Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Burqas And Blazing Women

Gelsum's hands are scarred by the fire she ignited in the hope she would die.

Beaten once again by her husband, desperate to escape a marriage of arrangement, not love, the young Afghan woman broke from her husband's grasp, ran to their kitchen, poured oil from a lantern over herself, and lit herself on fire.

She is desperately sad that she did not die.

Most don't -- and there are many, many Afghan women choosing fiery suicide over life with violent, unloving husbands. Reports AP:

Reliable statistics on self-immolation nationwide are difficult to gauge. In Herat province, where the practice has been most reported and publicized, there were 93 cases last year and 54 so far this year. More than 70 percent of these women die.

"It's all over the country. ... The trend is upward," said Ancil Adrian-Paul of Medica Mondiale, a nonprofit that supports women and girls in crisis zones.

The group has seen girls as young as 9 and women as old as 40 set themselves on fire. But many incidents remain hidden, Adrian-Paul said.

"A lot of self-immolation and suicide cases are not reported to police for religious reasons, for reasons of honor, shame, stigma. There is this collusion of silence," Adrian-Paul said on the sidelines of a conference this week in Kabul on self-immolation.

This is the second time I've written about this situation this month; the first was from a Times of London report.

Pertinent as we consider this distressing news is the report out of Holland that the Dutch are considering banning burqas. Bookworm provides the clear analysis:

And for those who decry this move as a blow against religious freedom, let me say a few things. First, the burqa isn’t necessarily a religious statement, but is more a cultural and political statement (as I’ve blogged about before). Second, in today’s world, where Muslim men are hiding their violent acts behind women’s burqas, the Dutch are right to view this as a safety matter. Third, where Muslim men are using unveiled women as an excuse for rape and other sexual assaults, having a law that removes burqas entirely from the female population should have an interesting effect on the dynamic behind that misogynistic excuse for rape.

Afghanistan is one of the more backward of the Muslim nations, but that doesn't take way the fact that Islam is the most backward of the world's major religions. Muslims might argue that the Koran doesn't encourage the abuse of women, but Muslim culture does, and the religion's leaders are just fine with that.

As it becomes clearer that democratization of Islamic nations may be impossible in our lifetimes, say a prayer for Muslim women. It may be the only protection they get.

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