Kolbars carry their loads over the mountains on the Kurdistan Region-Iran border. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish cross-border porters, kolbars, will be issued with smart cards in a bid to regulate the semi-legal profession, the governor of Iran’s West Azerbaijan province revealed.
Some 50,000 people living in villages within 20 kilometres of the Kurdistan Region-Iran border near Piranshahr and Sardasht will be given the special cards, according to Governor Mohammed Mehdi Shahriari.
Authorities will begin issuing the cards within two weeks.
Kolbars are semi-legal porters who carry heavy loads of goods on their backs across the mountains from the Kurdistan Region to Iran. Some import items that are banned in Iran, like alcohol.
The smart cards will replace the kolbar licence that was introduced in 2016. Smart card owners will have a quota on what they export and will be levied lower customs fees.
There are about 70,000 individuals registered as kolbars in the provinces of West Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and Kermanshah. These mainly Kurdish provinces are among the poorest in Iran.
The Iranian government has promised more economic development
in these areas in order to eliminate the kolbar profession. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian National Security Council, has said it is an ugly fact for Iran that there are still Kurdish kolbars.
At least 167 kolbars died in 2017 – some killed by Iranian border guards and others died on the treacherous mountain passes they traverse. Hundreds more were arrested, fined, or wounded by Iranian border guards, according to the France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN).