Self-harm or “khoonbazi”, literally translated as “blood-game”, is a growing problem among teenagers in Iran. An eye-opening episode of the SAT-7 PARS talk show Insiders recently examined this devastating issue, offering solutions and hope.

The program revealed that an increasing number of young people are turning to self-harm as they try to deal with family problems, stress, and abuse. Recent studies have shown that these issues, which include bullying and difficulty forming healthy friendships, are mainly affecting teenage girls. Show guest and Psychologist Dr Shadi Javaheri explains how these problems could lead to self-harm, saying:

“People who turn to self-harm often have difficulty opening up and sharing. They also tend to connect their problems with previous issues, so that their suffering forms a kind of chain.”

With the most common types of self-harm being poisoning, drug abuse, and cutting, it is no surprise that often the result is suicide.


Despite the growing impact of this tragic trend, it appears that Iranian parents are generally still unaware of the issue. During the Insiders episode, a mother in Iran was interviewed about khoonbazi and did not know what the term meant. In contrast, a young adult and a teenager who were asked about the subject were familiar with the word, and both knew people who struggled with self-harm.

A viewer left SAT-7 PARS a voice message in response to the thought-provoking program, saying:

“I watched yesterday’s show and found it fascinating. I had never heard about khoonbazi before, and I couldn’t believe it or get it out of my mind. I asked my daughter if she knew about it and she said, ‘Yes, I know children who have done it.’ This is a very sad reality, and I am heartbroken. Most of all, I am concerned about how to protect my daughter.”

The episode’s main objective was to alert parents, like this viewer, who may not be well-informed about the problem of self-harm. By learning that struggling young people are not just statistics, parents can understand that their own children, or their children’s friends, may be affected. They can then take the right steps to learn how to help.

The show’s Producer, Moe Pooladfar, explains:

“The best way to influence the self-harm statistics is by increasing awareness so that parents are informed about how to identify the problem and help their children. In this way, we are indirectly but effectively influencing teenagers’ lives.”


Iranian girls are routinely subjected to a raft of constraints telling them how to behave, who they can be, and what they can and cannot achieve. They are often prevented from voicing their feelings within their family and society. Dr Javaheri pointed out that these conditions leave teenagers prone to a negative mindset and feelings of rejection. “As soon these elements are present, we create a foundation for self-harm,” she says.

“The first thing we have to teach young people is to express their feelings. Sometimes we establish so many do’s and don’ts that we corner them. They do not dare to share their problems with us because they fear that what they say might lead to judgment or punishment.”

The show advised parents to create an environment for their children that is understanding and accepting, allowing them to be open and honest about their worries.


The show also stressed that we must rely on God during difficult times. “At the end of the day, we all need God, especially when dealing with such a sensitive issue,” says Pooladfar.

Lead presenter Sally Momtazainei says:

“Our God is a God of love, and He has created us in His image. He is a God who we can trust and lean on in our difficult times. He hears us, and He is not a far-away, distant God. He knows our pain and can bring healing and answers.”

Insiders provides a crucial platform for conversation about taboo issues, such as self-harm, that are difficult but essential to discuss. It is also an opportunity for viewers to hear about Christianity and the God who is there for us even in our darkest hour. Co-presenter Hengameh Borji says:

“So many times, people feel that they have lost control of their lives. But the good news is that God is in control, and He holds us in His hands. If you feel rejected, hopeless, or that nobody cares about you or that you need to be punished, the good news is that Jesus loves you. He never rejects you, and He went to the cross to take your punishment.”

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