by Nathan Hamm on 4/29/2004 · 2 comments

Via Bloggin the Stans and a reader (who sent me the non-registration required link), I see that Knight-Ridder has a story on suicide by self-immolation among young, rural women.

Read it, it’s a damned sad story (with an allusion to the fire-worshipping past). I just want to add a little color lest you think this is something that happens solely with women. That suggests the following–men do this too. Not as often. Men do have more chances for escape than death, but fire is one of the few good options that anyone has in Uzbekistan (besides undiluted vinegar).

I am glad to see a story that captures the situation that young, rural women are in once they get married though. The whole kaelin system, which involves what amounts to slavery to the mother-in-law, is horrible. Mothers will often select a bride for her son based on the young woman’s qualities of subservience and ability to serve tea correctly. Imagine that being expected of you until your mother-in-law dies (because you probably live with her) as you’re trying to raise a flock of children.

But Uzbekistan isn’t the only place this is happening. IWPR says that suicide by fire is on the rise in Afghanistan.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Matt April 30, 2004 at 10:59 am

Do you think suicide by fire is actually “on the rise,” or is being reported more? Either way, it’s a pretty damning symptom of some massive cultural pathologies and ingrained barbarism.

Nathan April 30, 2004 at 3:59 pm

I don’t know that it’s on the rise or being reported more. I’m sure that info on suicide rates in Uzbekistan is very unreliable, if not falsified outright. For both Uz and Afghanistan, I’m sure there’s just more notice of these things because there are foreign aid agencies and whatnot in these places now.

I guess I didn’t mention it here, but don’t read too much into the method. There are no guns really, and self-immolation seems to be a “traditional” way of suicide. When we hear about it, it seems shocking and implies that things would have to be worse than we can imagine to opt for this kind of death. It’s just the way it’s done. An old grandma told another volunteer that the government should just let everyone get guns, it’d make things a lot easier.

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