March 3, 2016 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1231

CaliphateCare: ISIS Medical Services Propaganda

March 3, 2016 | By M. Shemesh
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1231

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.


The Islamic State (ISIS) invests considerable efforts in demonstrating that it provides proper services to the people living under its rule. Media material is released on a daily basis to show that ISIS repairs and maintains infrastructures, build roads, maintains public order and even cultivates public parks. Since healthcare is among the primary needs that a state must meet, the organization makes efforts to prevent a brain drain of medical professionals and to keep clinics and hospitals functioning. ISIS knows that unless it provides adequate healthcare, it will find it difficult to gain the support and obedience of the people. Moreover, ISIS requires qualified medical practitioners not only to care for the civilian population but also to treat its fighters.

Recent reports indicate that the organization is having problems in this domain.  Reports have it that many local doctors have left the areas under ISIS control, or are trying to leave, due to the escalating attacks by the organization's enemies and also due to the religious restrictions that ISIS imposes on them. According to the activist group called "Al-Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently," which reports on the situation in this ISIS stronghold in Syria, the cost of healthcare in the city has risen sharply because most medical practices and centers have closed, leaving only one hospital that provides free medical care.[1]

To show that it has matters in hand, it publishes weekly photo reports on medical services in its territories, showcasing clinics and hospitals, vaccination drives, and professional courses being delivered to medical personnel. Many of the photos are of children receiving vaccinations or medical treatment; this is presumably meant to solicit sympathy among ISIS supporters and to present the organization as caring and humane. In addition, ISIS' media companies and the organization supporters periodically circulate photos, videos and blog entries that call upon healthcare professionals to perform hijra (migrate) to the Islamic State and participate in the war effort and in building the newly-founded caliphate. The organization and its supporters also threaten medical personnel who wish to leave the ISIS territories, as well as those who have already left, promising that they will be killed and that their clinics and property will be seized.

This report reviews some of the materials circulated by ISIS on healthcare issues.

Calls For Medical Professionals To Migrate To The Caliphate State

As the Islamic State (ISIS) consolidates its rule in the areas under its control, its need for qualified physicians and other medical practitioners increases. As part of its efforts to recruit such personnel, it circulates videos calling for professionals to come from abroad and join the Islamic State. For example, in April 2015, ISIS' media offices in Al-Raqqa and Aleppo each released a video in which doctors and physical therapists of various nationalities call on their fellow practitioners to join ISIS and help build the caliphate state.[2] One of the speakers in the video notes that the Islamic State's Health Department was established in the summer of 2015 and has already made substantial achievements. However, he says, there is still much work to be done in order to achieve the standard of other countries around the world. Another speaker, an Indian physical therapist named Abu Muqatil Al-Hindi, speaks about the role and importance of the physical therapy units. He says that ISIS has physical therapists from Russia, Australia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere, and stresses that some of them are women, who treat women and children. Al-Hindi calls on qualified and even partly qualified medical practitioners to make hijra to the ISIS territories: "We need the brothers and sisters to come and help us from all around the world."

"Dr. Abu Muqatil Al-Hindi" in the Al-Raqqa film

An Australian pediatrician, Abu Yousef Al-Australi, says that he made hijra from Australia in order to "come and live under the caliphate." He adds: "[It was] part of my jihad... to help the Muslim ummah in an area I could help in, namely the medical field." He states that he is very happy to be living in the Islamic State, and says: "I wish I'd come a lot sooner." He stresses that Muslims in the Islamic State are suffering not from the lack of medicines or medical gear, but from the lack of qualified healthcare professionals, and expresses disappointment that so many medical professionals still live in the West and have not joined ISIS. He urges them: "We really need your help... [so] please consider coming, please don't delay."

