You know the saying; "just when you think you've seen it all...". This is one of those moments. I often get questions from prospective hair transplant patients about the safety of traveling to Turkey with the current crisis going on in neighboring Syria and the potential for terror attacks. I understand the concern, I really do, which is one of the reasons why I made the hair transplant documentary to show people what it is like to travel to Turkey to get a hair transplant. In my opinion it is perfectly safe and is no more dangerous than traveling to any other city in France, the UK, Germany, etc.
A Hair Transplant Terrorist?
But out of Turkey comes a story that takes the entire medical tourism issue, which Turkey is known for, and turns it on it's side. Earlier yesterday Turkish police apprehended an individual that had gone to Turkey, just like tens of thousands of other bald or balding men, to receive a hair transplant. What makes this patient special is that he is a known member of ISIL, or ISIS fighting in Syria!!! According to an article at The Telegraph authorities had been tracking Mehdibend Said for a while since he entered the country from Syria. He was apprehended after being tracked to a hair transplant "parlour" in Izmir, roughly 400km SW of Istanbul. This gives the term "hair transplant terrorist" a whole new meaning!
Medical tourism industry is partly to blame and if it weren't for the diligence of the Turkish Police then Mehdibend Said's entry as a hair transplant terrorist, and not a hair transplant tourist, may have gone unnoticed.
...international hair transplant tourism in Turkey has grown so much in the recent years that hundreds of patient are being operated every day. Turkey has become the centre of cheap hair transplants where the average cost per procedure is less than 1000 Euro as opposed to 5000-10.000 Euro in other European
It is true that Turkey is an international destination for inexpensive cosmetic surgeries and hair restoration specifically has been reported recently to be worth 1 billion US dollars every year to the Turkish economy.
The majority of these operations are being performed by unlicensed technicians without a medical doctor being involved in the procedure. It has become impossible to keep track of who is being operated on and by who, which not only causes a public health problem but also a security problem due to the lack of accurate record keeping.
When under questioning it is reported that Mehdibend Said stated that he simply wanted "to look better" which I believe is probably true. The media has reported that it is possible that the suspect wanted a hair transplant and "another procedure" to better blend in with the local population but this does not make sense for two reasons. First, Turkish men do not have a special gene that prevents them from losing hair so being bald does not draw attention to anyone. Second, it would have been difficult for the patient to benefit from the camouflage of the transplanted hair as new hair is expected to become visible at 6 to 12 months after surgery.