The Albino Murders

Albinism is a genetic disorder that causes the skin, hair and eyes to have little, or no color. This rare condition only occurs once in twenty-thousand people. People with albinism suffer from poor eyesight, crossed eyes, involuntary eye movements and are more prone to skin cancer. 

To pile on to the burdens put upon the albinos, they also have to deal with being viciously hunted down. In recent years, there has been a rise in withcraft-related killings of people diagnosed with albinism as their body parts are used in potions, rituals or concoctions by witch doctors. This is based on the belief that certain body parts belonging to people with albinism can transmit magical powers that will bring wealth, power, success or health depending on the variances of interpretation. Out of desperation, graves of albinos are being dug up in attempts to obtain their body parts. Simultaneously, people with albinism are being killed because they are thought to be cursed and carriers of bad luck. As a result, people with albinism have been persecuted, killed and dismembered.    

When in fear of a volcano eruption, pulling the hair of an albino is said to bring good luck. It has also been reported that gold miners use the bones of albinos as amulets  to carry with them when mining for good luck. Gold miners may also bury the bones of albinos in the area in which they are drilling for gold in hopes to bring good fortune. These dreadful murders are most common in African countries such as Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Swaziland where witch doctors have promoted a belief in the potential magical and superstitious properties of albinos' body parts.

Being a person diagnosed with albinism is indeed tough. They are hunted like animals and are under the belief that their condition is a punishment from God. An albino child is often seen as an omen and is treated as an unwanted child. Due to this, many albino babies become victims of infanticide. 

Many children dread returning to their families in fear that even their closest relatives may kill them. This causes stress and extreme trauma from an early age. Aside from domestic isolation, albinos are faced with extensive bullying, exclusion from friends, overall discrimination and low self-esteem which comes hand in hand with emotional and mental illnesses. Their emotional illnesses often derive from rejection, particularly from society and family members who believe in superstitious myths with references to albinos. These misconceptions, along with a lack of understanding, are some of the reasons why albinos are heavily persecuted. 

According to Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, there are often very low education levels in albinos due to social and educational exclusion leading to a lack in economic tools to live productive lives. Their ability to learn is often deficient due to their inevitable visual impairments, insufficient educational facilities, learning supplies or fundings to support children with visual impairments.

Many organizations have been set up to help protect and provide for albino communities. Films have also been produced to encourage, educate and create an international understanding of the trials to which albinos are facing in the modern world. Examples of these films are “12 Years a Slave” and “In The Shadow of the Sun”. 

We are still dealing with terrible ancient rituals and practices, which encourage murder for medicine. These murders are against all international human rights legislations and therefore it is important that albinos are collectively protected. Organizations such as National Organization for Albinism and Hypo-pigmentation (NOAH), Tanzania Albino Centre (TAC) aim to “improve the lives of albinos with educational and medical assistance so that they may live safe, accepted, and prosperous lives in the society of their choice.” We hope that one day all albinos can be accepted into this world’s society without any present persecution threats.


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