Black market organ trade is Baghdad's new growth industry
Saleh Al Jibouri in Baghdad and Colin Freeman
May 22, 2005
Ali Hameed quit his job as a taxi driver because he no longer felt
safe on Baghdad's streets. Increasingly desperate for money to help
him get married, he hit on a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity -
selling one of his kidneys.
Last week, in a shabby ward in the city's Al Karama hospital, he lay
bandaged on a bed, one kidney lighter and $1,400 (about £765) richer
after a three-hour operation.
In a nearby room, his body similarly bandaged, lay the man who had
paid for it - the other player in a grim new black market trade in
organs that is one of Iraq's few growth industries.
"I abandoned my taxi driving job because of the security situation,"
Mr Hameed, 22, told The Sunday Telegraph. "I thought about joining the
police or the army, but that is even more dangerous. There were no
more options, so I decided to sell my kidney. I am still a young man,
so I want to marry and begin a business."
Mr Hameed received a good price for his kidney. Would-be buyers with
an eye for a bargain can now pick up a new kidney for as little as
$700, given the desperation of fit and healthy Iraqis for money.
Young men like Mr Hameed can be seen loitering around many big
hospitals in Baghdad these days, open to bids passed on via networks
of shadowy middlemen who lurk in nearby cafés.
With unemployment in Iraq at about 60 per cent, the chance to earn
money by touting body parts is a more calculated risk than, say,
becoming a $150-a-month rookie policeman at the mercy of suicide
In the main their customers are other Iraqis, for whom kidney problems
are common thanks to decades of poor diet, water and medical care.
As news of the black market trade has spread, however, wealthier
transplant "tourists" from around the Arab world have started flocking
to Baghdad, attracted by the rock-bottom prices.
If car bombs, kidnappings and robberies are a deterrent, the price
compares favourably to the $5,000 cost of a kidney on the black market
in Turkey, or $3,000 in India. In Iraq, the operation itself typically
costs $2,000. Even so, the risks are considerable. Baghdad's hospitals
are filthy and under-resourced.
If a patient succumbs to post-operative infection or other
complications, high-quality care cannot be guaranteed. The expertise
needed to carry out what is a relatively simple surgical procedure is
in abundance, however - the legacy of an era 15 years ago when Saddam
Hussein's national health service met First World standards.
While many medics disapprove of the trade outside their hospital, if a
transplant patient turns up with a willing donor, they tend not to ask
too many questions.
"Many of the unemployed young men undergo this kind of surgery to get
money," said Dr Huthaim Al Saidi, who removed Mr Hameed's kidney. "I
am against the sale of organs, so I have a condition that I will only
accept donors who are relatives of the person needing the transplant.
But the private hospitals don't care who they get the organs from."
In Arab society, however, the term "cousin" is often used to describe
someone who is a friend or a fellow tribe member. At Al Karama
hospital, it is not clear how rigidly the relatives-only rule is applied.
The recipient of Mr Hameed's kidney, Ammar Muhammed, a 20-year-old
college student, describes himself not as a blood relative or even an
in-law, but a "friend". In many cases, "friend" appears to mean
someone whose relationship with the donor was struck up at the doors
of the hospital. "I was hit by shrapnel in a car bomb explosion on my
way home in Fallujah. It affected both of my kidneys," he said. "Due
to the lack of good health care, they got worse. I don't care how much
I pay - I want to survive."
The organised crime department of the Iraqi interior ministry has
formed a special unit to clamp down on the traders, whom it says
frequently dupe people into becoming donors.
Col Abdul Jabbar Abo Natiha, the head of the unit, said: "We caught
one donor from Basra who had originally come to Baghdad searching for
a job. A group of guys befriended him, gave him lodgings and then
insisted he paid a large amount of money in rent. They obliged him to
sell his kidney to pay it. He only got $70 out of the deal."
In 2001, the going rate for a donor was $2,000. The fact that the
price has tumbled, some doctors say, suggests that Iraqis are even
more desperate for money now than they were under Saddam.
"It wasn't easy two or three years ago to find a donor," said a senior
nurse at another Baghdad hospital. "Now patients' relatives need to
make no big effort."
President of Newspaper Guild echoes claim of ex-CNN exec
U.S. troops killing journalists
World Net Daily 19 May 2005
Echoing a claim that led to CNN executive Eason Jordan's resignation,
the president of the 35,000-member Newspaper Guild asserted U.S.
troops deliberately are killing journalists in Iraq.
Linda Foley, speaking Friday in St. Louis, said the American attacks
are focused particularly on Arab journalists, according to a tape
aired by Sinclair Broadcasting's "The Point," a commentary segment by
The remarks came as Newsweek magazine continued to manage fallout for
a report in its May 9 edition that sparked protests and rioting across
the Muslim world resulting in at least 17 dead, scores injured, relief
buildings burned down and a setback to years of coalition-building
Earlier this year, Jordan, CNN's chief news executive, suggested at
the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that some of the 63
journalists killed in Iraq had been specifically targeted by U.S.
troops. Jordan quickly backed off his suggestion, but constant
exposure from political weblogs led to his resignation. He also
admitted last year that CNN withheld news of atrocities taking place
in Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein because the network was
afraid it might lose access to the country.
