Saudi Arabia’s Brutal ‘Anti-Witchcraft Unit’

saudiThe Atlantic on the Saudi government squad which arrests hundreds of people (many of them low-paid foreign workers) on charges of witchcraft, punishable by long prison sentences or even death:

The campaign of persecution has shown no signs of fizzling. In May, two Asian maids were sentenced to 1,000 lashings and 10 years in prison after their bosses claimed that they had suffered from their magic. Just a few weeks ago, Saudi newspapers began running the image of an Indonesian maid being pursued on accusations that she produced a spell that made her male boss’s family subject to fainting and epileptic fits.

The Saudi government’s obsession with the criminalization of the dark arts reached a new level in 2009, when it created and formalized a special “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” to educate the public about the evils of sorcery, investigate alleged witches, neutralize their cursed paraphernalia, and disarm their spells. Saudi citizens are also urged to use a hotline on the CPVPV website to report any magical misdeeds to local officials.

By 2011, the unit had created a total of nine witchcraft-fighting bureaus in cities across the country, according to Arab News, and had “achieved remarkable success” in processing at least 586 cases of magical crime, the majority of which were foreign domestic workers from Africa and Indonesia.

The courts are controlled by judges — commonly religious clerics — who have unlimited latitude to interpret and define the content of witchcraft crime. They can also mete out capital punishments as they see fit. Evidence in these cases is limited to witness testimony and the presentation of the “magical” items discovered in the possession of the accused.

In the 2006 case of Fawza Falih, who was sentenced to death on charges of “‘witchcraft, recourse to jinn, and slaughter’ of animals,” she was provided no opportunity to question the testimonies of her witnesses, was barred from the room when “evidence” was presented, and her legal representation was not permitted to enter court.

“If there’s an employer dispute — say the migrant domestic worker claims she wasn’t paid her wages or her conditions are unlivable — a lot of times what happens unfortunately is the defendant makes counterclaims against the domestic worker,” Coogle said. “And a lot of times they’ll make counterclaims of sorcery, witchcraft, and that sort of thing.”

Domestic workers, many of whom who are not fluent in Arabic, face significant challenges in defending themselves against these charges, according to Coogle. Sometimes, he says, “they don’t even know what’s happening.”

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  • Juan

    Wow, just wow. In other news, the US Empire has run amok and is fighting fake wars with itself for fun and profit. It seems there’s plenty of crazy to go around.

    • InfvoCuernos

      Buzz, is that you?

  • seth

    saudians are living the inquisition era today! yay long live the king, sheep.

    • I_abide

      No one suspects the Saudi Inquisition!!!

  • Simon Valentine

    in cases that actions are preferable to social psychosis
    the witch hunter is the agent of its own demise
    despite the particular illusions
    commonly
    wealth
    or even the patterns at which the human data repeats
    while they speak among themselves of alternate algorithms
    alternate orders
    all so identical
    all so false and blind
    i witch those deserving of it just fine, thank ye

  • Juan

    I posted a comment here earlier, but I do not see it.
    Again: Wow, just wow. In other news, the US Epmire has run amok and is fighting fake wars with itself for fun and profit. Guess there’s plenty of CRAZY to go around.

  • peterappleby21

    Protestant Islam

  • BuzzCoastin

    what does the ‘Anti-Witchcraft Unit’ have in common with
    Uncle Homeland’s DHS?
    both are there to protect citizens from imaginary witches, boogiemen & goblins
    the Saudis just can’t find modern boogiemen in their kuntery

  • InfvoCuernos

    Say what you want, but I think this idea has a real merrit-as a weekly series on TV. “Witch Hunter!” not sure if I’d rather see it as a reality show, or drama like Breaking Bad.

  • lilbear68

    while I cant say positively that the US has moved forward it does appear that the arab world has made significant progress backwards