A kolbar hauls a load of goods near the border of the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Smuggling networks in Iran’s northwestern province of West Azerbaijan have decreased by more than 10 percent so far this year, according to the province’s police commander.
Colonel Saman Ghanizadeh told Iran’s IRNA news agency on Tuesday that six smuggling networks have been identified and collapsed so far this year, down from 12 percent over the same period last year.
Western Azerbaijain flanks the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, Turkey, as well as Azerbaijan. The mountainous areas are known for their smuggling and illegal trade routes, being a historical gateway and trade route between the East and the West.
Ghanizadeh explained 1 million cartons of foreign cigarettes, 100,338 boxes of clothes and scarves, 44,300 cosmetic products, 1,058 kilograms of foreign tea, 157,162 liters of petroleum products, 712 mobile phones, 1,735,000 packets of drugs, and 63 foreign vehicles have been seized.
However, Azeri police commander Garni Zadeh estimated the value of the contraband to be just more than 1.29 billion rials (about $40,000), a four-fold increase in value from last year.
Local authorities have announced a campaign to counter theft, smuggling, narcotics, abnormalities, social hardships and accidents.
If caught in Iran, weapon and drug smugglers face stiff punishments including capital punishment.
Many porters or load carriers mostly from the Iranian side make the dangerous trek through the mountains throughout the year, as economic opportunities are few in Kurdish areas of Iran.
They are referred to as kolbars in Kurdish. Some foot path border checkpoints exist, and local smugglers are able to obtain a special license comes with a few conditions.
Only heads of families, who have finished their military service and live within 15 kilometers of the border qualify for the special permit to transport legal goods.