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From Witch-Hunt to Conspiracy Theories and Modern Forms of Exclusion: The Salem Witch Trials case

Nargiz Hajiyeva

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Micah 5:12: “And I will cut off sorceries from your hand, and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes”

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he state of Holy Bible is a pivotal basis behind the curtain of mysterious witch trials in terms of identifying them in deep. Witchcrafts which were basically common in the American colonies such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven sparked the volcano of moral tensions amid XVII century in the colonies.

As a consequence, then the society of American colonies has been seized by the sense of trepidation of bewitchment, satanic witches, in particular, bizarre kinds of supernatural powers, but to a large extent, the focal causes of witch trials have lingered mysteriously. The paper has pointed out that there were several controversies in regard to these issues to reveal the main causes of witch trials in the American colonies. In addition, this paper scrutinizes the varied reasons why witch trials have been prosecuted in the colonies. It is undeniable fact that witchcraft can be identified as a chief example of not only the violations of human rights but also women’s rights. Throughout XVII century, it was identified as a malicious hazard against the Puritan community of the colonies, as well as positions of a local elite group.

Throughout XVII century, the widespread of witch trials sparked the seeds of moral hysteria putting forward that malignant satanic witches being worshippers of the Devil were engendering the evil-minded and ill-disposed menace to the whole Christian community in the American colonies. When it comes to identifying the main causes of witchcraft, it can be a key basis to take the certain alterations into account in the colonies. What did the demand for witchcraft stem from?! There was a different kind of reasons why people tried to deal with the sorcery and malicious activities. First and foremost, epidemic smallpox, plague, natural catastrophes, internal conflicts, wars, as well as hectic cold weather, (namely Little Ice Age). Amid that period, the residents of the colonies believed that Devil was trying to permeate into their lives and annihilate Christians, in particular, their communities. In addition, their beliefs and thoughts in Devil giving some certain people power in order to hurt others and basically in return for loyalty burnt the craze of a witch hunt.

The Salem Witch Trials started in the spring quarter of 1692, were a murky period in American history. The dark clouds caught the overhead of the Salem village when a wave of moral hysteria reached its apex point throughout the Colonial Massachusetts. More than 200 people were blamed for dealing with bewitchment; about 20 people were executed amid the term of hysteria. How do the main reasons of the trials can be considered?! – Before narrating the main point of the story, it can be better to identify the political, local, and religious contexts and origins of the Salem Witch Trials. England started the war known as King William’s war with France in its American colonies in 1689. As a result of the war, many refugees and displaced peoples were sent to the Essex County, particularly, the Salem Village (currently Danvers) located in Massachusetts Bay Colony. The widespread wave of refugees into the colony ignited the internal conflicts and animosity between local and displaced persons on Salem’s wealthy resources. Resentment against Reverend Samuel Parris, the first ordained minister of the Salem Village heightened because of his severe positions and gluttonous character. Therefore, the main origins of the trials premised on the attacks from neighbouring American tribes, personal differences, long-lasting disputes with the well-off society of Salem Town (presently Salem).

According to religious background, first and foremost, it might be a central part to take into account the insensitive realities of the Puritans’ lives in the community. The majority of Conservative Puritans secular leaders among local people in the village manipulated by Calvinism were opposing to traditions of the Protestant Church of England. The Puritans held the opinions that the main root of the simmering tensions and quarrelling within society as a Devil’s toil.

The event started with the afflictions of the two youngsters; Elizabeth Parris at 9 ages, and Abigail Williams at 11 ages, who was a daughter and a niece of Reverend Samuel Parris respectively. The two girls having fit madly screamed, exhibited weird sounds and distorted themselves into bizarre episodes. Shortly after, the same positions such as contortions, convulsions were experienced firstly by Ann Putnam, at 11 ages, and then other girls of the village. The event ignited the mass hysteria and moral panic among people. Eventually, a local doctor William Griggs was unable to reveal any kind of physical diseases, and then put “the bewitchment diagnosis on the afflicted maidens. The girls began to charge three women in bewitching them; the Elizabeth’s Caribbean slave, Tituba, a homeless vagrant, Sarah Good, and an older poor woman, Sarah Osbourne.

