If you invented a fictional terrorist organization as recently as two years ago that takes and holds territory, enslaves minorities and children, destroys 2,000-year-old religious shrines, burns people alive for sport, and sells civilian organs on the black market, you couldn’t have sold it to a publisher. They’d have called your personification of evil hackneyed. Life is often stranger than fiction.
While the organ harvesting allegations have been floating around the rumor mills for some time, they have never been confirmed. This claim remains disputed, but now the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations is alleging that ISIS is killing civilians and selling their organs in order to finance terrorism.
Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim reportedly told journalists that Iraqi authorities are finding bodies with conspicuous holes cut into their backs where the kidneys would be. He added that doctors have been executed for refusing to harvest organs. “We have bodies. Come and examine them,” he said. “It is clear they are missing certain parts.”
The United Nations, however, has not seen any proof that would substantiate these allegations.
Alhakim briefed the council on the overall situation in Iraq and accused the Islamic State group of “crimes of genocide” in targeting certain ethnic groups.
The outgoing U.N. envoy to Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, told the council that 790 people were killed in January alone by terrorism and armed conflict.
Mladenov noted the increasing number of reports and allegations that the Islamic State group is using organ harvesting as a financing method, but he said only that “it’s very clear that the tactics ISIL is using expand by the day.” He used an acronym for the group.
A report via Al-Monitor from early December also indicated that ISIS might have turned toward the harvesting of human organs as an unconventional source of funding.
That report claimed that residents in the city of Mosul reported increasing tax penalties on families who do not pay for protection or offer their sons up as fighters for the Islamic State. Moreover, the price of gasoline and coal oil in the city has skyrocketed, indicating that the export of nearly all locally produced commodities has come to characterize the Islamic State’s economy.
The third funding source was exposed by otolaryngologist Siruwan al-Mosuli. He said that lately he noticed unusual movement within medical facilities in Mosul. Arab and foreign surgeons were hired, but prohibited from mixing with local doctors. Information then leaked about organ selling. Surgeries take place within a hospital and organs are quickly transported through networks specialized in trafficking human organs. Mosuli said that 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. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the organization sells bodies and organs of injured people they arrest.
Given the atrocities to which ISIS militants regularly appeal in order to communicate their seriousness to the West, fund the state, or bring about the apocalypse, it is really not that difficult to imagine that Islamic State authorities would add the harvesting of organs from civilian bodies to the mix.