Indiscriminate Killings of Kolbaran (Border Couriers or Tradesmen)


Even though the current Islamic Republic administration pledged to change its security approach toward Iranian Kurdistan, the indiscriminate killing of Kurdish Kolbaran (border couriers or tradesmen) has increased in recent years. The indiscriminate and blind killing of Kurdish Kolbaran (plural for Kolbar) takes place in blatant violation of international obligations. Border security forces involved in indiscriminate and blind killings do not even respect the Iranian domestic laws, which authorize the use of lethal force only as a last resort. 


Year in Review (2018) 


The Indiscriminate killing of Kurdish “Kolbaran” increased in 2018. The KMMK-G has received reports of indiscriminate and blind killings of 75 border couriers known as “Kolbar” in 2018, with another 177 individuals working as Kulbar injured at the border due to reasons such as shooting and landmine explosions among others. This brings the total incidents reported regarding shootings and discriminate killings of Kolbaran to 252 victims. Moreover, many kolbaran (tradesmen) were arrested and their goods were confiscated by the authorities thus far in 2018. In addition, hundreds of horses belonging to them were shot dead. As an example, Mehran Dehstani Rad, who works as a Kolbar, was injured in Dolatu/Sardasht by direct shooting of the border security forces and he is only 15 years old.


According to KMMK-G’s data, with a total of 122 instances of border courier attempts for indiscriminate and blind killing of Kolbaran by the border guards, 51 Kolbars were killed and 71 were injured in 2016. This data reveals that the number of kolbaran killed and injured by security forces in 2016 for the full year was less than the number of kolbaran injured and killed during the first ten months of 2017 and 2018.


Due to high rates of unemployment, and land contamination caused by landmines and explosive remnants of the Iran-Iraq war that hamper seriously the daily life of civilians particularly the farmers, the nomads, the shepherds and traders, the Kurdish youth and farmers from four Kurdish provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Ilam and Wermê/Urmia (West Azerbaijan) engage in smuggling commodities, such as tea, tobacco and fuel to earn a living. 


As the 26-year-old Taha Ghaffari, Iran’s champion in track and field who has also received medals in Asia, told the state-run “Fars News” in a recent interview: “Kolbari [Being a Kolbar] is not a profession. It is an obligation to feed your family and sustain their livelihood.” Taha Ghaffari is yet still working as a Kolbar in Iranian Kurdistan (Marivan) in order to support his family.