HERAT, Afghanistan • For Afghan wives, suicide by fire is a desperate way out.
Even the poorest families in Afghanistan have matches and cooking fuel. The combination usually sustains life. But it also can be the makings of a horrifying escape: from poverty, from forced marriages, from the abuse and despondency that can be the fate of Afghan women.
The night before she burned herself, Gul Zada took her children to her sister's for a family party. All seemed well. Later it emerged that she had not brought a present, and a relative had chided her for it, said her son Juma Gul.
This small thing apparently broke her. Zada, who was 45, the mother of six children and who earned pitiably little cleaning houses, ended up with burns on nearly 60 percent of her body at the Herat burn hospital.
"She was burned from head to toe," her son remembers.
The hospital here is the only medical center
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