The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that it has documented the death of 74 Kurdish back carriers (Kulbar) and tradesmen in the border regions of the Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and Kermanshah provinces of Iran.
The report indicates that during the past Iranian year, another 76 people have been wounded in the region, in addition to the 74 deaths.
“From the 74 back carriers who have lost their lives, 70 were shot to death by border officials and four were killed in the explosion of land mines, avalanche and extreme weather conditions,” the report adds. “Of the 76 wounded, eight were injured by land mines and the other 70 were the target of border security attacks.”
The Campaign goes on to add that the numbers include only those cases that have been documented by the rights organization, and the isolated nature of the region’s geography and the economic situation of back carriers make it difficult to document all cases.
The Campaign calls on the Iranian government to investigate the murder of back carriers by security officials and hold them to account for their “illegal and violent” actions.
Back carriers, referred to as “kulbars”, are people that transport goods in the border regions on their backs. They usually carry them from the borders to the nearest villages, and from there the goods are carried to cities using vehicles.
According to Campaign spokesman Hadi Ghaemi: “The Iranian government is in effect punishing poverty. To attack back carriers, who are residents of some of Iran’s poorest regions, is to use violence against people who have been forced to engage in this kind of activity due to their dire economic situation.”
Ahmad Shaheed’s report on human rights also touched on this issue of “the systematic killings of kulbars (back carriers) and kasebkaran (tradesmen) Kurds residing in border areas.” The report indicated: “The kulbaran, who ferry cargo across the border on their backs or smuggle commodities such as tea, tobacco and fuel to earn a living, are particularly affected. Iranian law regards the activities of the kulbari as a crime that is punishable by several months of detention or a fine equal to the value of the seized commodities. The Special Rapporteur received reports, however, that Iranian border guards indiscriminately shoot at these individuals, thereby killing and wounding dozens of kulbari annually, as well as their horses.”