Poverty and Oppression are Driving Iranians to Set Themselves on Fire
By The Free Iranian Staff
News broke today inside Iran that a disabled veteran of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) set himself on fire last week, and died, in the city of Qom. The man was reported as being 45% physically handicapped, and to also be suffering from a nervous breakdown as a result of his war experiences. This was said to be the fourth time in three months that a disabled veteran self-immolated in Qom. All of the four men committed suicide because they were unable to afford medical care.
Iranian disabled veterans are supposed to receive free medical care provided by an organization called the Foundation for Martyrs and Veterans. A state-funded charity run by the office of the regime’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, the foundation is riddled with embezzlement and corruption. Two days before the most recent suicide in Qom, two open letters addressed to Qom officials had appeared in local media, complaining that veterans in the city were not getting any help at all from the Martyrs Foundation, and that the local branch of the organization was barely operational.
On August 23rd of this year, the son of an Iran-Iraq War soldier who had died in combat had set himself on fire in front of the Qom branch of the Martyrs Foundation’s offices. The man was suffering from severe health problems, and tried to check himself into a hospital, but he was refused admission because he did not have a referral from a physician. The man died one day afterwards.
Disabled Iranians, and especially veterans, have been protesting regularly for several months against the low quality of medical care in the country, the lack of universal health care, and the pittance the regime spends on providing healthcare services.
Meanwhile, yesterday, in Tehran, a young man was also reported, by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), as having poured gasoline over his body, and then setting himself on fire. The young man had purchased a car from a leasing company, on an installment plan. He made multiple payments over several months, but never received the car. He went to the company’s office Monday morning to demand either the car or to have his money returned, but the company managers refused to give him either. In protest and desperation, the man then went outside the office building and self-immolated. He is now said to be receiving care at a hospital, and is in critical condition.
Many Iranians have suffered financial losses over the past few years because they purchased vehicles on installment, then never received them or a refund. This situation has also led to massive protests. Iran’s automotive industry is said to be nearly defunct, due to the mismanagement and embezzlements of the regime-linked executives at Iranian auto manufacturers.
Iran has a very high rate of suicide, and one of the highest rates of suicide by self-immolation in the world. Low incomes, poor living standards, lack of employment and educational opportunities, and totalitarian regime-imposed lifestyle regulations all contribute to a climate of personal depression and feelings of hopelessness. In 2017, a regime official had callously suggested Iranians who wanted to kill themselves should do so by swallowing plaster, rather than set themselves on fire.
The most famous recent case of self-immolation, internationally, was that of Sahar Khodyari, the “Blue Girl,” who killed herself to avoid going to prison for sneaking into a sporting match that women were banned from attending.
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