Iran arrests Kurdish Imam for criticizing border guards killing couriers
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iranian security forces on Sunday arrested a Kurdish Mullah and resident Imam of a remote village in the province of Kurdistan for criticizing border guards’ continued shooting of couriers, also known as kulbar.
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.
Saeed Baqi was arrested for “criticizing the security forces’ killing of kulbar,” the Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK) reported on Monday.
Baqi’s words were part of a sermon he delivered during Friday prayers at a mosque in the village of Tarkhan-Awa in Baneh District, northwestern Kurdistan Province.
Baneh borders the Kurdistan Region, and as a result, is a hotspot for kulbar activity. In 2018, five kulbar have been killed and 22 others injured after border guards shot them in the district of Baneh alone.
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 target 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 the US sanctions created.
Critics complain that the law’s wording is vague, leaving it open to wide interpretation.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany