Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

June D. Gorski

Committee Members

Susan M. Smith, Paula C. Carney, Sandra P. Thomas


The purpose of this study was to examine the motivation of Uzbek women who committed acts of self-immolation and survived. The study examined the role of the religion and culture of Islam, whether the act of self-immolation was a suicide attempt or an act of protest, and whether the use of fire had some symbolic significance. Self-immolation, or deliberate self-burning, is increasingly becoming a cause of death and disability among young Muslim women in the Middle East andCentral Asia. However, little is known about this phenomenon.

This was a qualitative, bounded case study, which used a blended model of case study that combined elements of Yin and Stake. The setting was the UmidCenter, a rehabilitation center and shelter for victims of self-immolation and domestic abuse located in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The sample for this study included nine residents and former residents of the UmidCenterwho had survived acts of self-immolation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the assistance of a translator. These interviews were audiotaped and the English responses were transcribed. The sdata were analyzed both manually and using the qualitative data analysis software program QDAMiner, for thematic categories and code words.

The results of the study suggest that all women interviewed were attempting suicide when they set themselves on fire and that the use of fire had no symbolic significance, but was a method of convenience. The findings also suggest that the religion and culture of Islam cannot be assumed to be contributing factors to female self-immolation. Domestic abuse and harsh lifestyles of the rural village (kishlocks) culture were the main motivating factors in self-immolation among the women interviewed.

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