Iraq's ambassador to the U.N. claimed Wednesday that ISIS has been forcing doctors to harvest organs from the bodies of the people it's killed, and then selling those organs to fund its operations, according to an AP report. Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim called for a Security Council investigation into alleged mass graves full of bodies with surgical scars and missing kidneys.
According to Alkalim, a dozen doctors have been killed in Mosul because they wouldn't take part in the Islamic State's organ trafficking scheme.
Unconfirmed rumors of ISIS removing and selling organs have been around since at least December, when Middle East news outlet Al-Monitor published an article with more detailed claims than Alkalim made this week.
Based on a report from one doctor in Mosul, Al-Monitor wrote:
Surgeries take place within a hospital and organs are quickly transported through networks specialized in trafficking human organs ... the organs come from fallen fighters who were quickly transported to the hospital, injured people who were abandoned or individuals who were kidnapped.
He said that organ sales yield large profits. A specialized mafia is engaged in these operations, in addition to medical institutions working in other countries. Without coordination among these parties, such a trade cannot be sustained, he said.
The Al-Monitor story also claims that the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed "the organization sells bodies and organs of injured people they arrest," a claim that was widely repeated by news sites in December, but seems to be based entirely on this single source. (As far as I can tell, there's no mention of the trafficking operation in OHCHR's published reports on Iraq, and Alkalim didn't mention OHCHR in his statement to the Security Council.)
The Islamic State is incredibly money-hungry, Newsweek reported in a detailed look at the revenue streams ISIS uses to support the 8 million people in its territories, including more than 10,000 active fighters. There's no mention of selling kidneys, but ISIS needs all the money it can get, and if they're willing to conduct small-time local kidnappings for as little as $500, moving organs isn't so farfetched.
There's still no conclusive evidence, though. The Islamic State is the international boogeyman of the moment, and its confirmed actions are heinous enough to make any rumor sound plausible, but it's also been the subject of several online hoaxes and conspiracy theories.
It's probably best to withhold judgment until the U.N. does what Alkahim suggests and examines the bodies.
[Photo: AP Images]