iranwire.com – On the evening of November 18, 2020, news sources reported that two kulbars had been killed by border guards at the Oshnavieh border. Local sources have identified the kulbars as Wasim Fardinzadeh, a resident of Pirutabad (Pardavi) Oshnavieh, and Hakan Mohammadzadeh, a resident of the village of Karikan in the Kuhsar district of Salmas.
According to the Hengaw website, in the first six months of the Iranian year beginning in March 2020, hundreds of kulbars were shot by military forces on the Iranian border, and dozens were killed.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of agricultural, horticultural and livestock products are produced annually in Oshnavieh county. Many seasonal workers from cities in southern and northern West Azerbaijan come to this county and work in these orchards. However, with the onset of the cold season, things change. Seasonal workers become unemployed and have no choice but to become kulbars – to carry goods on their backs over the nearby border with Iraq.
Two kulbar workers, who were forced to cross the border, were shot on November 18 by the Iranian Border Regiment and died.
An informed source in the region confirmed the identities of Wasim Fardinzadeh and Hakan Mohammadzadeh in an interview with IranWire, saying that a group of five kulbars left the border villages of Oshnavieh on the morning of November 18, for the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan. After loading their cargo, the kulbars walked to Oshnavieh and were fired upon by the Border Regiment in the Talehjar border area.
“Border Regiment forces fired at us without warning,” the source said, quoting one of the kulbars who accompanied the group. “We dropped the goods and fled, but unfortunately, bullets hit two of our friends and they died on the spot.”
Border Regiment forces are said to have confiscated the cargo. Despite the fact that the families had been informed of the loss of their relatives, and that the bodies had been transferred to Oshnavieh Hospital, they were not delivered to the hospital or their families until November 19.
“Waseem, a 25-year-old father of one, was from the village of Pardavi,” a source close to Fardinzadeh’s family told IranWire. “He was born into a poor family and worked as a teenager in the orchards around Oshnavieh. But by the end of the harvest season, in late autumn, he had turned to carrying goods across the border.”
It is probable that Hakan Mohammadzadeh was one of these seasonal workers who worked as a farmer in the Oshnavieh orchards and, due to the closure of the orchards and the end of the harvest season, had shifted to carrying goods across the border.
“Every year, many workers from the southern and northern cities of West Azerbaijan province come to Oshnavieh and work in the orchards around the city,” said a civil activist living in Oshnavieh, whose asked IranWire to withhold his identity for safety reasons. “But many indigenous and migrant workers become unemployed with the onset of the cold season.”
According to this activist, tens of thousands of tons of apples are harvested in the orchards around the city, but there are no factories to process the products and they are transferred to the provincial capital and other big cities. That is why most workers turn to kulbari jobs with the onset of the cold season.
Tasnim News Agency, in a report published in July last year, introduced Oshnavieh as the “Cherry Capital of Iran” and announced that every year from late May, for 45 days, more than five thousand workers work in the cherry orchards of this city alone. Oshnavieh has a population of only 70,000.
The report added that more than 300,000 tons of crops, horticulture and livestock are produced and exported annually from Oshnavieh. But no industrial investment has been made into the city – forcing farm workers to become Kulbar workers in the winter.
According to statistics provided to IranWire exclusively by Kulbar News, since April 2020, in addition to Fardinzadeh and Mohammadzadeh, three other kulbars have lost their lives in the border areas of Oshnavieh.
Aram Moloudi drowned in the river, on May 15, 2020, while Safar Pilafkan was shot on May 2020, and Salahoddin Issazadeh on September 15, both by military forces of the Islamic Republic.
On September 18, 2020, Revolutionary Guards forces opened fire on three shepherds in the border area of Dasht-e Bill, in Oshnavieh. One of the shepherd, Hassan Khandehpour, was killed, and another was wounded. Khandehpour, aged 26, was the father of three children and a resident of Lulkan village in Oshnavieh.
According to statistics published by the Hengaw Human Rights Organization, at least 143 kulbars and traders were killed and injured in the first six months of the Iranian year beginning in March 2020, in the border areas of Kurdistan, of which 127 were targeted by military forces, and 32 were killed.