Two Kulbar 'couriers' shot by Iranian guards at Kurdistan border: Police

The Kurdish term “Kulbar” consists of: “kul” meaning "back" and “bar” meaning "carrying."

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iranian-border guards shot two Kurdish Iranian "Kulbar," or informal couriers, at the border of the Kurdistan Region, police said on Tuesday. One of them was severly injured and has been transferred to an emergency hospital in Erbil.

Kulbar is the Kurdish term 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.

The incident happened at 9:00 pm local time near the Kelashin district of the Kurdistan Region's town of Sidakan, Soran Police Spokesperson Hawar Argoshi told Kurdistan 24.

“The shooting wounded one of the Kulbar, named Sami Khalil Faruqi, age 32 from Drru village of Shino (Oshnaviah) city,” Argoshi continued. “He was injured after being shot by two bullets.” 

No information has been released regarding the extent of the injuries sustained by the other Kulbar.

The spokesperson stated that Faruqi was taken by police to Sidakan hospital and then to the emergency hospital in Soran city. Due to his severe injuries, medical staff then decided to transfer him to an emergency hospital in Erbil.

Many citizens in impoverished Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhilat) who find no other means to earn a living risk criminal charges, their safety, and their lives making the trecks on a regular basis. They routinely spend days climbing near-impassable paths while carrying goods such as tobacco, tires, and tea.

For this, many make as little as $10 a day.

Shooting unarmed border couriers without sufficient cause is a violation of Iran’s laws, as well as international law. However, hundreds of Kulbar lose their lives every year after being shot by Iranian border guards or as a result of other hardships of the job.

Iranian laws dictate that border guards can fire their weapon only if they believe the trespasser is armed and dangerous and only after observing the following procedures: first, giving an oral warning; second, shooting into the air; and third, if they must fire, targeting the lower body.

A total of 144 Kurdish couriers were killed or wounded at the border between Rojhilat and the Kurdistan Region in 2017, according to Hengaw, a website which tracks human rights violations in Iranian Kurdistan.

The website said 47 Kulbar were killed “as a result of direct gunfire of the Iranian security forces and 23 others were killed due to falling off mountains or other accidents.”

It added that, of the 97 Kulbar who were wounded last year, 53 were shot by Iranian border guards and 44 “fell from heights and other incidents."

Editing by John J. Catherine

(Tayfur Mohammed contributed to this report)