Covid-19 in Iranian Kurdistan

Poor supply situation and lack of trust (Press Release)

Iran, a multi-ethnic state, is currently one of the countries most affected by the corona pandemic, along with China and Italy. According to Dr. Kamal Sido, Middle East expert of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the situation in Iranian Kurdistan is especially dramatic. In the predominantly Kurdish regions in the west and northwest of the country, the medical infrastructure is much worse than in the rest of the country. 

"There are significantly less hospitals and medical staff. The same applies to the number of pharmacies and their supply of medicines or disinfectants," Sido explained. "Our contact persons in the region informed us that the Iranian authorities shipped medicines, disinfectants, and protective masks from the cities of Kurdistan to Tehran and other cities when the pandemic spread there." Thus, the government contributed to the problematic medical supply situation in the Kurdish regions. Now, the virus is spreading rapidly and people are dying every day. "It is hardly possible to determine all causes of death, because many cases are not registered at all," Sido stated. "Since Saturday, 17 people have probably died from corona infection in the city of Saqqez alone."

As there is little trust between those in power and the population, the Iranian authorities cannot simply impose curfews. Moreover, the state would not be able to enforce them. Because of the harsh Western sanctions and the self-inflicted ailing economy, the population would not be able to receive sufficient supplies in the event of a nationwide quarantine.

When the corona pandemic spread in China, Iran did not interrupt the busy travel traffic with the People's Republic, and the Iranian media failed to provide sufficient information on the risk of infection. "Apparently, the government was trying to avoid negative influence on the parliamentary elections on February 21," Sido suspected. Opposition groups had called for an election boycott. 

During the night of February 20-21, several state media finally reported on the spread of the virus, continuing to downplay its dangerousness. According to official figures, 23,049 people have been infected in Iran to date, and 1812 of them have died. It is suspected that the actual figures are significantly higher. In the densely populated parts of Iran's large cities – where there are also many refugees, from Afghanistan, for example – the risk of an infection is particularly high. 

In addition to the Persian majority, Iran is home to minority groups such as the Azeri, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchi, Turkmen, and the Assyro-Aramaic community, plus several smaller ethnic and religious groups. Well over half of the approximately 81 million inhabitants belong to non-Persian nationalities. However, they are not recognized as ethnic groups with their own language, culture, and history, but are oppressed and discriminated against.