An Iranian woman walking past a wall displaying an advertisement for the sale of body organs

Children As Young As 16 In Iran Sell Kidneys Amid Poverty

Thursday, 03/28/2024

Rising numbers of teenagers are selling organs in Iran amid the country’s worst ever economic crisis as young donors' healthy organs fetch high prices for desperate families.

Being a young donor is regarded as an advantage, young sellers referring in the advertisements to their age and athleticism as their strong points, the Tejarat News website reported.

Most of the advertisements in the organ market are for kidneys, each kidney priced in Iran’s organ market between 3 to 6 billion rials ($5,000 to $10,000).

In June 2023, Hossein Biglari, Chairman of the Kidney Charity Foundation in Iran’s Kermanshah province, said kidneys are sold in the province at 2 to 2.5 billion rials each, the prices higher in larger cities. Most donors need the money to rent a house or buy a car to earn a living, he said.

Widespread poverty and rising inflation have fueled the trend in recent years, many Iranians using it as a way to pay medical bills and support their families amid dire living conditions. 

A comparison of kidney prices over the past 10 months indicate that Iran’s deep economic crisis and the sharp decline in the value of the national currency have had a significant impact on the organ donation market as well, increasing both the number of needy donors and the prices of the organs.

Flyers to sell body organs in Iran

The rial has fallen sharply since early January, losing around 20 percent in less than three months, further raising the specter of higher inflation in the coming months. The rial reached its lowest historical value during the past week, as each US dollar traded at 610,000 rials in open markets, 43% more than in March 2023.

According to the Iranian government’s regulations, kidney donors receive 800 million rials (around $1,300) as a “reward.” Nonetheless, there is always a series of “agreements” between donors and recipients outside the official mechanisms, which provide donors with extra financial benefits.

The Tejarat investigation revealed a boy as young as 16 who they named only as 'Hamid' was selling his kidney "a little cheaper" due to urgent financial problems. He told Tejarat that he completed the required medical tests and obtained his parents’ consent to donate.

Saeed, 20, said he wants to sell his kidney for 3.6 billion rials ($6,000) so that he can raise enough money to rent a house, while two 19-year-old boys and a 22-year-old girl were among the many others who admitted having openly advertised for the sale of their kidneys in public places as well as on the internet, streets near hospitals and clinics awash with advertisements for buying and selling kidneys.

In May 2023, Jahan-e-Sanat daily reported a sharp increase in the sale of Iranian organs in neighboring countries as a result of extreme poverty. According to the newspaper, the “brokers” send the donors, often aged between 18 and 40, to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, to sell their organs for $7,000 to $15,000.

As poverty has become more widespread in Iran over the past two years, advertisements to sell and donate other body organs than kidney such as liver, eye cornea, bone marrow, sperms and eggs are also prevalent.

Eqtesad 24 news website reported in February that almost one in every three Iranians is currently living below the poverty line as a result of soaring inflation in the past five years.

An analysis of posts on Persian social media indicate that Iranians voice deep concern on a daily basis on social media about inflation and rising rents. The common thread among these posts is the citizens’ inability to pay rents, particularly in the capital city, Tehran.

On March 19, the Iranian government set the monthly minimum wage at approximately 110 million rials (about 175 USD). The decision garnered harsh criticisms on the side of tens of millions of Iranians, particularly workers, who must struggle to subsist at a minimal level and make ends meet.

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