The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

THE FREE MARKET COMES TO IRAQ!

In the form of...
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 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 cafes.

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 attackers.

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.
Hmm, I think I just figured out a way for Jonah Goldberg to contribute to the effort in Iraq...

On top of that, perhaps given his kidney disease, this might be a way for our forces to get some leads on Osama. Were he in, uh, Iraq.

(thanks to highschool classmate Megan K for the link)

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