Some of the photos are disturbing, especially two of young girls, aged 11 and 15, who burned themselves in suicide attempts.
The girls are from Afghanistan…
Setting Herself Ablaze
“I took the bottle of petrol and burned myself,” Fariba, who is 11 and lives in Herat, told me. “When I returned to school, the kids made fun of me. They said I was ugly.” She now says, “I regret my mistake.” The reasons for her action are unclear; Fariba claimed a woman came to her in her dreams and told her to burn herself. Many Afghan women burn themselves because they believe suicide is the only escape from an abusive marriage, abusive family members, poverty, or the stress of war. If they do survive, women fear being shamed or punished for what they did and may blame a gas explosion when they were cooking. Doctors know when the burns were intentional from their shape, location, and smell.
To view the entire photograph, see the photo gallery. (There are some optimistic images as well.)
I originally happened on the photographs by accident, looking for images of the Middle East. When I went back to look for them, I did a search under “Afghanistan” and found nothing. Then I went back and searched under “women”. There they were.
How very odd they do not come up under a search for Afghanistan. I’m not quite sure how to think about this. Are Afghanistan’s women not part of the country? Sort of like how certain American newspapers relegate topics about the home to a “women’s section”, as if women should not be reading the front page–or featured on it? Or are the Afghan child suicides symbolic of something larger, more global, a fundamental failure to protect the most vulnerable members of our world?
In this country we recently had a series of tragic suicides by young gay men because of taunting and harassment. I wrote about it here: “Gay bullying: the dead“. There were various responses. Here’s one church’s statement: audio|transcript [“…we must speak words of acceptance . . . at work, in school, at home, on the street corner, on line. We cannot let the gracelessness of our culture drive more people to their deaths over issues of gender identity…”]. And there was a “wear purple on October 20” Facebook campaign (link inactive) that went viral–several of us changed our icons purple. It’s unfortunate that sometimes it takes someone’s death to get public recognition that something is wrong.