The phenomenon of women and girls committing suicide has increased in Afghanistan, with an estimated number of 2,400 cases annually, according to the Etela Rasani Afghanistan Network for Human Rights. This catastrophe confirms the suffering of women under Taliban rule, as they generally struggle against the movement’s improper political and social practices such as discrimination, violence, marginalization, and denial of basic rights, in addition to negative self-esteem, which represents a fertile environment for feelings of oppression, helplessness, and the desire to commit suicide.
It is noteworthy that the statement of Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the Taliban movement, specified the conditions for the dress of Afghan women, saying, “They must cover the body from head to toe, and only their eyes should be visible, in order to avoid provoking non-mahram men.” Based on these conditions, the Taliban security personnel do not hesitate to insult, beat and flog those who do not adhere to the imposed dress code.
Signs and causes of suicide
Dr. Hisham Bashir, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Politics and Economics at Beni Suef University in Upper Egypt, said that the phenomenon of women committing suicide in Afghanistan has many indications and causes, the first and most important of which are the restrictions of public life. There is no doubt that the life of Afghan women in the past was relatively better than the current situation, as the Taliban security personnel do not hesitate to subject every girl who does not adhere to their instructions to insults, beatings, and even public flogging, in addition to depriving them of education and work. The Taliban government issued a decision in December 2022 suspending girls going to universities and work until further notice, except for some exceptions in the field of health. The decision came after acting Higher Education Minister Neda Mohammad Nadeem stated on September 1, 2022, that educating girls is part of Western culture that aims to spread chaos and immorality in Afghanistan.
The political conditions that Afghanistan went through for more than 20 years negatively affected the educational process in general, and the education of girls in particular, Bashir noted, adding that there is no doubt that depriving girls of their right to education and work, mixed with the deterioration of harsh economic conditions, makes them prey to frustration and despair.
Oppression, injustice and suffering
Dr. Anne Justus, a professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo, confirmed that oppression, injustice and suffering are among the most important reasons for the increase in women’s suicide under the umbrella of Taliban rule, noting that forced marriage, to which many families are accustomed, as well as dealing with marriage as a deal, are wrong social practices that cause many suicides.
It is reported that on July 1, 2022, an 18-year-old girl committed suicide in Dehrawood District, Uruzgan Province, by consuming poison because of her family’s refusal to let her marry a young man she had accepted to be her husband. The next day, a young woman in Takhar state, who was supposed to marry within a few days, committed suicide.
On July 4, 2022, a girl hanged herself in the 9th District in the city of Herat, as her husband had reportedly imprisoned her. On the same day, a 17-year-old young girl committed suicide with a hunting weapon in her father’s house in a village in the Keti District of Daikundi Province. On October 31, 2022, a mother of a single child committed suicide in Maymana, Faryab Province, by consuming rat poison due to domestic violence by her husband’s family. Two days before that, an 18-year-old girl hanged herself in the same state as a result of domestic violence.
Justus added that the deprivation of inheritance is one of the main problems for women in Afghanistan, where many live as prisoners of outdated customs and traditions, and they are subjected to violence if they decide to file a complaint with the competent authorities.
According to official statistics, 90% of women in Afghanistan are deprived of their right to inheritance, in addition to being subjected to assault and sexual violence, the negative effects of which are not limited to the time of their occurrence, but rather constitute psychological accumulations in the long run, which may eventually lead to depression, despair and the desire to commit suicide, especially if the victim is a woman.