In the last few weeks disturbing reports surfaced out of Iraq that the stating that the Islamic militant group ISIS had expanded its terror operations to include organ trafficking. The reports originate from a lone official in the Iraqi embassy and reference dozens of bodies in mass graves missing their internal organs. The story has since been reported everywhere from fringe new sources like the Jewish Press and the right-wing Freedom Center all the way to more respectable outlets like CNN. FOX news has jumped all over the organ harvesting story and repeated it in numerous reports. In the last week I’ve received two interview requests from major news organizations who were aware of my book The Red Market and wanted me to comment.
It’s true that there is a long history of organ theft during times of war–most notably during the war in Kosovo and more recently Israel security forces in Palestine. I have no illusions that ISIS would be happy to get into the organ trafficking business if it meant that they could make a little money to support their ongoing terrorist operations. However, I just don’t believe that the reports are credible or that ISIS really has the infrastructure to make it work.
In the six years that I spent investigating organ trafficking networks the recipient and the donor were always in the same city when the operation took place. This usually meant that the recipient flew to India, Pakistan, China or Egypt and the donor was sourced from a prison or a nearby slum. Sometimes they were paid, sometimes they were kidnapped. Occasionally both the donor and the recipient would fly to a Caribbean Island or South Africa for the operation. I never have heard of a single case of a kidney or heart being harvested in one country illegally and then being sent by air to another one.
The reason boils down to logistics. Transplants are highly coordinated affairs and require the cooperation from hospitals, ambulance services, laboratories, police, customs officials and other government agencies. Everything needs to be timed perfectly or the brief window of keeping the organ alive for transplant will pass. Read more “Why ISIS probably isn’t selling organs”