Iranian border guards continue to shoot Kurdish kulbar

At least five kulbar have been shot dead by Iranian guards in the last two months, over 12 horses and mules have been killed and countless have been injured.

SARDASHT, Iran (Kurdistan24) – Iranian border patrol continues to shoot Kurdish couriers, also known as kulbar, despite human rights organizations’ outcries to stop the unaccountable killings.

Local news agencies revealed that Iran shot dead two border couriers in Sardasht, Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhalat) on Monday.  

The victims were two brothers, Latif and Raouf Alikhani. Nearly 12 horses were also killed when Iranian guards opened fire on kulbars, and several people wounded.

In the past two months, at least five kulbar have been gunned down in Rojhalat.

The Kurdish term “kulbar” consists of: “kul” meaning back and “bar” meaning carrying. “Kulbaran” is the plural form.

Kulbar often climb impassable passages for long hours, sometimes days, while carrying goods such as tobacco and tea to make as little as $10 a day.

The high rates of unemployment have affected Iran in general, and Kurds and Baluch ethnic minorities in particular. 

According to human rights organizations, between 36 and 44 border couriers have been killed in 2015 alone, and at least 21 were wounded by Iranian government forces.


United Nations’ March report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran states that the arbitrary killing of the unarmed kulbar is “in violation of Iran’s domestic laws and international obligations.”

Iran responded to the UN’s concerns stating, “[I]t is very difficult to distinguish drug traffickers and armed bandits from real [kulbar] at [the] borders.”

Iranian laws dictate that the border guards can fire their weapon only if they believe the trespasser is armed and dangerous. There are also specific steps they must follow: first, an oral warning, second, by shooting into the air, and third, targeting the lower body if they must fire.

Activists claim that border guards fire at anything that moves among the trees and bushes, be it a human, an animal, or breeze, and they enjoy impunity for it.

“[The spilling of] Kurdish blood is halal in Iran,” Rebin Rahmani from Paris told Kurdistan24, using the Islamic term for what is “permissible.”

Rahmani is the director of the European branch of the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN). They recently published a detailed report on the situation of the kulbar, among many other human rights violations, in Rojhalat.


Activists report that the relatives of the killed and injured kulbar are threatened not to file complaints against the guards.

They are also forced to pay for the bullets that cut through their loved ones to be able to repatriate the corpse and bury it.

For four decades, families of political activists who were sent to firing squads have had to cover the expense of the bullets.

According to the detailed report by the KHRN, 41 percent of the kulbar killed are between the ages of 20 and 30, and 20 percent are over the age of 30. One percent are under 18, and 20 percent of the dead were over 30 years of age.

So far, no complaint has been filed against the border guards.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany