Iraqi Doctors Plagued by Threats, Extortion

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Doctors in Iraq are fleeing threats on their lives and extortion attempts, adding even more danger to a country battling the Islamic State (IS). In the news and on social media, pictures are surfacing of doctors’ abandoned houses with death threats or demands for blood money scrawled on the walls and doors.

There are dozens of cases of this particular crime each year in Iraqi cities. In fact, in Diyala province, east of Baghdad, the Doctors Syndicate reported July 13 that 140 doctors had left the province in the last few years over repeated threats and assaults. A report published Nov. 16, 2014, by the Iraqi Ministry of Health stated that 10,000 doctors had emigrated from Iraq since 2003.

This phenomenon can be chalked up to the Iraqi reality: Its citizens are under the rule of tribal law and increasingly at the mercy of criminal gangs. Tribes impose their values and laws and may punish doctors for their members’ health problems, while gangs blackmail wealthy doctors and corruption continues to rise.

The director of the Husainiya Dental Health Center, Dr. Wasim Khdeir Abbas, was killed in Baghdad Oct. 6. Also in Baghdad, security forces thwarted a June 18 attempt to kidnap a doctor from his clinic. In Basra, a tribe threatened a surgeon Sept. 29 after a patient died during surgery.

Al-Monitor was able to conduct an interview with Dr. Kazem Hussein of Babil. The doctor, a victim of blackmail, said, “Iraqi doctors are receiving some serious threats related to failed surgery or prescriptions that led to the death of the patient. Personally, I paid $20,000 in August 2012 after the family of a patient thought that I was responsible for the deterioration of his medical condition and eventually his death. They believed I had prescribed the wrong medication, which is not true.”

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