Iranian Kurdistan: the Plight of the Kolbars
According to a statistical report by Aso Newsagency, last week a number of Kolbars were killed by Iranian border guards in Iranian Kurdistan. The Kolbars are widely known for smuggling goods across borders, primarily around the Kurdish regions of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, and their practices are considered illegal in Iran. However, the extreme poverty in the region means that even educated young people must resort to the grueling work of carrying goods manually across borders just to survive. When caught, they are often shot on-site by Iranian border forces. The Kolbars are forced to rely on illegal smuggling just to survive, while they are constantly hunted by Iranian forces. They live in horrendous conditions and are forced to carry large, heavy loads on their backs, which can lead to serious health problems.
The Hengaw Organisation, an independent human rights organisation reporting on human rights violations in Iranian Kurdistan, reported that in 2018 231 Kolbars were killed or seriously injured. More recently, the Aso News Agency reported that on 6 April 2020, 3 Kolbars were shot and killed by Iranian border guards. On 9 April, a Kolbar was found frozen to death in the border areas, while on 11 April Iranian forces shot at a group of Kolbars, killing one of them.
Due to Iranian censorship, the issues faced by the Kolbars are seldom reported on in national media, and often only human rights organisations bring to light the plight of these people. For more information, please see the attached report from the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, detailing the issues facing the Kolbars in 2018/2019.
(Photo by Komala International)