Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Doctors and Islamic State

Islamic State creates jihadi health service

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 30 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3487
  1. Duncan Gardham, security journalist, London
  1. duncan.gardham{at}

Feature, doi:10.1136/bmj.h3479

Many doctors in war zones seek to remain independent, but the situation in Syria and Iraq is forcing them to take sides, Duncan Gardham reports

Since the militant group Islamic State took over large tracts of Syria and Iraq about a year ago local doctors have been forced to pledge allegiance or flee, aid workers have retreated, and the group is attempting to train or recruit a health service workforce made up of medical jihadists from around the world.

On 24 March Omar Hussain, a British man from High Wycombe, tweeted: “O Muslim doctors, stop treating the Kuffaar [infidels] & come Sham [Syria] & help the injured mujaahideen [holy fighters]! Imagine the reward of helping a bro go back 2 batle!”

The group of medical students who left Sudan to work for Islamic State in March drew international attention to what seems to have been a steady flow of Western educated Muslim doctors drawn to support the militant group.

One, who describes himself as a “muhajir [emigrant] medical doctor” was tweeting under the alias Abu Layla al-Shami and featured a photograph with a stethoscope and handgun. He wrote in January that he would be “posting medical advice to the mujahideen, including first aid tips” along with “health updates from the Islamic state” and the inevitable “analysis & advice regarding issues of jihad & aqeedah [belief].”

However, it was his tweet on 3 January that gained most attention from supporters of Islamic State, who re-tweeted it as proof that the group was able to run itself as a fully fledged state.

“First glimpses …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription