Quality & Quantity

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 2117–2130 | Cite as

Making a symbolic gesture: a qualitative examination of self-immolation in Iran

  • Taban Mozhgan 
  • Malakouti Seyed Kazem 
  • Hadi Ranjbar
  • Eftekhar Ardebili Mehrdad Email author
  • Motavalian Seyed Abbas 
  • Zarghami Mehran 
  • Habibolah Khazaie
  • Mohammadi Farsani Hamideh 
  • Zahra Ghiasi


Self-immolation is one of the most dramatic methods of committing suicide. Some regions in Iran have a high prevalence of suicide by this method. This study aims to understand and explore the experience of self-immolated women in Iran. Twenty women have interviewed in the burns centers of three different cities immediately the following hospitalization due self-immolation, and the data was analyzed using conventional content analysis. The results were categorized in three main categories: Cultural background and preparing the stage, making a symbolic gesture and events of the day of the incident. Making a symbolic gesture consists of the critical elements of self-immolation, including the presence of significant others, dramatic presentation of misery, bringing an end to misfortune, proof of innocence, creating a sense of compassion or guilt and inspiration from similar cases. The social situation of women in Iran is contributing to self-immolation through feelings of anger and helplessness.


Suicide Self-immolation Iran Helplessness Anger Qualitative 



The study was approved by Mental Health Research Center and funded by research deputy of Iran University of Medical Sciences (Grant No. 1). The authors would like to express their sincere gratitude toward the study participants and wish them happiness and health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taban Mozhgan 
    • 1
  • Malakouti Seyed Kazem 
    • 1
  • Hadi Ranjbar
    • 1
  • Eftekhar Ardebili Mehrdad 
    • 1
    Email author
  • Motavalian Seyed Abbas 
    • 2
  • Zarghami Mehran 
    • 3
  • Habibolah Khazaie
    • 4
  • Mohammadi Farsani Hamideh 
    • 5
  • Zahra Ghiasi
    • 6
  1. 1.Mental Health Research Center, Tehran Institute of Psychiatry- School of Behavioral Sciences and Mental HealthIran University of Medical SciencesTehranIran
  2. 2.Iran University of Medical ScienceTehranIran
  3. 3.Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Research Center Zare HospitalSariIran
  4. 4.Sleep Disorders Research CenterKermanshah University of Medical Sciences (KUMS)KermanshahIran
  5. 5.Shahrekord University of Medical SciencesShahrekordIran
  6. 6.Zahedan University of Medical SciencesZahedanIran

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