Protests in Sanandaj earlier this week. Photo: @PDKIenglish
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Five civil activists have been arrested during protests of killings of kolbars, cross-border porters, in Kurdish cities in Iran.
The five, identified as Farzad Safara, Fuad Mizafari, Arsalan Abasi, Shahriar Tahmasibi, and Shahriar Rostami, were arrested on Thursday while protesting along with hundreds of other citizens in front of Kermanshah governorate building in solidarity with the protests in Baneh.
Two kolbars, 41-year-old Ghader Bahrami and 21-year-old Heydar Faraji, were killed near Baneh on Monday by Iranian forces.
A spokesperson for the Iranian Police said border police opened fire on the two kolbars when they crossed into a restricted zone.
People in Baneh began protesting the killings on Tuesday, closing their shops in a general strike and as many as 5,000 took to the streets.
Over the following days, solidarity protests also took place in Sanandaj and Sardasht. Iranian authorities responded, deploying anti-riot forces. Eyewitnesses reported helicopters over the city of Baneh and an atmosphere of “fear and terror.”
The Kurdish-Iranian party Komala reported on Friday the presence of many law enforcement forces in the city of Mariwan “and local activists are trying to find an opening to protest.”
Social media users were also targeted for arrest and the internet was shut down in Baneh.
Kurdish kolbars are frequently harassed by the Iranian authorities and many have been killed. The kolbars are semi-legal porters who carry goods on their backs, across the mountains from the Kurdistan Region to Iran’s Kurdish provinces, which are some of the poorest regions of Iran.
According to statistics obtained by Rudaw, over the past five and half months, 34 kolbars and workers were killed by Iranian forces and 67 more injured. During this period, 10 kolbars died from mine explosions and other natural events. Their job often takes them through dangerous mountain routes.
The Iranian government considers the unlicenced kolbars to be smugglers involved in an illegal economy, bringing weapons and drugs into the country and posing a threat to Iranian security.