An organization that documents human rights violations against ethnic Kurds in Iran announced on Tuesday that at least 16 couriers, known commonly as Kulbar, were either killed and wounded in February by Iranian forces in mountainous areas along the shared border with the Kurdistan Region.

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 economically undeveloped areas of Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhilat) where many residents depend on it for their livelihoods.

They carry an average of 75 kilograms (150 pounds) on their backs as they journey back and forth across the Zagros Mountains to make a living amid rampant unemployment.

Those who brave the perilous cross-border journeys earn as little as $10 per day to climb near-impassable roads while carrying large amounts of goods such as tobacco, clothes, and tea strapped to their backs.

Due to the clandestine nature of their occupation, Kulbar are often been the target of Iranian border guards, from whom they face not merely arrest but gunfire.

According to the report by the Hengaw organization that included incidents compiled during February, 7 Kulbar were killed and 9 others wounded over the month.

Ten of the casualties were listed as residents of the Kurdish-majority eastern Iranian province of Sanandaj and over half of the total cases reported involved Kulbar being shot by border guards.

Source » kurdistan24