Twenty-one border porters, “kolbars”, were shot dead by border guards affiliated with the Iranian regime in western Iran in the past five months.
In protest, Iranian Twitter users condemned the regime’s indiscriminate killing of kolbars with the hashtag #كولبر_نكشيد or do not kill kolbars. The hashtag became Iran’s top trend on Twitter yesterday.
Kolbars are workers who are hired to carry heavy loads across the border for a meager pay. Due to the lack of economic development, increasing poverty and unemployment in western Iran, more and more Iranians are forced to take up this dangerous and harsh occupation. The regime categorizes kolbars as “smugglers” and routinely shoots and kills them.
If not killed by security forces, kolbars die from avalanches, falling off mountains, hyperthermia, and hypothermia.
Many kolbars are university graduates and several are national athletes who have been forced into the life-threatening job for a meager pay.
If injured, most kolbars cannot pay their hospital bills.
From the start of the Persian New Year (March 21), 21 kolbars have been killed by direct fire. This does not include porters who were injured or maimed by security forces.
The most recent kolbar shooting was on Friday July 31 when Iranian border forces affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps opened fire on a group of kolbars in Chaldaran, northwest Iran, killing a young man.
Human rights groups said that the border guards killed Reza Pour Ismael without prior warning and from close range. He was shot three times in the stomach.
Another kolbar, Ibrahim Jordizaj, was killed by security forces in June. Ibrahim was a store owner before becoming a kolbar due to his meager income.
On July 17, another young man, Shemzin Ahmadi, who lived in a village near Urmia, northwestern Iran, was shot and wounded after Revolutionary Guards opened fire on him. He passed away after eight days in the hospital. Before him, his brother Arsalan had been shot on June 3.
Images of the men’s parents holding their sons’ pictures were circulated by Iranians on social media.
On May 12, security forces at a base in Sardasht, western Iran, opened fire on a group of kolbars, killing Kamran Mulania. He was married and was the father of a 5-year-old girl.
Twenty-nine-year-old Vazir Mohammadi, from the western province of Kermanshah, was also a father. Pictures of him holding his son’s hand also made it to social media after his death.
Court prosecutes locals for protesting kolbar killings
In late July, a Public Court in the western city of Baneh sentenced 10 men to lashes, prison, and hefty fines for protesting the regime’s killing of border porters. The men were each sentenced to three months of prison, 25 lashes, and a fine of 25 million tomans (around $1,136) for protesting outside the Baneh Governor’s Office in 2017.
In July, the Hengaw Human Rights Organization Statistics and Documentation Center reported that at least 14 kolbars were injured in the Kurdistan border region. The report said that 80% of the cases were the result of direct fire by border forces.
According to Hengaw, from 2016 to July 2020, at least 937 Kurd kolbars were injured or killed.