University Of Tasmania

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Drivers and consequences of self-immolation in parts of Iran, Iraq and Uzbekistan: a systematic review of qualitative evidence

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 09:22 authored by Cleary, M, Singh, J, West, S, Rahkar Farshi, M, Violeta Lopez, Rachel KornhaberRachel Kornhaber
Objectives: The prevalence of self-immolation is significantly higher in some Middle Eastern and Central Asian Islamic countries than in Western countries. Self-immolation typically occurs among females and can be either an attempt at suicide or an act of protest. This systematic review examined the drivers and consequences of self-immolation in Asian Islamic countries from the perspective of those affected by it, including survivors, family and health care staff in order to understand its higher prevalence in these countries.

Method: A systematic review of qualitative studies was conducted in June 2018, using five electronic databases: PubMed, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), EMBASE, Scopus and PsycINFO. Of the 236 papers identified, seven met the inclusion criteria. Authors independently rated the reporting of included qualitative studies and thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Results: The drivers of self-immolation included marital and familial conflict, male-dominated culture, mental health disorders and economic and social factors. Survivors chose self-immolation in order to express their sense of a lack of control and mostly utilised this method due to its accessibility. The consequences of self-immolation were social isolation, regret, and physical and psychological impacts.

Conclusions: The reasons for self-immolation, its prevalence and the demographics of those who choose this means vary significantly between Asian Islamic and Western countries. This review confirmed the impact of culture, tradition, and societal structures and relationships on people's decisions to self-immolate. Education about the consequences of self-immolation may reduce the use of this method.


University of Tasmania


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School of Nursing


Elsevier Sci Ltd

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Mental health services

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