The Iranian government said in late December it had planned to develop the local economy in Kurdish areas of the country in an effort to put an end to the issue of semi-legal cross-border porters. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A decision by the Iranian government to reopen border crossings of Haji Omaran and Parvezkhan with the Kurdistan Region did not include crossings for Kurdish Kolbar, the cross-border porters, thus border stores that are full of goods and commodities remain closed.
Mustafa Shawri, a laborer working in the area says “all the stores are full of goods. If some of them are not used or obtained by the consumers, they will expire and be thrown out.”
The Kolbar are semi-legal porters who carry heavy loads of goods on their backs across the mountains from the Kurdistan Region to Iran.
Iran reopened the major border crossings of Haji Omaran and Parvezkhan last week which had been closed by Tehran since mid-October.
The commodities, preserved at the stores and expected to be imported to Iran and are made in China, consist of electronic goods, clothing and household appliances.
Azad Mohammed, another laborer in the area said the closure of the Kolbar roads have largely damaged them.
“People have been largely affected and damaged by the closure of the Kolbar crossings. The commodities are not selling,” Mohammed criticized.
The Iranian government said in late December it had planned to develop the local economy in Kurdish areas of the country in an effort to put an end to the issue of semi-legal cross-border porters.
“It is an ugly fact for us that there is still a Kurd who is a Kolbar,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian National Security Council told reporters, explaining that Tehran has taken certain decisions to solve the problems of the Kurdish areas. He said the Iranian plans will focus on creating jobs for the western provinces located on the border with the Kurdistan Region by developing trade exchange between the two sides
Aram Hassan, spokesperson of the Parvezkhan border-crossing told Rudaw that he was informed by Iranian authorities that they would end the Kolbars working on the borders.
Hassan said he was also informed that Tehran would work to provide job opportunities for the kolbars on the borders and help transfer of the goods by vehicles and subjecting them to costumes fees.
Some Kolbars are licensed by the Iranian government, though even they often face harsh treatment from border guards. Smuggling is outlawed. Some Kolbars smuggle banned goods like alcohol across the border.
The Kurdish provinces of Iran are among the poorest in the country, suffering from years of underdevelopment.
Villagers on the border have been doing this work illegally for years but in mid-2016, Iranian authorities announced they would issue special licenses to allow the transport of goods on foot without the risk of being stopped by border guards.
The Iranian government considers unlicensed Kolbars to be smugglers involved in an illegal economy, bringing weapons and drugs into the country and posing a threat to Iranian security.
At least 167 Kolbars died in 2017. Hundreds more were arrested, fined, or wounded by Iranian border guards, according to the France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN).