SANANDAJ, Iran (Kurdistan24) – Last year was a highly fatal year for Kulbaran where an average eight people were shot per month, reported Hangaw Human Rights agency.
At least 49 Kulbar died in 2016, and 47 were injured, Hangaw added.
Direct gun shots from Iranian border guards reportedly killed 41, and traffic accidents killed another four.
One Kulbar died from cardiac arrest during work, and three drowned in rivers while struggling to cross them, Hangaw concluded.
The Kurdish term “Kulbar” consists of “kul” meaning back and “bar” meaning carrying. “Kulbaran” is the plural form.
In impoverished Iranian Kurdistan, locals who find no other means to earn a livelihood risk their lives to smuggle goods on their backs, or on their horses and mules.
They climb impassable passages for long hours, and sometimes days, while carrying goods such as tobacco and tea to make as little as USD $10 per day.
The high rates of unemployment have affected Iran in general, and Kurds and Baluch ethnic minorities in particular.
Despite promises to the contrary, killing Kulbar has increased on the Iran-Iraq border that divides the Kurdish land.
A United Nations’ March report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran stated the arbitrary killing of the unarmed Kulbar was “in violation of Iran’s domestic laws and international obligations.”
In response to the UN concern with the plight of the border couriers, Iran said, “[I]t is very difficult to distinguish drug traffickers and armed bandits from real [Kulbaran] at [the] borders.”
Iranian laws dictate the border guards can fire their weapon only if they believe the trespasser is armed and dangerous.
They are also required to follow these steps: first, an oral warning; second, by shooting into the air; and third, targeting the lower body if they must fire.
But activists say the border guards fire at anything that moves among the trees and bushes, be it a human or animal, and they enjoy impunity for it.
“[The spilling of] Kurdish blood is halal in Iran,” Rebin Rahmani from Paris told Kurdistan24, using the Islamic term for what is “permissible.”
Rahmani is the director of the European branch of the Kurdistan Human Rights Network.
Rahmani himself was imprisoned twice in Iran.
Once for being a Kulbar while in high school—carrying shampoo to pay for his education—and once for his political activities as Editor-in-Chief of a student newsletter that was shut down.
“Kurds aren’t only killed on the borders of their cities and villages but also in wealthy cities of Isfahan and Shiraz when they carry goods,” Rahmani added.
Wearing traditional clothes marks one immediately as “sub-human,” a non-person who can easily be killed with no punishment, according to Rahmani.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany