Illegal organ trade burgeoning in Iraq

Xavier Symons
April 23, 2016
Reproduced with Permission

In the face of continuing economic hardship Iraqis have turned to the illegal organ trade.

According to a BBC report, gangs in the country are offering up to $10,000 US for a kidney, and have been increasingly targeted the country's poor. Almost a quarter of the country's population live in abject poverty - according to World Bank statistics - and some destitute families are actively seeking out organ traders.

"The phenomenon is so widespread that authorities are not capable of fighting it," said Firas al-Bayati, a human rights lawyer, told the BBC.

"I have personally dealt over the past three months with 12 people who were arrested for selling their kidneys. And poverty was the reason behind their acts," he said.

Under Iraqi law only relatives are allowed to donate organs their organs to one and other. The trafficking of organs is strictly prohibited, with penalties ranging from three years in prison to death.

In July last year the Iraqi English-language news service NIQASH published a feature on the organ trade in Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region of the country. Displaced persons have flooded into region since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, and opportunistic organ traffickers have been very active in the sprawling refugee camps.

According to NIQASH, organ 'donors' typically receive around $4000 for a kidney; traffickers will on-sell the kidney in other regional centres for up to $20000.

The regional government has been slow to implement laws outlawing the trade.