September 27, 2022

Bioethics and the caliphate

Hi there,

Tales of atrocities emerging from the regions captured by the Islamic State, or ISIS, or the Caliphate, are already legion. There have been beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions, expulsion of Shia and Christian families unless they convert, burned churches.

You could believe almost anything about these guys. But something sounded a bit fishy about claims of female genital mutilation in Thursday’s Guardian. A UN official told reporters: “We have current reports of imposition of a directive that all female girl children and women up to the age of 49 must be circumcised.”

Even more sinister was a report in BasNews, a Kurdish website: “The Spokesman of Mosul Police Ahmed Obaydi told BasNews: ‘Baghdadi’s decision to have all women circumcised is, as he claims, to prevent immorality and promote Islamic attitudes among Muslims. The decision was made by Baghdadi as a ‘gift’ for people in Mosul.’”

Something tells me that this will be proven false. The Islamic State has denied it (via Twitter) and the Guardian was unable to verify the claims.  Bad as the Caliphate is, this is probably an urban myth created by the embattled Syrian government to scare off donors to the caliphate.

This is remarkably like the ghoulish stories of harvesting organs from prisoners of war which have accompanied conflicts in Kosovo, Iraq, Syria and Palestine. For instance, an article on an opposition website called The Syrian Observer has reported trafficking by government officials:

“… a thief crashed into a house in a luxurious Damascus suburb [in 2008] and discovered a warehouse full of frozen organs, ready to be sent around the world. The thief turned himself over to the authorities and reported the place. After monitoring the house for hours, police managed to arrest the criminals, thus explaining a series of mysterious attacks going back years. As the story unfolded, the names of high-ranking members of the Syrian regime began to pop up and the story suddenly disappeared from the local news.”

There could be some truth in a story like this, as organ trafficking does happen in these countries. But it is just as likely to be a fabrication aimed at smearing the Assad regime.

Perhaps there is a paper for an ambitious young academic in these dark tales – bioethics in information warfare. We all feel a deep horror when confronted with the violation of bodily integrity – rape, first of all, but also FGM or being a quarry for organs. It is a fear that can be exploited for political ends. 

Cheers,

Michael Cook
Is the Islamic State enforcing female genital mutilation?
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female genital mutilation