Investigating the ‘spiritual healers’ sexually abusing women
“Quranic healing” is also known as spiritual healing in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Healers are mostly visited by women who believe that they can cure illnesses by expelling evil spirits known as Jinn.
In a study by the BBC, 85 women over the course of over a year named 65 so-called healers in Morocco and Sudan – two countries where such practices are particularly prevalent – with accusations ranging from harassment to rape.
We spent months gathering and verifying abuse stories by talking to NGOs, courts, lawyers, and women. In the course of our investigation, an undercover reporter who underwent treatment with one of these healers was inappropriately touched before fleeing the scene.
When she was in her mid-20s, Dalal (not her real name) sought treatment for depression from a spiritual healer near Casablanca. According to the healer, she had been possessed by a “jinn lover.”
She lost consciousness when he asked her to smell a scent he said was musk, but she now thinks must have been some kind of drug.
Having never experienced sexual intimacy before, Dalal woke up to discover her underwear had been removed, and realized she had been raped. As she was screaming at the raqi (Quranic healer), she asked him what he had done.
‘Shame on you! Why did you do this to me?’ I asked. ‘To make the jinn leave your body.'”
Because she was so ashamed, she didn’t tell anyone what happened. Several weeks later, she discovered she was pregnant.
Even considering suicide, she contemplated ending her life.
According to the healer, she must have been impregnated by the jinn. When her baby was born, Dalal refused to look at, hold, or even name her, and gave her up for adoption because she was traumatized by the experience.
Her family would kill her if they found out what had happened to her.
In our interviews, many women said they were afraid of being blamed if they reported their abuse, so very few had even told their families, let alone called the police. Reporting what had happened also worried some people that the jinn might retaliate.
A woman named Sawsan told us that when her husband left the family home to live with a second wife, as is his right under Sharia (Islamic law), she became destitute, and sought out help from a healer. She said she hoped he could give her husband some kind of medicine that would make him treat her better.
He suggested a treatment she hadn’t expected.
He told me he would have sex with me and use the body fluids to create a potion I should feed to my husband.”
She described him as “fearless” in his recommendation.
“He was confident I would not report him to the police, the courts, or even my husband.”