At least five Kurdish porters sustained serious injuries in western Iran this week after being targeted by Iranian border forces.
The incidents highlight the plight of the kolbars, porters who hauls goods on his back across the borders of Iran and over long distances, mostly in the impoverished, mountainous Kurdish areas adjacent to Iraq, to make a living.
Hamidreza Hafezi, a kolbar from the city of Saqqez, Kurdistan province, is reportedly in critical condition after he was injured on November 17 by border forces in Baneh, on the border with Iraq.
The previous night, on November 16, Salah Karimi, a kolbar from Kurdistan province’s capital of Sanandaj, suffered severe wounds after being shot by border forces in the same area.
Karimi underwent extensive surgery, but his left knee reportedly remains unstable.
On the same day, another kolbar named Azad Noori, a resident of Baneh, was critically wounded by gunshots fired by border forces. Noori sustained wounds to the head, back, both arms and both legs.
And on November 15, two kolbars named Zaniar Rahzadeh and Ashkan – his last name unknown – were injured by border forces of the Islamic Republic. The extent of their injuries is not yet known.
The Iranian authorities label kolbars as "smugglers,” but human rights organizations maintain that their activity is a form of survival for many men living in impoverished border regions where economic opportunities are scarce.
According to statistics released by the Kolbar News website, a total of 85 kolbars were killed in border areas and on highways in the western provinces of West Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and Kermanshah between March and September.
The causes of death included direct fire by the military forces, blizzards, cold weather and falls from mountains and heights.