No more fucking witch trials

By Evangeline Jennings

The Saudi state news agency announced today that a Saudi man has been beheaded on charges of sorcery and witchcraft.

The man, Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri, was found in possession of books and talismans and had also admitted adultery with two women – according to the Saudi state news agency. Mr Asiri was beheaded after his sentence was upheld by the country’s highest courts, but no details of the case have been given.

In December 2011, a Saudi woman named Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was also beheaded as a witch and sorcerer. Again,the verdict and sentence were upheld by Saudi Arabia’s highest courts, but specific details of the charges were not released.

A Sudanese man was executed in September 2011 on similar charges.

In 2007, an Egyptian national was beheaded for allegedly casting spells to try to separate a married couple.

I’m thinking of writing a near-future dystopian YA book in which my main character is a foxy blonde descendant of Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser who discovers that she has super spooky special magical powers. But I’m a bit worried some people might think I’m exploiting the horrible death of an innocent woman and lending credence to actions of the Saudi “judicial” system.

But then why worry my pretty little head about that?

The classical period of witch hunts in Europe and North America between about 1480 and 1750 resulted in an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 executions. Eighty percent of those killed were, of course, women. Most famously, I think, in 1692, legal actions were taken in Massachusetts against 154 individuals accused of the crime of witchcraft. While the cases were located throughout Massachusetts, a large number occurred in Salem, so the trials as a whole have come to be called the Salem Witch Trials. Of the 154 prosecutions, 19 ended in execution. 42 prosecutions took place in Salem itself, resulting in 10 executions – nine women who were all hanged and one man who was crushed to death under rocks during his interrogation.

Today, it seems very popular for writers – specifically women – to write supernatural claptrap about the magical descendants of the victims of Salem, or about witches who survived, without giving even a moment’s thought to the fact that they are, in fact, condoning the institutionalized torture and murder of – predominantly – women and, figuratively speaking, pissing all over the graces of tens of thousands of innocent women.

And it seems equally popular for delusional girls to lap up all this witless crap without even a moment of thought about what it actually means in historical or political terms. Which is particularly worrisome in a country that reprimands and muzzles an elected woman politician for using the word “vagina” and which seems largely intent on demolishing women’s rights as it rushes headlong towards becoming a medieval theocracy much like … um … Saudi Arabia.

Pankhearst friend Dan Holloway recently asked independent writers to think about what they stand for. I replied with one of my usual flippancies – it’s what I do. But here’s one thing we do stand for. No more fucking witch trials.

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