According to a tape of her remarks, Foley said: "Journalists, by the
way, are not just being targeted verbally or
politically. They are also being targeted for real, um
like Iraq. What outrages me as a representative of journalists is that
there's not more outrage about the number, and the brutality, and the
cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists
Foley continued, "They target and kill journalists
uh, from other
countries, particularly Arab countries like Al -, like Arab news
services like al-Jazeera, for example. They actually target them and
blow up their studios with impunity. ..."
Hyman called on Foley to immediately present evidence to support her
claims or resign.
"Unfortunately, the damage may have already been done," he said. "Her
remarks could lead to further bloodshed, including against Americans."
Hyman concluded: "The question is whether Newspaper Guild members will
hold Foley accountable or will they give her a free pass in
endangering American lives with inflammatory remarks without any proof?"
The Newspaper Guild posted an April 15 article on its website that
blames the U.S. for the deaths of journalists José Couso and Taras
Protsyuk, April 8, 2003, at the Palestine Hotel. They were on a
balcony watching the Third Infantry tank division exchange fire with
Iraqi forces, the report said. After a lull in the battle, a U.S. tank
fired an incendiary shell at the hotel. U.S. officials say the troops
believed they were taking fire from the hotel.
Guild Chief Under Fire for Comments About Attacks on Journalists in Iraq
NEW YORK, May 19, 2005 - Linda Foley, national president of The
Newspaper Guild, drew strong criticism today from some conservative
groups for comments she made last Friday about the killing of
journalists in Iraq. Foley said, among other things, that she was
angry that there was "not more outrage about the number and the
brutality, and the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the
killing of journalists in Iraq. I think it's just a scandal."
The backlash became so severe Thursday that staffers at Guild
headquarters in Washington, D.C., stopped answering the phone because
of abusive phone calls and "people screaming at us," Foley said.
Instead, callers were required to leave messages on voice mail and
await a return call.
"We don't want people to be subjected to that kind of abuse," Foley
said, adding that the angry calls began early Thursday. "It is
annoying, but it isn't deterring us from doing what we have to do."
The calls were apparently in reaction to comments Foley made during a
panel discussion at the National Conference for Media Reform in St.
Louis on May 13. There she offered a lengthy commentary on corporate
ownership of media, and she refuted certain criticism of journalists.
During that session, she also briefly discussed deaths of journalists
covering the war.
Foley's comments, which he says have been distorted, have already
drawn the ire of several conservative news organizations, including
NewsMax.com, The Washington Times, and Sinclair Broadcasting, charging
that she accused the U.S. forces of deliberately targeting journalists.
According to a video of the session available on the conference's Web
site, her only comments on this specific subject were:
"Journalists are not just being targeted verbally or politically. They
are also being targeted for real in places like Iraq. And what
outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there's not
more outrage about the number and the brutality, and the cavalier
nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq.
I think it's just a scandal."
"It's not just U.S. journalists either, by the way. They target and
kill journalists from other countries, particularly Arab countries, at
news services like Al Jazeera, for example. They actually target them
and blow up their studios, with impunity. This is all part of the
culture that it is OK to blame the individual journalists, and it just
takes the heat off of these media conglomerates that are part of the
A NewsMax.com story charged that Foley had accused U.S. soldiers of
"committing atrocities without offering any evidence to back the
charge up." Mark Hyman, a Sinclair commentator, called her comments
"irresponsible" and "horrible allegations."
Several critics immediately compared her criticism to the case of
Eason Jordan, the former CNN executive who resigned after suggesting
that U.S. military personnel may have targeted journalists in Iraq.
Last month, Foley sent a letter to President Bush criticizing the U.S.
investigation into the deaths of journalists in Iraq.
Foley told E&P Thursday that her words were taken out of context by
critics and said her original intent was to discuss how journalists
are often scapegoated for their coverage. "This was almost an aside,"
she said. "But it is true that hundreds of journalists are killed
around the world, and many have been killed in Iraq."
When asked if she believed U.S. troops had targeted journalists in
Iraq, she said, "I was careful of not saying troops, I said U.S.
military. Could I have said it differently? There are 100 different
ways of saying this, but I'm not sure they would have appeased the right."
She did point out that those who bombed the Al Jazeera studios in
Baghdad in 2003 had the coordinates of the television station,
"because Al Jazeera had given it to them and they bombed the hell out
of the station. They bombed it knowing it was the Al Jazeera station.
Absent any independent inquiry that tells the world otherwise, that is
what I believe."
Her comments at the conference followed the letter she sent last month
to President Bush criticizing the U.S. investigation into the deaths
of journalists in Iraq, including several during an attack on the
Palestine Hotel in 2003.
In that attack, two journalists -- one form Spain and the other from
Ukraine -- were killed. She also noted the bombing of the Al Jazeera
office the same day, in which a reporter died. "Neither of these
attacks has been independently investigated nor have the deaths been
properly explained to the satisfaction of the victims' families, their
friends and their colleagues," the letter said, in part.
