ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iranian Ministry of Interior official on Tuesday warned Kurds living near areas bordering the Kurdistan Region not to cross over illegally as the military does not have any "red lines" that would protect local couriers in those regions.
"We no longer have a thing called by the name of Kulbar; I don't know where this word was invented," Brig. Gen. Hossein Zulfaghari, Security and Police Deputy of the Ministry of Interior, began when answering a question by ILNA on a recent incident involving a Kurdish courier who was shot by border guards.
The word he referred to is a Kurdish name for individuals who smuggle small amounts of goods across the border, “kul” meaning “back” and “bar” meaning “carrying.” 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.
Zulfaghari added, "Unfortunately, I see that the authorities who pose these issues use the term Kulbar," maintaining "those who exit and re-enter the country carrying goods with themselves are no longer Kulbar and what they are doing illegal," and will be considered as "smuggling."
The commander did not explain how his description of the work justifies the actions of the border guards.
Iranian laws dictate that border guards can fire their weapons only if they believe the trespasser is armed and dangerous and only after observing the following three procedures: they must give a verbal warning, they must fire into the air, and only then are they permitted to targeting the lower body of a suspect with gunfire.
However, the guards continue to shoot and kill Kulbar with increasing regularity as Iran's recent economic crisis appears to have enticed more in the border areas to take up the work as their only means of income and to fill the trade void created by US sanctions.
Critics complain that the law's wording is vague, leaving it open to wide interpretation.
Hengaw, a group that writes on human rights violations involving Kurds in Iran, recently reported that they had recorded over 100 casualties from all types of incidents involving Kulbar. Out of the 32 who had died, 21 were killed after being shot by border guards.
"We have no red lines in the border areas," the commander stated. "Everyone who enters the border area will be warned, and if they do not pay attention, they will be targeted."
"I will honestly say: dear peoples living near the border, do not cross over illegally," Zulfaghari ominously concluded.
Editing by John J. Catherine