Self-Immolation Among Iraqi Kurdish Women

"My nylon dress caught fire because of the uncontrollable heating stove. It all went so fast, I can’t really remember it. The neighbor heard me screaming and ran upstairs to put me in the shower," she adds.

Mediya’s husband died during the last war, and after that she had to flee to another country. She is originally from Iran, but says she cannot be herself over there, and that’s why she’s always traveling back and forth. Like many other Kurdish women, she also denies that the burning incident was self-inflicted.

Silently she weeps. The tears are sliding down her cheeks, down to her neck, toward the bandages on her chest. Her cousin gives her a paper towel. “I didn’t pay enough attention. It was a mistake," Mediya continues.

In the police department of the hospital, the officer shows a few documents about burning cases that happened during the last couple of months. The files are all closed. Without the actual testimony of a victim, police officers are not allowed to start an investigation.

"These victims did not suspect that they would survive the suicide attempt. Now, they are really desperate and unhappy because they are still alive. Most likely they will try it again," the officer says, and points out a timetable showing the daily temperatures during the latest burn cases. When Berma and Mediya caught fire “because of the heating stove," it was between 28 and 32 degrees Celcius (92.4 to 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Hot spring days," he concludes.

Brenda Stoter is a Dutch journalist who writes about Egypt and Syria and about Kurds in Iraq and Turkey. Her articles have been  published by Al-Jazeera, as well as being featured in Dutch national newspapers and magazines such as Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Next, Het Parool and Elsevier. On Twitter: @BrendaStoter

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