As If Refugees Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About…

…add accusations of witchcraft to the mix.  IntLawGrrls points to a research paper released by the office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights that details the violence perpetrated against accused “witches,” incisively situating the phenomenon in the particular conditions of refugee camps.  IntLawGrrls’ summary:

These charges, levied primarily against women (particularly the elderly) as well as children, can result in horrifying abuse, including torture, starvation, abandonment, and even death.  Contemporary claims of witchcraft circle the globe, from Bolivia to Cambodia to the Democratic Republic of Congo; from Ghana to Haiti to India.

The paper examines witchcraft allegations in refugee camps and situations of refugee repatriation and integration, drawing an interesting link between situations of crisis and witchhunts. In Salem, the witch trials were situated in military and political crises similar to those faced by refugees today, as the town sat near the front lines of an armed conflict between colonials and Native Americans. So it is that we see similar allegations in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo that have suffered through decades of war. Contemporary witchcraft accusations often offer those in situations of severe crisis — be it civil war, extreme poverty or environmental disaster — an opportunity to express feelings of envy, fear, hatred, and jealousy in particularly violent ways.
Good to see that UNHCR is addressing an contemporary problem that most people probably assumed was relegated to an Arthur Miller play.
(image from flickr user drurydrama under a Creative Commons license)