The husband and parents of a woman who died under suspicious circumstances last year in the capital Ankara face charges of murder and complicity in murder in a bizarre case of exorcism.
The victim, 30-year-old Ö.N.T., died in March 2021 after she was hospitalized when she passed out at a marketplace where sacrificial animals are slaughtered. Authorities launched an investigation and the Chief Prosecutor's Office had completed an indictment against six defendants, including the victim's husband, mother-in-law and parents, as well as two people who allegedly helped them in the exorcism of "a djinn," a spiritual being in Islamic theology that is interpreted as an evil spirit.
Doctors alerted authorities when they discovered bruises on the back and arms of the victim and security forces detained the defendants. All were later released under judiciary control. The woman's husband, S.T., told prosecutors that his wife was suffering from psychological problems and his parents and in-laws told him that she might be "harmed by a djinn." T. said he turned to E.K., a man living in the central province of Kayseri recommended to him as an exorcist. "He told me he could save my wife and first, he recited prayers via the phone and this calmed my wife. When she got sick again, I called him and he told me to sacrifice an animal and later hit her back lightly 100 times with a rolling pin. He also instructed me to get her undergo hacamat (cupping therapy), which involves bloodletting and is viewed as a traditional alternative therapy. I hit her 100 times on her back and leg while reciting prayers but they were light blows," T. said in his testimony, adding that his parents and his wife's parents were in the room with him during the beating. He said he later brought in S.Ö., a suspect in the case, for cupping. "She slept peacefully after all this but got sick again in the morning. I called E.K. and he told me to sacrifice an animal. We went to the marketplace to buy and slaughter the animal. My wife was fasting that day upon E.K.'s advice. While we were slaughtering the animal, she passed out," he said.
E.K. denied the allegations and said he was not an "exorcist" but working as a welder. He said he was known to have religious knowledge and simply gave advice to S.T. to pray, repent and help the poor woman to stave off the djinn. He denied he told the husband to beat the victim with a rolling pin. S.Ö. told prosecutors that she applied cupping on the victim and had seen that her body was covered in bruises. She told prosecutors that when she asked the family, family members told her that they were trying to exorcise the djinn the way an exorcist had instructed them to. She denied charges of complicity in the murder. Other suspects also denied the allegations.
A forensic report in the case says the victim died of internal bleeding due to "soft tissue trauma," confirming the allegations of beating. Prosecutors asked for prison terms between 12 and 18 years for the defendants. The indictment is accepted by the First High Criminal Court in Ankara although a hearing date is yet to be set.
Though Islam does not instruct the faithful to use such practices like hitting djinn-possessed people, exorcists resorting to un-Islamic superstitions are still fairly common in some parts of Turkey, exploiting the beliefs of naive people in exchange for payment.