Iranian Kurdistan: MPs Threaten Resignation Over Border Closure While Iran Disbands Internet in Protesting City
15 Kurdish members of the Iranian Parliament are threatening resignation over the continued closure of unofficial border crossings between Iran and Iraq that has increased the prices of goods and financial difficulties of many families in the northwest of Iran. The ministers claim that if the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani does not approach Parliament with their demands they will gather petitions in the parliament to vote on his incompetency. Meanwhile, security forces have been deployed and internet disbanded in the city of Baneh where the protests originated on 15 April 2018, preventing the confirmation of reports that dozens of protesters have been detained.
Fifteen Kurdish members of the Iranian parliament announced they will collectively resign if their proposed changes to the law are not made, highlighting that ongoing semi-official border crossing closures are endangering the lives of millions of their constituents.
Jalal Mahmoudzade, speaking on behalf of his 14 other Kurdish parliamentarians on Sunday, 6 May 2018 in Tehran, stated at a press conference they will resign if their demands are not met.
Shopkeepers in Baneh began a strike on April 15, 2018— closing their doors to protest rising costs due to prolonged closure of unofficial border crossings. With the unofficial routes closed, kolbars – cross-border porters — have to use the official borders where they are hit with high customs tariffs.
Mahmoudzade, who is from Mahabad, said millions of Iranians rely on the kolbars, and the restrictions imposed on them have caused financial difficulties.
The three predominately Kurdish provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan, and West Azerbaijan are some of the poorest areas of the country, distant from the capital of Tehran.
Mahmoudzade invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to parliament to hear their demands.
He added that should the Iranian president be unwilling to go the parliament, they will try to gather petitions in the parliament to vote on Rouhani's incompetency.
Rasoul Khedhri, a Kurdish MP from Piranshar and Zardasht, announced that they have asked Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to dismantle Rouhani's decision of barring the kolbar routes.
Iran itself is suffering from major economic issues, especially in rural areas. There has also been a sharp drop in the value of the rial versus the US dollar, following a slew of economic sanctions.
Ministers from the Kurdistan Region, including Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, presented a plan to Mohammed Shariatmadari, Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Business, at a conference last week in Erbil.
The four-point plan presented by KRG Planning Minister Ali Sindi, who is also acting trade and industry minister, addresses imports and exports, border crossings, a long-term view by Iran of the Kurdistan Region being a strategic market, and asking for Iran to assist in Baghdad in removing a checkpoint on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road.
Security forces have been deployed to the Iranian Kurdish city of Baneh after three weeks of strike action by shop owners protesting closure of unofficial border crossings.
Since Friday, 4 May 2018 Baneh has been under high-security alert “due to the presence of numerous anti-riot forces,” the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) reported on Sunday 6 May 2018.
With many security forces in the streets, people are staying at home, the France-based rights monitor stated, adding that “the internet connection in Baneh has been disbanded by the Provincial Council the past three days to stop the coverage of the strike.”
Dozens of strikers have reportedly been arrested, but KHRN is not able to confirm or obtain details because of the internet disruption.
Iranian authorities frequently shut down communication platforms during protests in the country. Most recently, it has banned popular messaging app Telegram.
Shopkeepers in Baneh began their strike on April 15, 2018 – closing their doors to protest rising costs due to prolonged closure of unofficial border crossings. With the unofficial routes closed, kolbars – cross-border porters – have to use the official borders where they are hit with high customs tariffs.
Strikers have stretched empty tablecloths along the streets of Baneh, representing their empty tables and inability to feed their families.
The Kurdish provinces of Iran are among the poorest of the country.
The issue of the unofficial borders was raised during a visit of an Iranian delegation to Erbil last week. KRG officials called for the unofficial border crossings to be recognized.
KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani floated the idea of a free-trade zone.
Photo courtesy of Bahman Shahbazi