Joe Strupp (jstrupp @ editorandpublisher.com) is a senior editor at E&P.
U.S. Claims Over Siege Challenged
Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service
May 19, 2005
As with the siege of Fallujah six months back, U.S. claims over the
siege of the Iraqi town Al Qa'im are being challenged now by
AMMAN, May 19 (IPS) - As with the siege of Fallujah six months back,
U.S. claims over the siege of the Iraqi town Al Qa'im are being
challenged now by independent sources.
The U.S. military claims a "successful" end to the weeklong operation
earlier this month around Al-Qa'im, a town about 320km west of Baghdad
close to the Syrian border. The operation was launched against what
the U.S. military saw as the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters in the town.
Iraqi civilians and doctors in the area say no foreign fighters were
present in the town. Al Qa'im and surrounding areas have suffered
great destruction, and many in the town population of 110,000 were
killed, they say.
Abu Ahmed, a resident of Al-Qa'im, told IPS on telephone that "all the
fighters here are Iraqis from this area."
He said continuing violations by U.S. soldiers had provoked people
into confronting the occupying forces. He said troops had been raiding
homes, sending women into the streets without their hijabs and
entering areas where women sleep.
"The fighters are just local people who refuse to be treated like
dogs," he said. "Nobody wants the Americans here."
Abd al-Khaliq al-Rawi, head of communications for the local government
in Al-Qa'im said on Al-Jazeera television that the fighters were all
local Iraqis. "We have not seen any outsiders. The fighters are from
the area. They are resisting the occupation."
Al Qa'im and surrounding areas were besieged by U.S. forces for a week
by about 1,000 troops backed by warplanes, tanks and helicopters as a
part of 'Operation Matador'. The U.S. military claims the operation
was a success in that 125 "militants" were killed in an effort to
search for followers of the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
But accounts of the operation from non-governmental organisations
(NGOs), Iraqi doctors and civilians differ greatly from those put
forward by the military.
"Qa'im is still surrounded by the MNF (Multinational Forces), and
we've yet to get any humanitarian workers into the city," Daunia
Pavone, programme manager for the Italian NGO consortium Solidarity
told IPS in Amman, Jordan. The bombing had stopped, she said, but they
did not know when it might resume and were unable therefore to send
aid workers into the area.
"The Americans said they could not get inside the city," Pavone said.
"Once the Americans surrounded the city nobody was able to get out. So
we are very concerned that there are a large number of civilian
casualties inside the city."
Pavone said that about 12,000 Iraqis had left Al-Qaim, and that the
rest had remained trapped inside. "I think there will be lots of
civilian casualties," she said.
At least nine soldiers were killed and more than 40 wounded during the
siege, according to the U.S. military.
The U.S. military has made no statement on civilian casualties, but
witnesses say scores of innocent Iraqis were killed.
The city centre "has been almost completely destroyed," the director
of Al-Qa'im hospital Dr. Hamdi Al-Alusi told Al-Jazeera television. He
said the casualties included many women, children and elderly people,
and appealed to humanitarian organisations to intervene quickly.
"Ambulances were prevented from moving and the medical teams have left
the city centre because it has been destroyed," Al-Alusi said during
the siege. Water and electricity networks have been destroyed and
"there are scores of wounded people and scores of victims who cannot
reach the hospital or anywhere else. We pray to god and implore the
whole world to look into what happened to Al-Qa'im and adjacent cities."
Rafa Asahab, a Syrian who lives in Abu Kemal village on the Syrian
border told IPS he saw some of the effects of the siege. "At least 100
civilians in Al-Qa'im have been killed," he said. U.S. warplanes also
entered Syrian airspace many times, he said.
Eyewitnesses said U.S. jets and helicopters also attacked surrounding
Al-Karabilah, Al-Jazirah and Al-Quaydat towns. "Medical staff
confirmed the killing of civilians by helicopter gunfire," Dr.
Muhammad Abud reported on Al-Sharqiyah television. He said ambulance
crews had difficulty retrieving some bodies that had been ripped apart.
Adil al-Rawi, an eyewitness in Al-Qa'im said on Al-Arabiya television
during the siege that U.S. forces had shelled the hospital. "They are
using warplanes, mortar shells and tanks to shell the city
indiscriminately, hurt citizens and bomb the houses with warplanes."
Many people in the towns need medical aid, and the thousands of
residents who fled need water, food, tents and blankets, Pavone said.
The siege came as violence and bloodshed continue to escalate in Iraq
amidst rising opposition to U.S. forces. Tensions rose further when
anti-occupation Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr made another demand Monday
that the United States withdraw from Iraq. Al-Sadr had launched a
bloody Intifadah (militant uprising) against occupation forces last
summer in Najaf, Hilla and the Sadr City area of Baghdad.
Last week the new Iraqi government announced a continuation of the
state of emergency (excepting in the Kurdish region in the north).
Emergency was declared on Nov. 7, 2004. Most of the country has
remained under martial law ever since, despite elections in January
Posted by Dahr_Jamail at May 19, 2005 01:29 PM
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