Iranian border guards kill three unarmed Kurdish couriers, wound three more

Iranian border guards opened fire on three unarmed Kurdish couriers who were carrying goods from Iran to Iraq, killing three and wounding three more in two separate incidents on Wednesday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iranian border guards opened fire on unarmed Kurdish couriers, killing three and wounding three more in two separate incidents on Wednesday. The couriers are known locally as Kulbar and were carrying goods from Iran to Iraq.

“A number of Kulbar from Iranian Kurdistan [Rojhilat],” on their journey to the Kurdistan Region “fell into a border police ambush and three of them were killed and another wounded,” a security official from the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK) said on Thursday.

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 DPIK official named one of those wounded as Asaad Sura and said his brother was also injured in the attack. Two who died from injuries sustained in the shootings were from Urmia, a city in West Azerbaijan Province.

In another incident on Wednesday, Pasdars, as the Iranian border guards are called, wounded two more Kulbar with artillery and machine-gun fire when attacking a group of 15 that was crossing the border into the Kurdistan Region.

“At twelve o’clock last night [Wednesday], the two injured men were taken to the Soran Emergency Hospital to be treated,” said Hawar Argushi, Soran police spokesperson. "One of them was transported to the Erbil emergency room due to the severity of his injuries.”

The actions come less than two weeks after an earlier incident in which border guards shot two Kulbar, severely injuring one of them.

The Islamic Republic of Iran began a policy to crack down on Kulbar in 2017 and has been tightening their control on the borders ever since. Government officials claim that the border closures have been arranged in coordination with the Iraqi government to bring order to border trade and preserve security in the areas.

Merchants and shopkeepers in Iranian towns near the border rely on the goods Kulbar bring back to stock their stores. Due to Iran’s increased prohibition of the practice, many small business owners are struggling to make ends meet. This, combined with border closings in previous months, prompted some to go on strike.

Those protesting decided to stop demonstrations in mid-May, one month after they began, promising to resume if authorities failed to fulfill their demands.

Editing by John J. Catherine