Recently there was a news story about a woman in Iran who was sentenced to death by stoning, one of the most barbaric and painful methods of execution in the world. (The accused is buried up to the neck in sand. She is then surrounded by people who taunt has and throw rocks at her face. It can take several hours for death to occur.) Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, had been charged with having sex outside of marriage. Her fate preordained, Ashtiani was rushed through a sham trial (prosecutors presented no evidence), found guilty, and condemned to die. The international media picked up the story, there was a public outcry, and Iran eventually issued a statement saying that Ashtiani would not be stoned to death. There was no mention of what her new punishment would be.
In Middle Eastern countries, many women are so desperate for a taste of freedom that they will risk their lives by breaking Sharia laws, as Ashtiani did. Others have tried unsuccessfully to change society from within, which is practically impossible since females living in Islamic nations wield no more power than children. In Afghanistan, these downtrodden women find release through an archaic method of suicide. From HuffPo: Self-immolation remains common among Afghan women. Observers disagree over why Afghan women attempt to take their own lives by setting themselves on fire - some blame Iranian TV shows and film for romanticizing the practice, while others say its victims are merely attempting to escape from a society that relentlessly oppresses them. (I doubt the problem lies with television programming. It smells like propaganda put out by Muslim clerics living in denial.)
Exact figures are hard to come by, but during a six-month period in 2007, 250 Afghan women committed suicide by self immolation. The Washington Post reports that in the Herat province in western Afghanistan, over ninety women set fire to themselves in 2009. More than 70% of them died. Afghanistan's health system can do little for the badly burned.
Time Magazine: Fawzia felt like she had no way out. Married off to her cousin at age 16, she had been beaten routinely by her husband and in-laws in their poor rural home in Paktia province for the first three years of her marriage. She complained bitterly to her parents, but no solution seemed imminent. Marriage had become too much for her to bear. Then, after she saw her brother-in-law strike his wife on the head with a gun, Fawzia finally did what she had threatened to do many times before: she doused herself in cooking fuel and struck a match.
From Care2: These women are struggling to escape the desperate realities of life for women in Afghanistan, where domestic violence is common and women are taught to blame themselves for the abuse that they suffer at their husbands' hands. (This sounds eerily similar to the abusive husbands who holler "Look what you made me do!") "Afghan society puts the blame on the woman - that she is not a good woman," explained Selay Ghaffar, director of the Kabul-based NGO Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, "that she is suffering at home because she is not behaving like a good mother or a good wife. And that's why the husband has the right to beat her."