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February 23, 2003

Iranian girls torch themselves

FIVE Iranian girls from different villages around the southern city of Shiraz burned themselves to death last week because their families refused to let them work, the conservative daily Jomhoury-e-Eslami reported today.

All the girls, aged between 14 and 23, died in hospital after setting themselves alight, the paper said, quoting a social worker as saying they were suffering from cultural and economic deprivation.

Iranian women in the smaller towns and villages where age-old social and religious customs are stronger enjoy less freedom than those in the larger cities.

Half the population is aged under 30, putting cultural and religious restrictions under severe pressure.