Political Trust and Social Cohesion at a Time of Crisis: The Impact of COVID-19 on Kurdistan Region-Iraq

Citation: Beaujouan, J., Rasheed, A., Taha, M. Y. (2020). Political Trust and Social Cohesion at a Time of Crisis: The Impact of COVID-19 on Kurdistan Region-Iraq (PSRP Research Report: Covid-19 Series). Edinburgh: Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh.

Download Report

Key Findings:

In light of the global health crisis that erupted in December 2019 following the spread of the virus now known as COVID-19, this research was designed to gather information about the conflict-peace-COVID-19 nexus. This investigation focuses on Iraq in general and Kurdistan Region-Iraq (KRI) in particular.

COVID-19 has attracted much attention in Kurdish neighbourhoods and has been relayed massively by the media across the KRI. Kurdistanis put their trust mostly in television as the most accessible source of information across the region. Reversely, social media was not considered a reliable source of information during the pandemic.

The results of this survey highlight a strong lack of trust in federal political figures and institutions. At the regional level, Kurdistanis are divided along lines of political affiliation and geography. While respondents from Duhok and Erbil expressed a high level of trust in the KRG, people of Silemani are openly distrustful of the KRI government.

The institutions responsible for mitigating the impact of the pandemic attract the highest level of trust across governorates. This is the case with the KRG Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior, including the security forces and the police. Reversely, participants expressed strong rejection of both parliaments that sit in Baghdad and Erbil. The legislative body attracted the least trust among the population surveyed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered social cohesion in the KRI. The majority of respondents believed that all Kurdistanis, including both vulnerable and non-vulnerable groups, should be treated equally and should receive the same amount of government support during the pandemic. That being said, a significant number of respondents recognized the importance of caring for those most vulnerable, such as the elderly, Syrian refugees, and International Displaced Persons (IDPs) more broadly. Finally, respondents have been shown to rely mostly on their social circles and family throughout the crisis, rather than regional and federal institutions.

Those surveyed strongly supported the preventive measures in general imposed by the KRG on the three governorates. Yet, answers to the survey reveal that such measures have had an impact on the personal economic circumstances of Kurdistanis, especially among the younger portion of the population, who expected to face financial difficulties in the near future as a direct consequence of the pandemic and its impact.

Further Reading

This report is part of a body of work and a set of connected research projects on Covid-19, peace, and conflict. Find out more about the Political Settlement Research Programme’s research projects on Covid-19. For wider resources on Covid-19, peace, and conflict, please refer to our Covid-19 Resource Hub.

Return to all publications.