Chechen authorities battling ‘witchcraft’, persecuting ‘witches’
Two residents of the city of Gudermes were detained by security forces of Chechnya – a republic within Russia in the North Caucasus – for practicing magic, witchcraft and ‘healing.’
The Caucasian Knot says that the persecution of medicine men and psychics began in Chechnya six years ago, but in recent years has intensified and that nothing like this has happened before.
The detained women may be facing criminal prosecution.
“In the house where they lived, various literature on magic and occultism, maps, photos of dozens of people and various items used to perform magical rituals were discovered. Under the pretext of strengthening family relations, removing damage and warding off the evil eye, healing various diseases, they took various sums of money from citizens”, the Chechen Interior Ministry representative told a Caucasian Knot correspondent.
The Chechen authorities declared war on magicians, sorcerers and healers in 2013.
In February 2013, the head of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, demanded that these ‘phenomena’ be eradicated in Chechnya – at a meeting with the heads of municipalities and Qadi (Islamic clerics), he threatened healers and magicians with the police.
After this statement, a campaign was launched in Chechnya against medicine men and magicians – several people were killed and the rest left the republic or ceased their activities.
At the same time in 2013, Ahmed Abbasov, head of the administration of the Gudermes district of Chechnya, was deprived of his position; he was accused of turning to a witch for a promotion plot.
Sorcery and magic contradict Islamic dogma, local theologians say.
“Witchcraft, magic, fortune telling and the like are categorically forbidden in Islam. Even turning to a sorcerer or fortune teller is already a grave sin. This is a very dangerous phenomenon that needs to be dealt with”, says Chechen clergy member, Muslim.
The ‘practice’ of magic and witchcraft were fairly widespread in Chechnya between the two military campaigns and in the early 2000s, but now this phenomenon has almost disappeared.
The current campaign against sorcerers and psychics in Chechnya is less connected with religious motives, and to a greater extent with comparatively stronger police control than in other republics, believes Mikhail Roshchin, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Despite religious prohibitions, witchcraft and magic have always been present in folk culture, Roschchin said.
“They were fascinated by them even in Soviet times. Such services were available both among Christians and among Muslims”, said Roshchin.
Often in Russia, psychics and magicians are prosecuted for fraud, said lawyer Abusupyan Gaytayev. However, it is difficult to prove fraudulent intent in the case of magical practices, therefore, law enforcement agencies “do not really like” such cases.
The lawyer added that after the big “cleansing” of psychics and healers in Chechnya several years ago, the topic of witchcraft and magic was practically not raised, and nothing was heard about the persecution of healers in recent years.