The alarming rate of human organ trafficking in Iraq

Civil activists and observers point to extreme poverty and the displacement of thousands of Iraqis as primary drivers of this heinous trade.
In this photo taken Feb. 27, 2017, a law-enforcement guide to human trafficking sits on a table at The Genesis Project. (Photo: AP)
In this photo taken Feb. 27, 2017, a law-enforcement guide to human trafficking sits on a table at The Genesis Project. (Photo: AP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) - The alarming rise in human organ trafficking in Iraq, particularly in Babil Governorate, highlights a severe violation of human rights and societal security.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently reported a troubling increase in cases, with ten incidents recorded over the past three years, including four in 2023 alone.

Civil activists and observers point to extreme poverty and the displacement of thousands of Iraqis as primary drivers of this heinous trade.

"The high rates of poverty in the governorate and the presence of thousands of displaced persons are the main reasons for the increase in human organ trafficking," noted a local observer.

Assistant Director for Human Rights in Babil, Abdul Hassan al-Khafaji, emphasized the critical role of accurate monitoring and cooperation with judicial authorities in addressing this issue.

"Through cooperation with the concerned authorities, especially the judiciary, and through accurate statistics and monitoring teams, there were 10 cases during 2021, 2022, and 2023. The last statistics in 2023 revealed four cases related to human organ trafficking in Babil Governorate," al-Khafaji stated.

He highlighted that Iraqi law, specifically Law No. 28/2012, imposes severe penalties, including the death penalty, for such crimes.

A recent shocking incident involved the arrest of a mother and her sister caught attempting to sell her daughter for $2,300. This case underscores the desperate measures some families resort to due to extreme poverty.

"Observers describe the matter as dangerous, with poverty being the primary reason many families go through," a civil activist remarked.

Civil activist Fadhel Ali urged a comprehensive approach to tackle the root causes of this crisis.

"We call on the security forces to pursue and arrest criminals involved in organ trafficking. However, addressing the underlying issues such as poverty and displacement is crucial. The state must provide job opportunities for young people to reduce this phenomenon," Ali stressed.

Legal expert Arkan al-Hamdani elaborated on the legislative framework combating human trafficking in Iraq.

"The Iraqi legislator included two laws for the crime of human trafficking, including Combating Human Trafficking No. 28 of 2012, with penalties up to the death penalty. Another relevant law is the Human Organ Transplantation and Non-Trafficking Law No. 11 of 2016, which also stipulates severe penalties," al-Hamdani explained.

Specialists believe that the widespread poverty in Iraqi society has forced many to sell their body parts for money, fueling the growth of regional and international mafias and gangs involved in this illicit trade.

Hemin Bajalan, a former member of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, shed light on the involvement of mafia groups in organ trafficking.

"Some mafia groups have emerged in Iraq through kidnapping and trafficking in body parts, exacerbated by poverty and unemployment," Bajalan told Kurdistan24.

He pointed out that refugees, most of whom are impoverished, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by these groups. The security gap in Iraq has further enabled the proliferation of such criminal networks.

Bajalan also commented on the Iraqi government's efforts to combat this trade. "Although the government sometimes announces the arrest of several groups involved in this business, these groups are numerous, and the arrest of some will not halt their operations," he said.

The rising incidence of human organ trafficking in Babil Governorate calls for comprehensive and sustained efforts to address the socio-economic factors driving this inhumane trade, alongside stringent enforcement of existing laws to dismantle the networks involved.