar 25, 2009 02:01 IST
Renuka Narayanan
Renuka Narayanan
Hindustan Times
Battered for years

Last Monday, on March 16, a 27-year-old Afghan woman burnt herself to death in Pushtoon Azrghon district of Heart province in West Afghanistan. Local officials confirmed that she did so because of “domestic violence.”

A week before that on International Women’s day, a 45-year-old woman burnt herself to death for “mental pressures”.

In February 2009, 16 cases of women immolating themselves were reported in Baghdis province and the Burns Ward in hospitals
across the country reportedly reek of charred flesh and resound with the screams of dying women.

Suicide by self-immolation has become a form of protest, the only way out of intolerable lives for Afghan women, say the reports of ‘RAWA’ (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), founded by Kabul-born ‘Meena’ (1956-1987) who was killed in Quetta by the minor ‘warlord’ Gulbuddin Hekmatyar alledgedly at the instance of the KGB.

“Today (under US-supported Karzai democracy), the situation is slightly better in the northern regions like Balkh, which border Uzbekistan, but very bad under the Taliban in southern provinces like Kandahar that border Pakistan,” says Nasima Azkia, 25, one of 25 Afghan women activists now in New Delhi for a five-day workshop on gender rights and laws.

It is organised by the NGO, International Women’s Rights Action Watch, in coordination with the Afghan Women’s Skill Development Centre and Indian NGO, Sangat.

“Thirty years of war. I have seen women, children and old people being killed endlessly with my own eyes,” says Shehida Hussain, 53, of Kandahar. “The Afghan woman is tired of war and persecution. Tired.”