Afterwards, three women charged in witchcraft were arrested and questioned. During the investigation, the two women, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osbourne denied their deal with witchcraft and manifested themselves as an innocent, but Tituba made a scandalous acknowledgment that she had been engaged in the work of Satan along with two women aforementioned above: “The Devil came to me and bid me serve him” . After that, three women were put in jail. Ostensibly, the craze of witchcraft among the conservative Puritans in the Salem village sparked aggression and resentment against anyone who was alleged in charging with witchcraft. Shortly after, in order to examine and question people who were suspected of dealing with witchcraft, William Phips appointed to the newly minister position conveyed the foundation of a special court of Oyer (to question) and Terminer (to determine).

The first conviction of the court’s investigation was an older woman Bridget Bishop known as her bizarre habits and promiscuity claimed that she was an innocent as a child unborn, after that she was hanged in July of the same year at Gallows Hill who was an initial victim of the witch trials then.   During the severe trials, many people were executed, some were put in jail, and other people were sent to hang at Gallows Hill. The trials of many people engender the sense of fear among colonists that many innocent people were being annihilated as a result of “spectral facts”.

Local rulers started to pursue their stances against witch hunt and tended to convince local officials to suspend the trials against people. Hence, the conducting of trials resulted in the dissolving of the court of Oyer and Terminer by Governor William Phipps, and consequently, the use of ghostlike proof was declared unacceptable. After the disbanding of the courts, William Phipps ordered to establish a Superior Court of Judicature not allowing to the “spectral evidence”. As a consequence, at the beginning of the 1700s, the newly established court re-establish the good names of the condemned people, released many innocent people and granted financial restitution to their heirs, but indeed, acrimony and harsh realities lingered in the society and kept its hectic influences into XX century.

In conclusion, it is undeniable fact that the Salem Witch Trials were one of the severe trials against human rights in the history of mankind. In XX century, Historians preferred to base the trials in varied contexts. Some analysts and scientists were attracted by the pivotal causes of the trials for a long time and tried to find out the origins of the abnormal behaviours and positions experienced in the Salem village and focused on the severe effects of fungus ergot, hence eating ergot-contaminated foods could cause nausea, hallucinations, and exhibition of peculiar positions. Other scholars hold the opinion that the term of abnormally cold weather conditions destroyed many crops that lead to crops failures, in the society. Although, the Salem Witch Trials was over, it kept its severe effects on people for a long time. In 1953, Arthur Miller shed a light on the Salem Witch Trials and dramatized the 1692 events in his play titled “Crucible”. In his play, he used the trials as a metaphor for the McCarthyism paranoia performed anti-Communist positions, by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Thereby, this paper mainly identifies that the execution against innocent people is inadmissible that took many lives during the term of mass hysteria, in order that the Salem Witch Trials as a concrete indicator of violations of human rights, confessed the persecution of many innocent people alleged in witchcraft, and to date, the main reasons of the trials remained unknown.

Ms. Nargiz Hajiyeva is an independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She is an honored graduate student of Vytautas Magnus University and Institute D'etudes de Politique de Grenoble, Sciences PO. She got a Bachelor degree with the distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy programme. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She is a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, titled “how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons”, held by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School and an honored alumnus of European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw Poland. Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman in International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time, she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. In 2017, Ms. Hajiyeva has worked as an independent diplomatic researcher at International Relations Institute of Prague under the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Czech Republic. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies in Political Sciences and International Relations programme in Istanbul, Turkey.

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As inequality grows, the UN fights for a fairer world

MD Staff

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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the UN’s blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all – calls for a reduction in inequality between and within countries. Nevertheless, global inequality is increasing. So what can be done?

Inequality is an “entrenched imbalance”

The question of inequality was raised several times by the UN in January: speaking at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, UN chief António Guterres pointed out that, while technological progress and globalization have led to “fantastic improvements” in many areas, they have also increased inequality and marginalized millions.

