Iranians Selling Kidneys Due To Country’s Economic Crisis — Report
Amid a deepening economic crisis, many Iranians are reported to have turned to sell body organs to overseas buyers out of poverty, Iranian news warns.
Reports claim people are selling kidneys, liver, cornea, bone marrow, sperm and ovum to support their families or pay for medical bills, fetching £5,500 ($7,000) to £12,000 ($15,000) per organ.
Iran International cited local news in saying middlemen inside the million-dollar industry would buy the organs to send on to countries including the UAE, Turkey and Iraq.
There is no evidence of action being taken to stop the online black market, usually with buyers procuring organs through coercion or deception.
In 2019, Iran’s opposition party went on to claim the government had endorsed the practice of people living in poverty selling their organs.
One victim told local news outlet Jahan-e-Sanat: ‘My blood type is O negative, and I am 22 years old. I will sell my kidney for 5 billion rials ($10,000).
‘Due to my financial issues, I have no choice but to sell my kidney. If you want my liver, I will sell a part of it for 2 billion rials ($4,000).’
Reports of organ trafficking in Iran have grown in recent years as Iran weathers the impact of harsh sanctions, a contraction in oil exports and high inflation.
In 2018, reports emerged of people waiting in public on the streets of Karaj, in northern Iran, for buyers.
‘I am waiting for a customer,’ a woman was reported to have written on a cardboard sign as she waited with a pale, sickly teenager of around 15. ‘I will sell my kidney to save my son’s life.’
The report claimed the middlemen often use social media as a marketing tool, targeting people with organs to sell who might be desperately in need of cash.
It also alleged people may seek to buy newborn babies on the sites.
Iran Human Rights Monitor – an activist group working in collaboration with the opposition group, the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) – reported pre-pandemic that employees of Khomeini Hospital in Karaj were selling their kidneys in order to survive.
A member of the city council, Ghadir Mahdavi, said at the time that when he arrived at the health centre he found ‘unable to pay the housing rent or their children’s university tuition for months, and due to economic pressure caused by months of nonpayment, the staff are selling their kidneys’.
It is not strictly illegal in Iran to exchange an organ, such as a kidney, for money. A 2022 report noted the only government intervention so far in Iran’s kidney market was setting a minimum price for the whole country.
The report notes men are more likely to donate their kidneys in Iran due to traditional ‘breadwinner’ expectations.
Still reeling from Covid-19 and the impact of the war in Ukraine, Iran’s economic situation has worsened under huge inflationary pressures.
The closure of businesses in early 2020 intensified sanctions applied since the early 2010s over a dispute around Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iran was briefly able to benefit from an agreement with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, implemented in 2016 to limit nuclear activity in return for access to more than $100bn in assets frozen overseas, amplifying oil exports.
But the election of Donald Trump in 2016 soon saw the US withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the nuclear deal – in May 2018.
The reintroduction of sanctions resulted in a sharp drop in Iran’s GDP while experts warned Iran was making progress on its nuclear programme.
Only in the last two years has Iran’s economy started to rebound with help from a recovery of services post-pandemic and wider oil exports – above all to China.
Pre-pandemic, poverty in Iran stood at 27%, increasing five percentage points between 2018 and 2019 due to sanctions.
Poverty in Iran is stressed by deep inequality, with the poorest 40% experiencing a stronger contraction in spending than the average.
Inflation has eroded the real value of cash transfers, hitting the poorest the hardest.
A report published in Iran this year showed one-third of the country’ population is now living in dire poverty, via Iran International.
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