One kolbar killed, another froze to death in January

The plight of kolbars, who struggle to make a living and die at the hands of the Iranian regime at the rate of one kolbar every day, never seems to end.

Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) reported that two Kurdish kolbars died and 12 others were injured in January 2020.

One of the kolbars was killed by Iranian government forces and the other, a 55-year-old Kolbar worker, froze to death in adverse weather conditions.

Iranian government troops also shot and injured 11 Kolbar and Kurdish tradesmen. Another was injured after he fell off from a mountainous area.

According to KHRN statistics, 79 Kurdish border porters –known as Kolbar- and tradesmen were killed and another 165 were injured by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s military forces, or due to natural disasters along the Kolbari routes in 2019.

The tragedy of the kolbars

Eastern Kurdistan has descended deeper into poverty through the years due to deliberate policies by the Iranian regime and stands out as one of the poorest regions in Iran. Compared to other regions, the area has seen significantly less investment and development has been deliberately curbed. Agriculture and industry weren’t allowed to develop, and as a result unemployment rose to highest in Iran.

Faced with policies of discrimination, oppression and impoverishment, carrying smuggled goods is not a choice but a must for survival.

Kolbar comes from the Kurdish words, “kol” (back) and “bar” (load). Kolbars make their living carrying loads along the perilous border line. Their loads include cigarettes, mobile phones, cloths, housewares, tea and seldomly alcohol. They walk through dangerous terrain to continue this trade between Southern and Eastern Kurdistan. The goods they bring are sold at high prices in Tehran, but the kolbars who risk their lives for them are paid very modestly.

The intermediaries who take the deliveries and find buyers in cities are called kasibkars.

Kolbars and kasibkars range from 13 to 70 years old. Some only finished elementary school, while others are university graduates. They carry loads, because they can’t find any other employment. In the last 5 yearss, some 300 kolbars and kasibkars were killed in cold blood. There are no absolute statistics available for the deaths.