The political and security situation in Iran has in many respects worsened in the past several years. This is especially the case with respect to the plight of the non-Persian nations.
Iran has during the past four decades systematically targeted the non-Persian communities and subjected them to all sorts of oppression and violence, ranging from systematic linguistic, cultural, economic, social and political oppression to forced demographic change as well as forced assimilation.
The violence inflicted on the Kurdish people by the Iranian state occurs in various forms and contexts. In this report, it is the violence in the context of the economic underdevelopment of Iranian Kurdistan in comparison to the central parts of Iran that is highlighted. This kind of violence manifests itself in the indiscriminate killings of the Kurdish civilians who work as Kolbars (porters), i.e. individuals who carry goods on their backs across the border regions between Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian Kurdistan.
The economic underdevelopment of Iranian Kurdistan, combined with deliberate and sustained state policy, and the lack of employment opportunities have forced the people of Kurdistan into what in Kurdish is known as “Kolbari” (porterage) as a means of survival.
The Kolbars or porters, young and old, including those that are highly educated, carry goods as heavy as 220 kg on their backs across mountainous regions. In recent years, the number of university students and university graduates have also been on the rise. These university students reportedly receive about 150 to 200 thousand Toman (equivalent of 30€ to 40€) each time for porterage.
Kolbars, whom are forced to take up this line of work as a means of survival, face mortal danger, including but not limited to the harsh weather conditions such as avalanches as well as increasing and indiscriminate shooting from the so-called Iranian security forces, as well as ambush and even imprisonment. Kolbars are easy targets for the paramilitary and so-called border security forces, who in fact constitute a threat to the security of Kurdish civilians.
Figures from various human rights organizations show that since the year 2014, the number of Kolbars killed and injured by Iranian paramilitary forces and the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has increased annually. In 2018 alone, at least 231 Kolbars were either killed or seriously wounded due to indiscriminate shootings from the regime’s paramilitary and so-called border security forces.
Despite increasing civil protests against the indiscriminate killings of Kolbars by the people of Kurdistan, there is still no real changes in the Iranian government’s policy. In a recent statement, Sardar Qasem Rezaie, an Iranian military official, not only defended the shootings and killings of Kolbars by the regime’s forces, but he also justified the killing of Kurdish porters. His blatant support for these human rights violations and outright support for the so-called border forces’ indiscriminate shootings speaks to the fact that even regime officials have little to no respect to their own domestic laws when it comes to the Kurdish Kolbars. According to Iran’s domestic laws, the use of firearms should only be used as a last resort.
The international community has over the years remained silent in the face of these human rights violations carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Kurdish people. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) calls on the international community and human rights organizations to take a firm stance against the Iranian regime’s repeated and ongoing violations of the human rights of the Kurdish people.
The PDKI is a democratic socialist party and is a member of the Socialist International (SI). For us, democratic socialism entails the belief that all human beings, whether as individuals or as members of nations, should be free and equal in all spheres of life. The PDKI’s policies on economic, political and social issues are based on these beliefs. Read more about our policies by clicking here and about our view on democratic socialism by clicking here.