About 200 alleged sorcerers in Afghanistan have been arrested by the Taliban on allegations of witchcraft as part of a campaign to stop these practices used by some Afghans to make prophesies, offer supposed cures for diseases or protect against the “evil eye”.
The powerful ministry of propagation of virtue and prevention of vice, re-established in Kabul since the Islamists seized power in 2021, has declared that witchcraft or black magic is against Islam.
“In the provinces, more than 100 sorcerers have been arrested, and just in Kabul, 67 sorcerers were arrested, including several women,” ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq Akif Mahajir told the EFE news agency.
He said that the people accused of witchcraft had been handed over to the courts, and those found guilty would face prison sentences.
The Taliban and religious authorities insist that the so-called sorcerers and witches violate Islamic law by using amulets and spells that claim to cure impotency and diseases.
“Many people, due to their lack of knowledge about Islam, approach sorcerers, even though witchcraft is prohibited in Islam,” religious scholar Mawlawi Noorulhaq told EFE
In a country ravaged by decades of war and conflicts and facing a deep socio-economic crisis that has forced two-thirds of the population to seek humanitarian aid for survival, those who seek help from the “sorcerers” often do so due to the lack of professional mental health support.
“Some of our visitors are in deep depression, we pray for them and give hope to them, and some of them say their luck is cursed (…) or affected by black magic, we pray for them as well,” Saeed Hanif Agha, a so-called “sorcerer,” told EFE.
Before the Taliban seized power for a second time, a large number of visitors – especially woman – would be thronging to Agha’s place in Kabul to seek remedies.
However, after the official campaign against witchcraft, the number of clients has decreased and they often approach him clandestinely.
This is the case with Latifa, 48, who is seeking the protection of an amulet to treat her young daughter, possibly depressed.
Amid growing repression of women’s rights by the Taliban, including bans on higher education and most jobs, women at times blame their depression on the evil eye.
“Someone ruthless has performed black sorcery against my daughter, she is getting paler day by day. I come here to see what is this and who did this,” Latifa told EFE.
Meanwhile Ruqia is looking for help in finding a husband for her younger sister.
“To be honest, we want to find out about my sister’s luck, a lot of suitors are coming (to the house) but she is still not getting married,” she told EFE.
Agha is also used to answering awkward issues, such as the belief that impotence can be cured with the help of amulets and enchantments.
“When my son got married, he embarrassingly told me that he couldn’t maintain physical relations with his wife,” another female client Maagul told EFE.
She was convinced that someone with ill intentions had “locked” her son’s sexual abilities by magic.
Agha, whose visiting room has dark wooden walls and is full of all types of artefacts, has so far escaped the Taliban’s persecution, even as the campaign against witchcraft – launched a few months ago – continues unbated.