 "Dr. Abu Yousef Al-Australi"  in the Al-Raqqa film

ISIS supporters recently launched a blog, Khilafa Medics (, dedicated to encouraging healthcare professionals to come to the Islamic State.  The blog features quotes from prominent jihad leaders regarding the importance of medical professionals joining the war effort, such as the following quote from Anwar Al-Awlaki: "The mujahideen are in great need of any medical assistance they can get. They need physicians, they need hospitals and clinics that would open their doors to them and they need medicine. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslim physicians, and nevertheless we hear many stories of injured mujahideen who suffered from simple wounds but because of the absence of medical help they had to suffer in agony until they died. Those Muslims who studied medicine and claim that they are doing it for the sake of Allah and to benefit the Muslims, we say to them: Where are you?" [3]

In early November 2015, ISIS's Al-Barqa Province in Libya circulated a video on Telegram titled "Message to Medical Professionals,"[4] on the Islamic State's need for medical professionals. The speaker in the video, a young man whose name is given as Abu 'Ali Al-Maghribi, says in Moroccan-accented Arabic: "I am directing this message particularly to medical professionals. Come let us erect the glorious structure of the Islamic State together, because your brothers sorely need you. By Allah, you have no excuse [to stay away]. What will you tell Allah - may He be exalted and praised - when the time comes?! Oh brothers, it was Allah alone... who bestowed upon you with His mercy the [medical] knowledge that you acquired." The video also shows Islamic State members delivering a course in first aid.

Abu 'Ali Al-Maghribi in Al-Barqa Province video

Efforts To Keep Medical Professionals From Leaving ISIS Territories

Many local Arab physicians living in the areas under ISIS control are attempting to leave, fleeing both the danger of living in a war zone and the restrictions imposed by ISIS. The "Al-Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently" website reported on October 25, 2015 that many gynecologists were trying to leave after ISIS banned them from treating women.[5] According to the report, the organization threatened to kill physicians who tried to leave, and also to confiscate their clinics and their property. However, many doctors in many fields left anyway.

In May 2015, the Islamic State's Medical Services Department warned medical professionals, including physicians and dentists, who had left ISIS territory in the previous year to seek employment elsewhere to return to their positions immediately or face severe consequences. The message said: "...The Islamic State has been attempting in all ways possible to call upon male and female physicians and medical personnel to return to their homes, hospitals, clinics, colleges, and institutes, [in order to work] under the shade of the caliphate; however, many of them continue to avoid this. Therefore, the following has been decided:

"1. A final warning [is hereby issued] to physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and professors of medical and nursing colleges, and to health and administrative personnel... who have left the land of the caliphate, to return to their areas and engage in their duties immediately.

"2. The warning period will be 30 days from the day of this publication, after which the movable and immovable assets of those who failed to comply with section (1) above shall be confiscated...

"3. The Islamic State accepts the repentance of those who became involved with kufr [heresy] and [those who] committed apostasy, from among those mentioned in section (1) as long as they return to their areas, and consult the appropriate repentance[-related] bodies."[6]

Vaccination Drives And Use Of Children

The Islamic State periodically releases photo reports on the vaccination of children in the various provinces. The extensive use of children's photos is meant to prove that the Islamic State is humane and that the care of children is a top priority for it. For example, in mid-October the Al-Jazeera Province in Iraq posted photos documenting a measles-rubella vaccination drive for children in the Qayrawan district.[7] One of the photos shows ISIS personnel listing the children vaccinated, to show that the process is organized and well-managed.

Measles-rubella vaccination drive in the Qayrawan district

ISIS in Damascus Province posted photos of a polio vaccination drive in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad south of the city.[8]

Polio vaccination drive in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad

ISIS in the Al-Furat Province posted a photo report documenting a similar drive.[9] The report stresses that ISIS continues to care for the health of children in its territories despite the coalition airstrikes: "Despite the Crusader campaign against the Islamic State, the state continues to provide for and meet the needs of its residents in the territories under its control. The Al-Furat Province healthcare center, in collaboration with the Islamic State Health Department, has initiated a polio vaccination drive for children aged 0-5, which is taking place throughout the province in order to protect children from this disease. We wish perfect health to all Muslims."

