Suicides Drive Move to Help Afghan Women Seeking to escape cultural oppression and economic hardship, an alarming number of Afghan women are taking their own lives. The trend has prompted a bill aimed at ending such practices as forced marriages.
NPR logo

Suicides Drive Move to Help Afghan Women

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6777775/6777776" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Suicides Drive Move to Help Afghan Women

Suicides Drive Move to Help Afghan Women

Suicides Drive Move to Help Afghan Women

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6777775/6777776" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Seeking to escape cultural oppression and economic hardship, an alarming number of Afghan women are taking their own lives. The trend has prompted a bill aimed at ending such practices as forced marriages.

: Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: So why are girls killing themselves? The reasons vary, says Dr. Soraya Sobrang of the Independent Human Rights Commission.

SORAYA SOBRANG: (Through translator) Family violence and bad parts of tradition that lead to forced and early marriages are the main factors.

SARHADDI NELSON: Nadia Hanife(ph), director of the Afghan Women's Education Center, adds many of the victims are former refugees who tasted a freer life in Iran and Pakistan. Coming back here only to be married off by their fathers to collect a dowry, settle a debt, or repent for a crime just doesn't cut it. Hanife says many of these women are also beaten by their husbands or in-laws.

NADIA HANIFE: They don't have any other option, where they should go. Other family members, they will never accept them. So what they can do? Nothing.

SARHADDI NELSON: that come from their families or from their friends or from society. This makes some do these things.

SARHADDI NELSON: Fatma, who wears Western jeans with a black veil over her hair, says she and her friends frequently talk about ways to commit suicide almost as much as they talked about boys. She says she regrets trying to kill herself, but she still thinks there are worse options for an Afghan girl than suicide.

FATMA: (Through translator) One of my friends, she ran away with a guy, but two or three weeks later returned home. That's not right. I think it's better to swallow an overdose of pills than to ruin her reputation or her parent's reputation.

SARHADDI NELSON: The law would ban forced marriages and dowries, and boost women's protection against domestic violence. But Sahaq admits it's an uphill battle, given centuries of tribal traditions that ignore Islamic tenets protecting women.

MALIHA SAHAQ: (Through translator) We live in a society where men rule. Because of men's rule, women don't have any place. This is the truth.

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.