Because she didn’t have the courage to set her body on fire, shoot a bullet through her temple, or wrap a noose around her neck, Sanaa (26 years old) chose to swallow a mixture of pills that she’d gathered from the medicine available in her home. Hours later, her sister heard her moan, a sound that escalated as her pain intensified, and she was subsequently transferred to the hospital for gastric lavage.
Sanaa escaped her death by suicide, without her family knowing why she had done it. Her brother, who is seven years older than her and now lives in Germany, knew why: When Sana was fifteen, he had sexually assaulted her. She was having a glass of water in the kitchen, and when she closed the refrigerator door, she found her brother standing behind her, thrusting his body onto hers, and forcing his hand onto her mouth to prevent her from screaming …
Sanaa failed to commit suicide and survived, whereas 132 other women had “succeeded” from the beginning of 2020 until September 20. Additionally, 169 male cases of suicide were also recorded, bringing the total to 301 suicide cases recorded by Iraq in nine months. Baghdad topped the list with 68 suicides, distributed between 40 female and 28 male cases.
In the Shula district, west of Baghdad, Abdul Rahman (30 years) was found hung by a rope in his house, which was not a residence that was “suitable for human life,” according to his mother’s words. His father, the breadwinner of the family, died when Abd al-Rahman was ten years old, so the boy took responsibility for the family at an early age: “My son was not reluctant to assume this responsibility, although he did often complain about it. His bad luck prevented him from getting employed at a government job that would have been dignified, despite the fact that he had obtained a bachelor’s degree from the College of Administration and Economics at the University of Baghdad.”
The number of suicide cases in 2019 across Iraq reached 549.
Abd al-Rahman left behind his 60-year-old mother, two sisters studying at university and a third married, and he’d left them by choice. “Whenever my son took insults at his work, he would wish he were dead. Sometimes he’d say that he wasn’t brave enough to do it, and that if he were, he would have killed himself. He worked in professions unrelated to his university degree, as a porter and a construction worker, sometimes selling bottles of mineral water at the capital’s intersections.” In the end Abd al-Rahman did it. He killed himself.”
Domestic Violence, Unemployment, and Other Reasons
The number of suicide cases in 2019 across Iraq reached 549 cases, 285 of them males, and 253 females, according to the Human Rights Commission statistics. The Kirkuk governorate was top of the list of suicide bombers with 106 cases.
The Commission has not set new statistics for the number of suicide cases in 2020, which is still subject to increase after Iraq endured six suicide cases within 24 hours in October of this year. Statistics published by Commission between 2018 and 2020 confirm however that the cases are constantly increasing, with their number reaching 319 people throughout Iraq in 2018.
The reasons behind these suicides are many, including “the pain of life,” similar to the famous Arabic expression by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. This coincides with what the member of the commission had to say to “Daraj”: “The most significant reasons include the economic deterioration and high poverty rates in the country, which have reached more than 35%, in addition to the high unemployment rates that have worsened with the Coronavirus pandemic. This has also amplified social issues, so suicide rates have increased with the spread of the pandemic.” He pointed to other reasons, most notably a “lack of social awareness, lack of interest in mental health, the absence of a clear plan by the state to deal with these problems, the government’s failure to understand young people’s aspirations and a lack of centers interested in educating them and developing their skills.”
In the city of Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, Khadija (21 years old) was registered as a “suicide attempt” after she was transferred to the Diwaniyah Hospital, in April 2020 suffering from severe burns to her face and body. After she refused to “grant him his marital rights,” as she put it, and refused his advances, her husband tried to rape her. She escaped her house screaming in an attempt to seek help, but he dragged her into the house by and “poured oil on me and then sparked a fire.” To save the husband, and to cover up the “scandal”, the incident was recorded as a “suicide attempt”. Mona Al-Hilali, head of the “Or” organization for the culture of women and children, affirms that “thousands of cases resemble Khadija’s case. Cases of the intentional killing of women are recorded as suicide or attempted suicide, especially in the southern regions, which are under the control and rule of clans and tribes.”