And, in her annual letter, Lise Kingo, CEO of the UN Global Compact, which supports private sector efforts to do business responsibly, noted that, in 2018, we saw “a small group of individuals are getting exponentially richer as billions are left behind in poverty.”

Inequality is not only rising, it is also an “entrenched imbalance,” according to Richard Kozul-Wright, a globalization expert and Director with the Trade and Development agency UNCTAD.

In an interview with UN News, which you can listen to here, Mr. Kozul-Wright said that notionally high employment rates in many economies mask the fact that wages and working conditions are not improving, and that whilst wages have been stagnant for a decade, dividends on shareholdings have been recovering, benefiting financial asset holders. His remarks came in the wake of the January launch of the 2019 World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report which showed uneven growth (both between and within countries) that is often failing to reach where it is most needed.

Will AI take away our jobs, or transform them?

The beginning of 2019 saw a focus on the role of technology on the world of work, and the impact it is having on inequality. The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched a landmark report in January: the Global Commission on the Future of Work. This study concluded that technological innovations provide “countless opportunities” for workers, but warned that, if these technologies are not deployed as part of a human-centred agenda based on investing in people, work institutions and decent, sustainable employment, we run the risk of “sleepwalking into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties.”

One of the key technological innovations mentioned in the report, one that garners significant media attention, is artificial intelligence (AI). A report from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), published at the tail-end of January, noted a “quantum leap” in AI-related patents, suggesting that AI could soon “revolutionize all areas of daily life beyond the tech world.”

AI inspires as much fear as excitement, evoking  a dystopian world in which more and more work is carried out by machines, with society split between a tiny super-rich elite and the rest, an unemployable mass of people with no prospect of finding work.

Kriti Sharma doesn’t see things that way. She has been recognized by the UN as a Young Leader For Sustainable Development Goals, in recognition of her work to ensure that AI helps to create a better, fairer world, through her AI For Good organization, and her role in the Sage Future Makers Lab, which was set up to equip young people around the world with hands-on learning for entering a career in Artificial Intelligence.

Speaking to UN News, Ms. Sharma acknowledged that people who live in countries which are on the wrong side of the digital divide (with less access to data) will be at a disadvantage, and pointed to studies that show a gender divide is looming, with women twice as likely to lose their jobs to automation, because of the kind of work they are involved in: “We need to make sure that we give people enough opportunities to reskill themselves, otherwise we end up creating more inequality that we had before.”

However, she believes that one of the biggest risks is failing to embrace this technology, and not equipping people with the skills to use it to solve global problems. Ms. Sharma laid out three ways to help ensure that AI brings about a fairer world.

First of all, it is important that a diverse group of people from many backgrounds are creating this technology, people who “understand society, policy-makers.” The second point is to ensure that AI is being used to solve the “right problems,” such as accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals, by diverting energy, research and funding into this area. And, lastly, international standards must be agreed upon, to make sure that the technology we create is used in a way that is safe and ethical for the world.

No progress without international cooperation

So, what is the way out of the “entrenched imbalance” of inequality? For the UN, a greater emphasis on international cooperation is an important part of the solution. The 2019 World Economic Situation and Prospects report concludes that, at a global level, a “cooperative and long-term strategy for global policy” is the way towards progress in reducing income inequality, and warns that a “withdrawal from multilateralism will pose further setbacks for those already being left behind.”

As the Secretary-General told the audience in Davos, a coordinated and global response is the only way to fight inequality, because “we need to work together. There is no way we can do isolated responses to the problems we face, they are all interlinked.”

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Sexual Diversity in Hindi Cinema: A Beginning

Aditi Aryal

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Bollywood, or as the more politically correct call it the “Hindi Film Industry”, released last week what is advocated as the first commercial film to portray love between two women characters in ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ (When I Saw a Girl I Felt That Way). A sterner breakthrough was in1996 when ‘Fire’, a path-breaking mainstream film boldly represented same-sex love between two women worn-out from their conjugal lives to find companionship in one another. Gatekeepers of Indian tradition and culture vandalized theatres and ran smear-campaigns against the film; it was way ahead of its time. The later Hindi films did little justice to aptly represent diversity by only typecasting characters to fit into the stereotypes of queer men as effeminate and reducing cross-dressers to a mere punch line.

