Torture in PNG

A long, horrific article about attacks on “witches” in Papua New Guinea.

One excerpt. Trigger warning.

Angela was naked, staked-out, spread-eagled on a rough frame before them, a blindfold tied over her eyes, a fire burning in a nearby drum. Being unable to see can only have inflated her terror, her sense of powerlessness and the menace around her; breathing the smoke and feeling the heat of the fire where the irons being used to burn her were warmed until they glowed. Would she be cooked, on that fire? She must have known it had happened to others before — and would soon infamously happen again, the pictures finding their way around the world.

The photographs witnesses took of Angela’s torture are shocking, both for the cruelty of the attackers and the torpid body-language of the spectators. Stone-faced     men and women and wide-eyed children huddle under umbrellas, sheltering from the drenched highlands air as Angela writhes against the tethers at her wrists and ankles, twisting her body away from the length of hot iron which a young man aims at her genitals.

There are more horrors, but a nun named Sister Gaudentia managed to save Angela and her mother in the end. Other women are not saved.




  1. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Horrendous. What century are we living in again? What the .. ?!

  2. says

    Once again I’m baffled as to how anyone can see a disconnect between caring about combatting irrational superstition on one hand, and protecting the interests of vulnerable people on the other. Over and over again we see how irrational beliefs and superstition are deployed to oppress people who are marginalized and oppressed in society. Funny how people with irrational beliefs in sorcery never end up identifying influential men or women with powerful men protecting them as the source of the alleged witchcraft.

  3. says

    …And look who’s doing a great deal of work to directly save lives by confronting this irrational superstition–the Catholic Church. Wouldn’t atheists prefer to be the ones doing that, and doing it for the right reasons instead of wanting to convince people to believe in a different irrational superstition? But we won’t be able to do that unless we decide that justice and human rights, along with accuracy, skepticism, and critical reasoning, are priorities for us.

  4. Wave says

    Nuns and priests are often frontline workers in third world countries.

    Sister Gaudentia is already 74 and so soon there’ll be no one left.

    Her brand of compassion and bravery are rapidly dying out.

  5. says

    There is a horrific related story from 2008 involving infanticide in Papua New Guinea.

    “The two villages where mothers killed EVERY baby born a boy for ten years”

    The Daily Mail – UK November 28, 2008

    by Richard Shears

    The Papua New Guinea jungle has given up one of its darkest secrets – the systematic slaughter of every male baby born in two villages to prevent future tribal clashes.

    By virtually wiping out the ‘male stock’, tribal women hope they can avoid deadly bow-and-arrow wars between the villages in the future.

    ‘Babies grow into men and men turn into warriors,’ said Rona Luke, a village wife who is attending a special ‘peace and reconciliation’ meeting in the mountain village of Goroka. …


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