Conference Seeks to End Self-Immolation in Afghanistan

A conference to find solutions to a growing problem of self-immolation in Afghanistan and other countries began on Tuesday in Kabul, Afghanistan. The conference, hosted by the German women’s rights group Medica Mondiale, includes 400 delegates from nations such as Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, India, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The delegates will hear recent research from Medica Mondiale and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and work to find solutions to the problem. While the number of cases of self-immolation is hard to determine because of lack of proper record-keeping by police and by families hiding the suicide, Medica Mondiale argues that the number is rapidly rising. In Kabul alone, 36 cases of self-immolation have been recorded this year.

While reasons for self-immolation tend to vary, Ancil Adrian-Paul, German program director of Medica Mondiale, believes that most women commit this type of suicide for fear of physical or sexual violence, according to Radio Free Europe. Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Chief Sima Simar said of self-immolation, “It is the final decision for women who don’t have any other way to solve their problems,” BBC reports.

Adian-Paul said he hopes “the conference will raise awareness and move some toward breaking the collusion of silence [We want] to demonstrate to Afghans that it’s not only a problem of Afghanistan, it happens everywhere but people [in their countries] take steps to deal with it,” reported Radio Free Europe.

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BBC News 11/15/06; Radio Free Europe 11/14/06; AFP 11/14/06

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