Skip to main content

Iraq's Kurdish region issues arrest warrants over funeral linked to surge in COVID-19 cases

Two banned funeral services held in Erbil in March have led to at least 72 coronavirus infections.
ERBIL, IRAQ - APRIL 06: Security forces take measures on a main road after the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) extended the curfew against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Erbil, Iraq on April 06, 2020. (Photo by Ahsan Mohammed Ahmed Ahmed/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government will prosecute the organizers of a prohibited funeral service that infected dozens of people with the coronavirus in the Kurdish region of Iraq, officials told a local news organization. 

“Arrest warrants have been issued for five people who organized a mourning ceremony on March 21 which led to the infection" of a number of people with COVID-19, a spokesperson for Erbil's crisis task force told Rudaw

Some of those wanted for arrest are themselves hospitalized with the virus, the Erbil-based news outlet reported. Their arrests will be delayed until they have recovered. 

Despite a ban on funerals and other large gatherings, mourners gathered last month in Erbil's Karezan neighborhood for two separate services that infected at least 72 people, Health Minister Saman Barzanji said. On Sunday, the ministry announced 18 new cases in Erbil, each of whom came in contact with an infected person during one of the funerals.

The infected mourners now make up 35% of all cases in Erbil, according to the city’s health directorate, which announced plans to sue the two families who broke the rules by holding the funerals. Rudaw quoted Barzanji as saying today that Karezan and 10 other neighborhoods have been placed under quarantine.  

“The Kurdistan region is in grave danger and is facing a humanitarian catastrophe,” Barzanji said earlier this week.

Iraq's Kurdistan region has reported a total number of 288 cases and three deaths. The central government in Iraq today announced 1,122 cases and a death toll of 65. Health care workers on the front lines have told Reuters the number of infected persons in Iraq is likely much higher than what has been publicly reported. 

Also today, an Iraqi delegation arrived in China to bring back medical supplies and preventative equipment, the country’s air force said on Twitter. The pandemic, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed more than 81,000 people worldwide.  

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial