Courtesy of BBC
Courtesy of BBC

This post was written by Grace Kyallo, a high school student and intern at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

I could not even make it through the first thirty seconds of the fifteen-minute long propaganda video without cringing. There is a clear disconnect. It is difficult to fathom that this extremist group that encourages and performs beheadings and public executions is willing to provide people within their territory with health care services. Another concerning question is what happened to the existing medical facilities before the establishment of ISIS’s health care? ISIS is notorious for attacking and raiding hospitals such as the incidents in Rabiaa, Latakia, and al Barinas Hospital, all of which resulted in casualties. So, they were either clearing room to establish and operate medical centers of their own or recently realized the need for such services and facilities to establish themselves as a tangible state. Many fail to realize that ISIS cannot operate underground and must hold territory to remain legitimate. This is why ISIS appears so eager to expand its influence and territory past the borders of Iran and Syria. The establishment of a medical center in Raqqa, Syria, only helps to steer them toward this goal.

ISIS first introduced this medical service three months ago and claims that it is “coming soon.” Daesh’s new medical care, ISHS or Islamic State Health Service, oddly resembles the British health care system, National Health Service (NHS). I stumbled upon a suspicious site that asserts, “Professional doctors from Russia, Australia, Srilanka, Tunisia, and many more in Raqqa hospital. ISIS did not took bill from it’s patient [sic]. It is all free.” The unusual sentence syntax might imply that this was a translation from a direct source promoting ISHS recruitment for medical practitioners.
ISIS does not have an adequate amount of medical practitioners and calls upon Muslim “brothers and sisters” living in the west to come and join the cause. This desperation is bluntly depicted through the video as a jihadist Australian doctor, Abu Yusuf al-Australi, argues that the plight is “not necessary [sic] a lack of equipment or medicine but a [sic] mainly a lack of qualified medical care.” Truthfully, this claim is valid. ISIS’s medical center is well equipped with a pediatrics department, x-ray room, and physiology department, as seen in the video.
However, the disparity between doctors and patients is worrisome. In the video, one doctor claims that the reason behind the demand for doctors is due to the large number of patients that need assistance. As reported by an Indian physiologist named Abu Muqatil al-Hindi, the hospital started with roughly thirty patients a week and has augmented to serve four hundred to five hundred patients a week. This is why, according to the doctor, they need “man power.” In a message to the Mujāhidīn and the Islamic Ummah in the month of Ramadān, the caliphate of ISIS declares, “[we] make a special call to… medical doctors and engineers of all different specializations and fields. We call them and remind them to fear Allah, for their emigration is wājib ‘aynī (an individual obligation), so that they can answer the dire need of the Muslims for them.” It seems as if ISIS is not establishing a health care system out of good nature, but rather for the benefit of the greater scheme of things: a physical state with functioning aspects of society. A medical center is just one marble in the jar. To this regard, one may argue that this is a stunt rather than a service.