Feb 09, 2017

Iranian Kurdistan: Kolbar Questioned by Iranian Intelligence


Photo courtesy of Rudaw.


Following a BBC report on the plight of Kurdish kolbars, an elderly worker crossing the Iran-Kurdistan border was threatened by the Iranian Intelligence Agency. Human rights group have denounced the hardships and violence faced by kolbars, including the deaths of more than 100 of them in 2016, shot dead by Iranian border guards.


The following article was published by Rudaw:


A Kurdish kolbar, porters carrying goods on their backs across the Kurdistan Region-Iran border, was questioned by Iranian intelligence officials who threatened to revoke his licence after he appeared in a BBC report looking at the hard life of the kolbars.

“After the BBC TV report was aired then the border agents confiscated my ‘circulation card,’ and when I returned to get it back, I was told that it was in the hands of Intelligence Agency of Piranshahr,” Khazer Askarzadeh told the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN).

When he went to the Intelligence Agency office in Piranshahr to ask about his card, his license authorizing him to work as a kolbar, they rebuked him for participating in the report. “They kept repeating: ‘Why did you put this heavy shipment on your back in front of them? You have humiliated our country. We won’t give you back your card because of this attitude of yours.’”

Askarzadeh, 70, appeared in a BBC report carrying a heavy load of 20 tires on his back – a load that the BBC reporter was unable to carry. Askarzadeh had recently suffered a stroke and was walking the snow-covered mountain route with a cane. He told the BBC he expected to make around $10-12 from the load.

He told the Iranian Intelligence Agency that in the news report, he “did not lie at all. I only described the hard life and working conditions of kolbar workers. I carry heavy items on my back between the borders of Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan. That’s only the truth,” KHRN reported.

The BBC report notes the dangerous routes and adds that human rights group say that more than 100 kolbar have been shot dead by Iranian border guards in the past year.

Last month, three kolbars were killed in an avalanche.