Kolbars carry goods across the Kurdistan Region-Iran border. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Iranian government will 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 known as kolbar.
“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.
“We did not intend to push a brave Kurd to become a kolbar, nor was it a good answer to the loyalty of the Kurdish people,” he said during a visit to Kurdistan Province over the weekend to pay respect to those killed in the war on terrorism.
He said the Iranian government has great respect for the Kurdish people, whom he claimed supported the Islamic Republic since day one. The people of Kurdistan are respectable people and the Iranian government is proud of them, he asserted.
It is a shame that the 1979 revolution has not been able to meet the socio-economic needs of the Kurds, driving kolbars to carry heavy loads across the often risky cross border areas, Shamkhani stated.
Kolbars frequently come under the fire of Iranian border guards. They also risk their lives in the treacherous mountain passes and cold winter temperatures on the Kurdistan Region-Iran border.
At least 167 kolbars have died in 2017, including two killed by Iranian forces on Sunday night.
Osman Ahmadi, 20, and Mohammad Bahrami, 23, were “ambushed” in a village near the border town of Sardasht, the France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network stated. They two were transporting loads of almonds on their horses when Iranian forces opened fire.
The rights monitor said the soldiers refused to bring the two to hospital. A medical official said the two died of severe bleeding.
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.
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 years of underdevelopment.
Shamkhani said the kolbar trade must end, according to Iranian media outlets.