ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Five Iranian security personnel have been seriously wounded in two separate altercations with Kurdish couriers and other workers near the border with the Kurdistan Region, a rights group reported Wednesday.
Hengaw, a group focused on violations of Kurdish rights in Iran, reported that Iranian police in the village of Nisana clashed on Monday with merchants and border couriers known as Kulbar. Nasana is located in the Nowsud District, part of the western Kurdish-majority province of Kermanshah (Kermashan).
The statement did not detail the exact circumstances of the encounter, the initiator of the conflict, or whether it was an armed exchange. It did, however, state that four police members were "severely injured" and had been immediately transported to a medical facility for treatment. It also said that the Kurdish traders destroyed four police vehicles.
Nearly 100 kilometers northward on the same day, another incident took place near the city of Baneh in Kurdistan Province. According to Hengaw, a confrontation between merchants and Iranian security forces resulted in the hospitalization of one soldier.
Iranian media outlets have not published any information about the incidents and Kurdistan 24 could not independently verify the reports and the circumstances thereof.
It should be noted that so-called Kulbar – a Kurdish term used for individuals who smuggle small amounts of goods across the border (“kul” meaning “back” and “bar” meaning “carrying”) – are continually targeted by members of Iran's border guards. Though illegal, it is a local practice that has long since been accepted as normal in the economically undeveloped areas where many residents depend on it for their livelihoods despite the risk from Iranian forces.
Even without the threat from violence, it is a dangerous job, with many Kulbar being injured as they trek near-impassable mountain paths while carrying back-breaking amounts of goods, sometimes falling from significant heights.
These factors have not deterred many living in rural areas that border the Kurdistan Region where there are few other means of supporting their families. This is especially the case with Iran's economy in crisis and with chronic unemployment numbers that seem especially dire in the nation's Kurdish provinces.
Since the start of 2019, Hengaw has documented 20 incidents involving Kulbar, six of whom have died. During 2018, the organization says that at least 231 Kolbar were killed or injured along the border.
Editing by John J. Catherine