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Self-Immolation Continues Among Iraqi Kurdish Women

Despite improvements in the condition of women under the Kurdistan Regional Government, cases of self-burning by Iraqi Kurdish women still take place.

Berma, 26, lies in a white hospital bed in the female burn unit in Erbil. Her body lies in an uncomfortable position — because her legs are not allowed to touch the bed — and her eyes show she’s in a lot of pain. Her husband and four children are nowhere to be found; only her best friend stays with her the whole time. The friend softly caresses Berman’s head, the only place on Berma’s body that has no burn marks.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is relatively safe, its economy is flourishing and it is regarded in the West as a liberal haven in an often conservative region. But since the fall of Saddam Hussein, there has been an alarming trend — more than 1,000 women have died after setting themselves on fire. Berma is one of the young women who probably burned herself, although she will never admit it.

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