CHRI – At least one courier has been killed and five other people injured near Iran’s border with Iraq since August 23, 2018, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
News of the casualties comes almost a year after Iran promised to implement reforms aimed at protecting the human rights of the cross-border couriers or “kulbars” in Farsi.
Thousands of kulbars in the economically depressed Kurdish-populated border regions of northwestern Iran make meager livings by transporting goods on their backs on foot, or on horses and mules, mainly between Iran and Iraq. The men, who do not have work permits, are often shot at by Iranian border guards when they try to avoid customs check points.
Recently, many of the men, who are not legally authorized to work as kulbars, have been forced to traverse routes littered with landmines to avoid being shot at by Iranian border guards who have come under increasing attacks from Kurdish militants.
“Clashes between Kurdish groups and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] have become more frequent and as a result, many of the traditional foot paths have been closed,” a source in Iran’s Kurdistan Province told CHRI. “The remaining paths are full of mines and more difficult to traverse.”
The source spoke on condition of anonymity because Iranian authorities have prosecuted people for speaking to foreign media outlets about human rights issues.
“On August 23, one kulbar was wounded by a direct gunshot and the following day at least four kulbars stepped on a mine in Marivan [city in Kurdistan Province], killing one of them,” added the source.
The incident resulted in the death of one kulbar and three others were wounded, according to the state-funded Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA)
On August 27, the Center of Democracy and Human Rights in Kurdistan (CDHRK), an advocacy group based in Iran, released the names of six casualties since August 23: the death of Nasser Banouj and wounding of “Mansour, the son of Majid,” “Eghbal, the son of Ahmad” and “Ebrahim, the son of Mohammad” from the mine explosion, in addition to the wounding of Osman Ghadimi and Ayoub Nikzad from bullets fired by border guards.
According to CDHRK, between July 23 and August 22, 17 kulbars were wounded or killed from mine explosions or bullets shot by border guards.