The misrepresentations and badly written jokes were unobjectionable and continued to amuse the audience and homosexuality was typecast into a box of fallacies.  Homophobia persisted, if not strengthened, as influential politicians and famous yoga gurus condemned homosexuality as immoral and abnormal but treatable disease. Some went so far as to call it a Western import, an idea that was flowed in to corrupt the Indian purity. The retrograde legal standing on homosexuality as an unnatural activity remained a hurdle to depict properly the gravity of the issue in mainstream cinema. Yet, the fact remains that these films only reflected homophobia that truly exist in the society.

Following the decriminalization of homosexuality in India in September 2018, a six months later about woman struggling to come out to her family is exceptional. The film plays safe within the realm of a conventional narrative without going overboard. Not pushing the envelope to advocate for a radical change in thoughts and action, the film simply speaks for acceptance. But does it really get its message across?

Perhaps not. The movie’s representation of homosexuality is washed out akin to the superficial dealing of homosexuality in India. It does not even do as much as show some physical intimacy between the main leads. It revolves around the obsolete narrative of a protective family that is oppressive to protect the woman. It shows a self-sacrificing situation where she is ready to marry a man only because she needs to put her family first, even before herself.

By doing this, the film is toying into a genre of a submissive female, a storyline that has always been exploited by Indian films. The act of women as submissive to the demands of the family by suppressing their desires to save the honor which lies in their character is outdated. For a film woke enough to speak about homosexuality openly, these outdated narratives were unnecessary as they tend to reinforce the norms that need to be eradicated from Indian cinema.

It goes without saying that Indian content is consumed across a huge geographical region, covering the whole of South Asia and also across Indian communities all over the world. A form of cultural hegemony has been established as local content is dominated by Indian content, thwarting native culture in the process. For the more diverse and liberal audience that consume these films it is concerning whether such things will also be internalized in more open societies.

However, delving into a topic that is untouched but essential in today’s time, it is one baby step that will gauge the standing of the society on homosexuality. It is not to say that the issue has gained much acceptance largely. Sexual minorities in India continue to be marginalized and their struggles to fit as ordinary or to be treated equally into the society is crushing. Progressive films are one way to get on board to bring the required change.

Nevertheless, it is only with slight trepidation that filmmakers can proceed to depict ‘bold’ issues on screen. The presence of a paternalistically stringent censor board has always been a hurdle to pass. Fringe groups backed by strong political connections are almost at the ready to vandalize a film set and put a bounty on the director and actors for distorting Indian culture.

23 years after the fate of ‘Fire’, little has changed about acceptance – both in cinema and society. More progressive films in the mainstream might be a long way ahead in India, especially since the formula of success is doused in skewed gender representations. However, one can only hope for stronger scripts that stir the audience, incite dialogue, and then bring the change we have always wanted to see.

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Human trafficking cases hit a 13-year record high

MD Staff

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The latest Global Report On Trafficking In Persons, released on Tuesday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at UN headquarters in New York, shows a record-high number of cases detected during 2016, but also the largest recorded conviction rate of traffickers.

“The report was undertaken for a simple reason: if we want to succeed in confronting human trafficking in all its manifestations, we must better understand its scope and structure,” said Yury Fedotov, UNODC’s Executive Director as he presented the report in New York. “We need to appreciate where human trafficking is happening, who are its victims and who is perpetrating this crime.”

According to the latest figures compiled by UNODC, the record conviction and detection rates could either be a sign that countries have strengthened their capacity to identify victims – such as through specific legislation, better coordination among law enforcement entities, and improved victim protection services – or, that the number of actual instances of trafficking has increased.

While in 2003 fewer than 20,000 cases had been recorded, the number of cases recorded in 2016 had jumped to over 25,000.

UNODC Main forms of exploitation and profiles of detected victims, by sub-regions, 2016 (or most recent)

Despite improvements in data collection, impunity prevails

Over the last decade, the capacity of national authorities to track and assess patterns and flows of human trafficking has improved in many parts of the world. UNODC’s report notes that this is also due to a specific focus of the international community in developing standards for data collection. In 2009, only 26 countries had an institution which systematically collected and disseminated data on trafficking cases, while by 2018, the number had risen to 65.

