Zahra (20) set fire to herself four years before this photo was taken.
Forced marriage, domestic violence, poverty, and lack of access to education are said to be among leading reasons for self-immolation. Conservative laws and traditions in Afghanistan place women in a subordinate position. Some women find that setting themselves alight—as a form of protest, or in attempted suicide—is the only option that seems open to them.
The people of Afghanistan have had to deal with conflict and military occupation for much of the past 50 years. Conflict and long-term instability in Afghanistan have led to personal trauma, and severe economic and infrastructural damage. Foreign aid has helped support various initiatives to improve infrastructure and education, but as occupation forces withdraw and Western economies face their own difficulties, funds to NGOs are being cut.
Majid Saeedi is an award-winning, internationally recognized Iranian photographer. He has photographed throughout the Middle East for the past two decades, focusing on humanitarian issues, with a special interest in telling previously untold stories of social injustice. He also especially enjoys doing street photography – portraying citizens and ordinary life. Saeedi was born and raised in Tehran. He took up photography at the age of 16 and, when he turned 18, went to the Iran-Iraq border to photograph refugees there.