Poverty in Iran driving citizens to sell kidneys, according to reports

Posters have been spotted on Valiasr Avenue, Tehran’s longest avenue, advertising kidneys for sale and listing the blood type of the sellers.

Posters spotted in Tehran show people are trying to sell their kidneys. Credit: MECRA.
Posters spotted in Tehran show people are trying to sell their kidneys. Credit: MECRA.

Some Iranians have turned to selling their kidneys amid an increasing economic downturn in the Islamic Republic, according to reports from Tehran. As price increases and inflation kicks in, along with a significant drop in the rial, Iranians are continuing to struggle.

Posters have been spotted on Valiasr Avenue, Tehran’s longest avenue and a heavily trafficked central area for shopping. On walls and other areas are a number of kidney advertisements, listing the blood type of the sellers. According to locals, the practice is considered legal, although receiving money for it is barred by scholars of Islamic law.

Reports of Iranians selling their kidneys have appeared before in international media in 2012 and 2017.

The price posted on the posters for each kidney varies from 8 million to 50 million tomans (one toman is 10 rials). The price for the kidney dealers may range between $550 and $3,000 dollars on the current market. The age of those selling their kidneys is usually between 20 and 35 years old. They are often men or male guardians of their family, as well as unemployed women and students whose families were not able to finance their education.

The reason given by the individuals are numerous. For instance, monthly income for some has declined to less than $50 for some people. They might have debts or need to pay for a sick family member or need the money due to addiction. Some have suffered bankruptcy or require funds to start a business. Minimum wage in Iran is technically 11 million rials per month, around $265.

Posters provide different reasons. For instance, on one sign a husband and wife both wrote that they wan to sell their kidneys to “save our children from hunger and severe poverty.” On another, workers at a pipe factory in Ahwaz say they are willing to sell their kidneys to make money. In another poster, a student says she needs the funds “to pay her expenses.” She writes her blood type of AB+ on the poster.

Another reason for selling their organs has been added recently to the posters. Iranians say they need to rebuilt houses in earthquake hit areas in Iran.

For instance, recent earthquakes in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah province have caused damage to many homes. Families who have lost their homes after an earthquake have not been able to repair and renovate their homes over the last months, and some of their residents will decide to sell their kidneys in order to save their families from living in a destroyed home. They want to provide shelter for their families, they write.

Around the world the price of kidneys varies. Some reports have estimated street value at several thousand dollars, with the eventual kidney being sold by the dealer for up to $100,000 or $200,000.

This article was originally posted at the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

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