Afghanistan: With nowhere to turn, Nimroz women choose suicide

A woman at a hospital in Nimroz province, Afghanistan.

Attempted suicide and suicide, as well as violence against women, have dramatically increased following the Taliban takeover in Nimroz province in Afghanistan, sources familiar with the matter told Amu.

According to the sources, four women who attempted suicide were admitted to the provincial hospital in the last 24 hours. In most cases, forced marriage and domestic violence contributed to female suicide and attempted suicide rates, the sources added.

All women’s rights institutions, including the Ministry of Women’s Affairs; the Independent Human Rights Commission; and the women’s support department in judicial departments such as the Family Conflict Resolution Directorate at the Police Headquarters, the Legal Assistance Directorate at the Justice Department, Prosecutor for Prohibition of Violence Against Women – the family courts – were dissolved after the Taliban regained power in August last year.

In addition, women attorneys have also been barred from working and all the safe houses, and shelters that housed Afghan girls and women trying to escape domestic and sexual abuse, and forced marriages, were closed down by the Taliban.

The Taliban’s restrictions on women are associated with increased domestic violence, sources said adding that the dramatic increase in female suicide attempts in the small province of Nimroz is concerning.

A nurse at Zaranj Provincial Hospital, who wished to remain anonymous due to security threats, told Amu TV that four suicide cases and one case of strangulation were registered at the hospital in the last 24 hours and that three patients are currently hospitalized.

Ruqia’s three attempts at suicide

Ruqia, a 23-year-old mother of three children aged between two and seven, spoke out about her situation and told Amu TV that she has tried to commit suicide three times. Each time a different way.

Ruqia said she consumed rat poison at her home in the Dilaram district. But she survived after her neighbors rushed her to Zarang hospital.

Ruqia, who is suffering from mental health problems, stated that her father was disabled and blind, her mother has passed away, and she has no elder brother to support her.

“I was forced into marriage seven years ago. I am 23 years old and my husband is 50 years old. He has another wife with five sons as well. My husband and his first wife and their children have been oppressing me since I got married. I knocked on every gate, nobody helped me in Delaram. I tried to commit suicide three times to get free [from the situation]. If the Taliban don’t save me from this cruel man, I will try to commit suicide again, maybe my problems will end when I am dead,” she said.

She added that her husband uses marijuana, and her he has “divorced me many times, but he denies it”, and “the Taliban should help me, stone me, kill me, but don’t send me back to him, I’m tired of life.”

Ruqia again tried to take her own life on Friday when she tried to set herself on fire, using a gas cylinder in the hospital. She was saved by the hospital staff who medicated her and kept her in the hospital.

Forced into marriage

Sources told Amu TV that three victims of forced marriages, including 16-year-old Fatima, have attempted suicide in the past 24 hours in the province. One of whom remains in critical condition.

Fatima was rushed to Zaranj hospital on Friday night after attempting suicide. Sources said she had consumed poison but despite doctors having pumped her stomach, she remains in a coma.

Fatima’s family said: “We forced her to marry her cousin. Last night, after missing for hours, we found her unconscious in her room, and she had thrown away her engagement ring.”

Another victim of forced marriage, also a young 16-year-old, is currently being treated in the intensive care unit of Zaranj hospital. Sources said there is a slim chance she will survive.

In addition to this teenager, yet another 16-year-old girl was taken to the emergency unit at the hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning after attempting suicide.

When she regained consciousness, she told medical staff that she was a victim of forced marriage. The source said: “Due to her forced marriage with one of the Taliban commanders, she tried to commit suicide in Nimroz police headquarters.”

The victim, who is of Baloch ethnicity, said she was beaten up by her father and brother when she refused to marry a Taliban commander.

The girl said she first appealed to the local Imam and to tribal elders for help, however, when they would not help her, she decided to try suicide.

Over 10 cases of violence again women in just 24 hours

Zaranj hospital registered more than 10 cases of violence against women in the last 24 hours, the source said, adding that in some cases women were beaten so badly they had their arms and legs broken.

The source stated that four suicide attempts were recorded and a young mother of three children had been badly strangled by her husband.

According to the source, the woman was also a victim of forced marriage and she had been subjected to domestic violence since her wedding.

The source said that a woman at the hospital had tried to take a photograph of the victim but when the Taliban found out they confiscated her phone.

Misogyny a culture in Afghanistan

Razia Rokhshani, a women’s rights activist in Nimroz, also raised concerns over the increase in violence against women in the province. She said that the Taliban dissolved all the institutions that defended women’s rights and that there is now no authority to deal with cases of violence against women.

She said that the international community should not stay silent over the persecution of Afghan women adding that the women are part of society and the world should be responsible for advocating for Afghan women.

“The Taliban themselves are responsible for increasing violence against women because they have imposed many restrictions on women. Women are deprived of their most basic rights, such as education, the right to choose a spouse, the right to dowry, the right to work, the right to access services, etc., and these are obvious examples of violence against women,” Rokhshani said.

Describing the dramatic increase in violence against women as a humanitarian crisis, Rokhshani said: “Misogyny has become a culture in Afghanistan. Day by day, women are being deprived of all the rights that Islam has prescribed for them, while the Taliban consider themselves the executors of Islam.”

Rokhshani added that she has witnessed at least 200 cases of violence against women in the past six months, and the majority of these women stay hidden at home and are not being taken to health centers.

Rakhshani called on the international community to “unconditionally” help resolve Afghan women’s issues.

“Amnesty International and all organizations defending women’s rights in the world should work together to support Afghan women and put pressure on the Taliban to lift their restrictions,” she said.