The Covid-19 Pandemic and a New Form of Subjectivity and Resistance in Rojhilat (Iranian Kurdistan)

By Morad Roohi
Submitted to Session P6663 (Pandemics and Covid-19: Surveillance, Governance, and Control, 2021 Annual Meeting
All Middle East;
19th-21st Centuries;
Shortly after the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in Tehran, grassroot campaigns were formed in Rojhelat, the Kurdish territory in Iran, aiming to protect their communities against the pandemic. These campaigns were organized by unionists, environmentalists, women and labour activists across civil society in the Kurdish community. Self-organized, autonomous and horizontally structured, these campaigns made a space for direct participation of individuals in defending their communities against the pandemic when public social and health services were lacking and the state had effectively withdrawn from the scene. Initially they emerged in urban centers, but soon spread to the countryside where people were mobilized to protect their communities by organizing their own campaigns. The self-help local councils organized in horizontal networks in town and country soon established effective communication and cooperation lines to conduct their duties for which they had been created. The activities of the local councils soon surpassed their initial objectives involving a wide range of operations related directly to the life, conduct and reproduction of individuals, families, localities and communities in the region. In other words, they extended their activities to the biopolitical field, the erstwhile exclusive domain of sovereign power and its security apparatuses overseeing the management and control of biopolitical issues as an essential part of securing domination and order. This, although leading to the closure/exclusion and marginalization of popular local councils, also at the same time produced a new space of confrontation and resistance with its own specific subjectivities which are likely to play an important role in the future political developments in Rojhelat. This presentation will address the new articulations of sovereign domination and Kurdish resistance in the biopolitical field structured by the Covid-19 pandemic drawing on the online field research conducted in various urban and rural location in Rojhelat.