Crime & Justice

Organ trafficking beefs up Hizbullah's coffers

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Vans are reportedly being used to abduct people by a Hizbullah network for organ trafficking purposes. [Picture circulated on social media]

Over the last several years, Hizbullah has reportedly been running a network for trafficking in human organs that spans Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Yemen.

Hizbullah-affiliated individuals allegedly abduct people and sell their organs on the black market to beef up the Lebanese party's coffers, now that Hizbullah is facing escalating financial pressure due to the US's maximum pressure campaign on its sponsor, Iran.

Rabih Tlais, a Hizbullah defector turned anti-Hizbullah activist, wrote an article on the party's organised organ-trafficking network which was published by Sawt Beirut on November 1st.

He said the party's organ-trafficking spans from Lebanon to Iran, Iraq and Yemen, adding that Iran-affiliated militias within Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), as well as Yemen's Houthis (Ansarallah), are also involved.

These militias are affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

"Trafficking human organs was deemed permissible through a fatwa issued by the party's sharia judiciary head, Mohammed Yazbek, who is also a member of Hizbullah's Shura Council," Tlais told Al-Mashareq.

'Source of funding for Hizbullah'

"Hizbullah views organ-trafficking as a significant source of funding," Tlais said.

Party elements occasionally coerce sick people into undergoing surgery without knowing an organ would be removed from their body to be sold, he said.

Forced organ harvesting and organ trafficking first became prevalent during the war in Syria by Hizbullah's External Security Organisation (Unit 910), under the supervision of a Lebanese named Khodr Youssef Nader.

The abductions and killings happened in co-ordination with a medical unit which was in charge of conducting organ removal surgeries and preserving the organs in the party's field hospitals and hospitals under their control in the countries in which they have a presence, Tlais said.

Tlais said Hizbullah targets all age groups across Lebanon for forced organ trafficking. He said instances of abduction and murder for this purpose are carried out by Saraya al-Ahzab and al-Saraya al-Lubnaniya, which is under the direct command of senior Hizbullah official Hashem Safi al-Din.

The two are active in Christian, Sunni and Druze areas, while Hizbullah's Internal Security Organisation (Unit 900), also commanded by Nader, carries out abductions in Shia areas.

According to Tlais, hospitals where surgeries for organ-harvesting are performed include al-Rasul al-Atham in Beirut, Sheikh Ragheb Harb in Nabatiyeh, Salah Ghandour in Bint Jbeil, al-Bekaa al-Gharbi in Sahmar, Dar al-Hikma in Baalbek and Riyaq.

A Hizbullah opponent who asked not to be named told Al-Mashareq abductions aimed at forced organ-trafficking are done using vans. Drivers prey upon individuals in isolated areas, ask them to approach the vehicle to identify a lost or unconscious person, then drug and abduct them.

"We now know the methods they use to lure their victims, especially in the areas where the party has a presence," he said.

'No moral constraint'

Hassan Qutb, director of the Lebanese Centre for Research and Consulting, told Al-Mashareq the IRGC has been unable to sufficiently fund Lebanon's Hizbullah due to the US's "maximum pressure campaign", through which crippling sanctions have been imposed on Iran.

Funding shortages have resulted in Hizbullah's efforts to find alternative means to beef up its coffers, regardless of whether they are legal or humane, he said.

Qutb mentioned drug smuggling and money laundering as other ways through which Hizbullah is trying to support its activities.

The Iranian regime tries to execute its expansionist policies in the region with no moral constraint through its tools, including Hizbullah in Lebanon, the PMF in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, he said.

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