Up in Flames

Life ain't easy for many Kurds. And for Kurdish women, death ain't easy either. Suicide rates are high among rural Kurdish women. But in a place where only the men have guns, there aren't any tall bridges and pills are too expensive, the favorite method of suicide is self-immolation using household materials like cooking fuel and matches. Every year, dozens of Kurdish women burn themselves.layla_zeen.jpgHere in Kurdistan, there is a lot of violence against Kurdish women, says Layla Ali. She blames men, of course." "Husbands, brothers, fathers, managers. All men.Layla is the program director at ZEEN, an Erbil radio station that broadcasts programs spotlighting suicide and other women's issues. She and other Kurdish women's advocates say that Kurdistan's culture of machismo breeds domineering and abusive husbands and vengeful, honor-minded fathers and brothers. In conservative areas, Kurdish women are kept indoors from the moment they show signs of sexual maturity until old age robs them of that same sexuality. Meanwhile they marry young and have kids, lots of them as many as a dozen is common -- and mind the men in their lives. That most Kurds are Muslim only fuels this dynamic. And that Kurdish women all have access to satellite TV, where they can see marriages that aren't so exploitative, makes their shackles all the more unbearable. Hence the self-immolation.Even the government -- a boys' gun club if there ever were one - is cognizant of the problem. Regional Speaker Adnan Mufti is calling for education programs to advocate later marriage and discourage domestic abuse.In the meantime, women like Layla keep fighting the flames.-- David Axe

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