At least 67 kolbars killed in 2020

Last year at least 67 kolbars were killed on the border area between Northern and Eastern Kurdistan. 59 of them were victims of extrajudicial executions carried out by security forces in Turkey and Iran.

At least 67 kolbars were killed on the Iranian-Turkish border area in 2020 and another 163 were injured. This emerges from a report published by the “Kolbarnews” initiative, which contains data on all deaths of kolbars recorded by the police or published in the media. However, the number of deaths is likely to be much higher, as many incidents are not reported. In recent years, bodies of missing kolbars have been found repeatedly in the spring months, after the snow melts.

According to Kolbarnews' balance sheet, 59 kolbars died last year as a result of extrajudicial executions by security forces from both countries. 53 kolbars were shot by Iranian Pasdaran, another six were killed by Turkish border guards. Two kolbars got into a snow storm and are believed to have frozen to death, four others suffered a fatal accident while working. In two cases the cause of death has been reported as drowning.

The deliberate killing of kolbars has been increasing since the end of 2018. The Deputy Interior Minister of Iran, then responsible for security matters, Hossein Zolfaghari, had proclaimed an anti-constitutional fatwa and called kolbars working in the border area as “smugglers” who “must be killed”.

The drama of the kolbars and kesibkar (border traders) is deepening. People are risking their lives under the most difficult circumstances due to poor economic conditions and high unemployment in order to earn some income for themselves and their families.

Deliberate impoverishment in Kurdistan

The Iranian regime impoverished Eastern Kurdistan through a deliberate economic policy. Rojhilat is now one of the poorest regions in Iran. It is the region where least investment is done. The development of agriculture and industry has been prevented, and unemployment figures are much higher when compared to other regions in Iran.

130 kolbars injured in shelling

According to Kolbarnews, 130 of the 163 injured kolbars were wounded in shelling by Iranian and Turkish soldiers. Eleven more were injured as a result of falls, six of them were injured, some seriously, by the detonation of landmines. Five kolbars were captured by Iranian border guards and tortured, and two others each suffered injuries from cold and road accidents. The soldiers of both countries patrol through the border areas as real death squads without having to give any account of their actions.

Who and what are kolbars and kesibkar?

Kolber or "Kolbar" is made up of the Kurdish terms - "kol" - the back and "bar" - the burden. The kolbars live from carrying loads over dangerous borders. These goods are mainly cigarettes, cell phones, blankets, household goods, tea and rarely alcohol. The kolbars use these dangerous ways to make trade between the different Kurdish regions. The goods are sold at very high prices in trading centers like Tehran. But the kolbars who risk their life for this work only receive a very low daily wage.

The kesibkar are those who travel from town to town to find buyers for the goods that were brought across the border by the kolbars. People between the ages of 13 and 70 can be found among the kesibkar. Some only have a primary school diploma and others have a university degree.