Self-Immolation in Afghanistan

Trigger warning.

A young burn patient named Zahara sits with gauze over her face to keep the flies off. Zahara never admitted to setting herself on fire.
The Whitney Biennial has an unprecedented gender balance this year, an exciting new development. It comes as no surprise, then, that subject matter like this is part of this year’s show. American photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair has a devastating documentary photography series titled “Self-Immolation in Afghanistan: A Cry for Help.” Since 2005, over 700 women have set themselves on fire in Afghanistan. According to Planet, most incidents were caused by repeated abuse, fear of their husbands and petty household disputes. Echoing intersectionality, Sinclair explains:

You know, it was one thing to show the horrific response these girls have to their lives, but I felt in order to deal with that responsibly, I needed to look at the reasons why this was happening. What was so bad that would cause a woman to set herself on fire?
One common denominator I noticed is that many of these girls were married at a very, very young age, almost prepubescent. The more I work on the issue of child marriage, the more I realize it’s really related to most of the country’s gender issues, from maternal mortality to trafficking to self-immolation. This project actually spurred a lifetime project on the issue of child marriage.

Thanks to a reader for the heads up.

Join the Conversation

  • Nurse_PhD

    Good Lord, this is truly aw(e)ful. How could a young woman, when mistreated, devalued and disempowered, speak out? By hurting herself, of course.

  • Toongrrl

    I hope Zahara feels well and that she’ll find happiness in her life

  • paper tiger

    This problem is more common than most imagine. And it is certainly not limited to Afghanistan.
    I sometimes edit reports on the statistics of similar incidents and it is absolutely heart breaking.
    I wish more would be done to redirect feminist attention to these causes. Why does it seem to me that no one gives a shit?