However, many countries in Africa and Asia continue to have low conviction rates, and at the same time detect fewer victims which, UNODC stresses, “does not necessarily mean that traffickers are not active”.

In fact, the report shows that victims trafficked from areas of the world with low detection/conviction rates are found in large numbers in other areas of the world, suggesting that a high degree of impunity prevails in these low-reporting regions.

“This impunity could serve as an incentive to carry out more trafficking,” the report warns.

Women and girls remain a major target

“Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls,” wrote Executive Director Fedotov, in the report’s preface. ‘The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 per cent of those trafficked for forced labour are female.”

The report notes “considerable regional differences in the sex and age profiles of detected trafficking victims.” In West Africa, most of the detected victims are children, both boys and girls, while in South Asia, victims are equally reported to be men, women and children. In Central Asia, a larger share of adult men is detected compared to other regions, while in Central America and the Caribbean, more girls are recorded.

Sexual exploitation, the top form of trafficking

Most of the victims detected globally are trafficked for sexual exploitation, especially in the Americas, Europe, and East Asia and the Pacific. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, trafficking for forced labour is the most commonly detected form. In Central Asia and South Asia, trafficking for forced labour and sexual exploitation are equally prevalent,

Other forms of human trafficking include: girls forced into marriage, more commonly detected in South-East Asia; children for illegal adoption, more common in Central and South American countries; forced criminality, mainly reported in Western and Southern Europe; and organ removal, primarily detected in North Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe.

“Victims can be in restaurants, fisheries, brothels, farms, homes, and even organ trafficking and illegal adoption,” said Rani Hong, who survived child trafficking herself as she was taken from her family in India at age 7, submitted to intimidation, physical abuse and slavery, until she was sold for illegal adoption in Canada and later the United States.

“I was told by my witnesses that when I came into the United States, I was not able to walk because I had been locked in a small cage. This is what this industry is doing, and this is what happened to me.”

Many other forms, such as trafficking for exploitation in begging, or for the production of pornographic material, are reported in different parts of the world.

Armed conflict and displacement, a key driver of human trafficking

The report shows that armed conflicts can increase vulnerability to trafficking in different ways as areas with weak rule of law and lack of resources to respond to crime, provide traffickers with a fertile terrain to carry out their operations, preying on those who are desparately in need.

Armed groups and other criminals may take the opportunity to traffic victims – including children – for sexual exploitation, sexual slavery, forced marriage, armed combat and various forms of forced labour. This is the case for example in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, South-East Asia and elsewhere.

In some refugee camps in the Middle East, also, it has been documented that girls and young women have been ‘married off’ without their consent and subjected to sexual exploitation in neighbouring countries.

In addition, recruitment of children for use as armed combatants is widely documented. UNODC’s report notes that within conflict zones, armed groups can use trafficking as a strategy to assert territorial dominance, spread fear among civilians in the territories where they operate to keep the local population under control. They may also use women and girls as ‘sex slaves’ or force them into marriages to appeal to new potential male recruits.

The study shows that in all the conflicts examined for the report, forcibly displaced populations (refugees and internally displaced families) have been specifically targeted: from settlements of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, to Afghans and Rohingya fleeing conflict and persecution.

Notably, the risk faced by migrants and refugees travelling through conflict areas, such as Libya or parts of sub-Saharan Africa, is also well documented: in Libya, for example, militias control some detention centres for migrants and refugees and are coercing detained migrants and asylum seekers for different exploitative purposes.

“While we are far from ending impunity, we have made headway in the 15 years since the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons entered into force,” said UNODC’s chief Mr. Fedotov, as he noted that “nearly every country now has legislation in place criminalizing human trafficking”.

“The international community needs to accelerate progress to build capacities and cooperation, to stop human trafficking in conflict situations and in all our societies where this terrible crime continues to operate in the shadows,” he stated in the report’s preface.

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