According to a religious ruling, or fatwa, issued by Islamic State scholars, the harvesting of organs from live victims in order to save the lives of Muslims is licit, opening the question of whether ISIS is engaging in the trafficking of human body parts.
The fatwa is contained in a recently released document obtained by U.S. special forces in a raid in eastern Syria last May. According to the ruling, the removal of organs from a living captive to save a Muslim’s life is permitted, even if the operation kills the captive.
A U.S. government translation of the document has been posted online.
The ruling, handed down by from the Islamic State’s Research and Fatwa Committee, answers the query whether it is permissible “to take the captured apostate’s body organs and give them to Muslims who are in need of them.” Citing various Islamic texts and the opinions of Islamic scholars, the fatwa states that “the notion that transplanting healthy organs into a Muslim person’s body in order to save the latter’s life or replace a damaged organ with it is permissible.”
The principle logic behind the ruling is the belief that whereas the life of a Muslim is sacrosanct, “the apostate’s life and organs don’t have to be respected and can be taken with impunity.”
Though the document does not define the term “apostate,” it is often taken to mean not only a convert from Islam, but anyone not embracing the Muslim religion. Such has been the interpretation of U.S. government officials.
The document furnishes “a religious justification for harnessing the organs of what they call infidels,” said Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
According to McGurk, the May raid in Syria brought in seven terabytes of data stored on computer hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and papers, among which was the fatwa on organ harvesting.
Earlier this year, Mohamed Alhakim, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, urged the UN Security Council to examine accusations of organ removal by the Islamic State, noting that corpses bearing surgical incisions and missing kidneys had been uncovered in mass graves in Iraq.
“We have bodies. Come and examine them,” Alhakim said. “It is clear they are missing certain parts.”
Alhakim also claimed that ISIS militants had executed several doctors in Mosul for refusing to take part in organ harvesting.
The recent revelations of Islamic State organ harvesting follow upon news of another similar fatwa authorizing ISIS militants to kill infants born with Down syndrome or congenital birth defects.
According to the Iraqi activist blog Mosul Eye, a Saudi sharia judge named Abu Said Aljazrawi ruled that ISIS followers are authorized to the newborns with disabilities, and that at least 38 children had already been executed by lethal injection or suffocation.
In a post on the Mosul Eye Facebook page, the group claimed that any child with a disability is now at risk of being killed, and released a brief video showing disabled children.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome