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Iran Govt’s Deadly Crackdown On Cross-Border Porters Persists

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The dangers facing Iranian cross-border porters, known as Kolbars, have intensified with numerous reports of fatalities and injuries at the hands of Iranian border guards.

“In the past four weeks, five kolbars have been killed by Iranian border guards in the border areas of Nowsud, Kermanshah Province, and Baneh, Kurdistan Province. Another five kolbars have died from frostbite, heart attacks and falls from mountain heights,” Kurdistan Human Rights Network said.

This week, Seyvan Dast-Afkan, a Kolbar in his thirties, became the latest victim when he was shot by Iranian border guards at the Tateh Pass in the Hawraman region of Sarvabad in Iran’s Kurdistan Province.

Dast-Afkan and his group were reportedly targeted without warning, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) said. According to the human rights group Hengaw, Dast-Afkan hails from Darreh Peyman in Marivan, Kurdistan Province. He leaves behind a family and a young child.

Human rights groups say the recent incidents highlight the grave risks these laborers continue to face, when they carry goods on their backs across Iran’s borders – often journeying long distances through the mountainous regions into Iraq.

In another case this month, two separate shootings by Iranian border guards resulted in fatalities. Mehrdad Abdollahzadeh, a 20-year-old Kolbar from Maraghan village in Sardasht, fell to his death after being targeted in the mountainous areas of Bitush village.

Simultaneously, Omid Saeidi met a similar fate in the Bastam border area, with his dead body abandoned by the Iranian border guards, until he was discovered hours later by locals.

Late March, two kolbars lost their lives and four others sustained injuries in falls from mountainous terrain in Hawraman and Sardasht. Shoresh Shokri, among the fallen, succumbed to his injuries en route to receive medical care.

The brutality at the hands of the Iranian border guards extends beyond shootings.

Fardin Veysi endured severe injuries on April 6 after being fired on by Iranian border guards in the Hangeh-ye Zhal border area of Baneh, Kurdistan Province. The use of pellet guns at close range left him with critical wounds to his abdomen and hand.

According to Kolbar News, between March 2023 and March 2024, 444 Kolbars in the border areas and inter-provincial routes between West Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and Kermanshah provinces were killed or injured due to factors such as direct shooting by regime military forces, avalanches, frostbite, stepping on mines, falling from mountains and heights, and other causes.

Out of the 444, a total of 373 Kolbars were either killed or injured due to direct shooting by military forces.

Kolbars are also often victims of Iran’s systematic disregard for due process in judicial proceedings.

Last month, Daniyal Mam Ahmed, a 17-year-old from Marivan, in the Kurdistan province of Iran, received a verdict of two years imprisonment along with 74 lashes by the Iranian judiciary.

Hengaw reported that Mam Ahmed was arrested by Iranian government forces in March, while working as a Kolbar at the “Qalqaleh” border – and remains jailed in Marivan’s central prison.