Polio vaccination drive in Al-Furat Province

Documenting Activity In Hospitals, Healthcare Centers

Another means of assuring the public and strengthening its support for ISIS are informational materials showing hospitals and clinics providing their services to the public, with emphasis on the availability of advanced treatments and gear, ambulances, etc. For example, in January 2015, the Islamic State in the Aleppo Province posted on the jihadi forum Al-Shumoukh a video showcasing the "Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi Hospital" in Jarabulus. The film stresses that the hospital provides a wide range of treatments and shows various aspects of its activity and various parts of the building, including  an operation room, the x-ray unit, EKG machines, the staff quarters, etc. It should be mentioned that, at least from its appearance on the film, the hospital seems substandard. Signs in the operating room and x-ray unit indicate that the equipment was donated at some point by the Qatari Red Crescent.[10]

  X-ray machine at the Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi Hospital in Jarabulus

X-ray processing unit at the Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi Hospital in Jarabulus

Operation room at the Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi Hospital in Jarabulus

ISIS in Al-Khair Province in Syria circulated pictures of a dialysis center in Al-Mayadin,[11] and ISIS in Hama Province posted photos of the "Al-Andalus Hospital."[12]

"Dialysis center in Al-Mayadin"

"Tour in Al-Andalus Hospital"

"Tour in Al-Andalus Hospital"

In Mid-October, ISIS posted a large photo report on the hospital in Al-Raqqa,[13] as well as photos of the health care center in Mahalabiya in Iraq's Al-Jazira Province.[14]

"Incubator room" in Al-Raqqa hospital

"Intensive care unit" in Al-Raqqa hospital

"Emergency internal care unit" at Al-Raqqa hospital

"Healthcare center in Al-Mahalabiya area"

Dentist at Al-Mahalabiya healthcare center

In September 2015, ISIS in Libya's Al-Barqa Province circulated photos of a hospital in the province and of an ambulance bearing the name of the Islamic State.[15]

Islamic State ambulance in Al-Barqa Province

In addition to documenting active hospitals and clinics, ISIS also documents the opening of new ones. In November 1, 2015, ISIS in Al-Raqqa Province posted a series of photos showcasing a new healthcare center in the village of Al-Dibsi. The photos show the renovation of the building, the various departments and treatment rooms, children receiving treatment, etc.[16]

"Opening of health center in Al-Dibsi village"

"The center's main entrance"

In October 2015, ISIS in Al-Faluja Province in Iraq released photos of a new clinic recently opened in the Al-Farahat area.[17]

"New health center opened in Al-Farahat area"

"New health center opened in Al-Falahat area"

Courses And Training

ISIS' media bodies also publish reports on various training courses for medical personnel, including courses on complying with shari'a law, which the organization requires these professionals to take. In June 2015, ISIS posted a report on a course of this kind conducted in "Al-Khair city" (Deir Al-Zor, Syria).[18]

"Shari'a course for medical staff in the city of Al-Khair"

"Shari'a course for medical staff in the city of Al-Khair"

ISIS also organizes medical training courses, such as a first aid course for ISIS fighters in the Hadarmawt Province in Yemen.[19]

"First aid course for Islamic State fighters" in Hadarmawt Province

As mentioned, a video released by ISIS in Al-Barqa Province called on healthcare professionals to join the war effort and showed fighters receiving a first aid course. [20]

First aid course delivered to ISIS fighters in Al-Barqa Province


*M. Shemesh is a research fellow at MEMRI.

[1], October, 25, 2015.

[3], no date.

[4],, November 8, 2015.

[5], October 25, 2015. See also reports by the Syrian Center for Human Rights about ISIS shutting down the practices of male gynecologists on the grounds that the shari'a bans a woman from being touched by an unrelated man., October 28, 2015.

[6], May 22, 2015. For more on this, see MEMRI JTTM Report, ISIS Warns Medical Professionals Who Left Its Territory To Return To Work Immediately Or Face The Consequences,  May 22, 2015.

[7], October 25, 2015.

[8], October 25, 2015.

[9], October 6, 2015.

[10], January 17, 2015.

[11], November 2, 2015.

[12], September 2, 2015.


[14], October 10, 2015.


[16], November 1, 2015.

[17], November 8, 2015.

[18], June 12, 2015.

[19], September 24, 2015.

[20],, October 8, 2015.


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