At least 43 Iranian kolbars, Kurdish cross-border traders, have been killed or injured in Baneh, western Kurdistan province, within the past two weeks, according to a report by the Norway-based human rights group Hengaw.
The rise in violence against kolbars follows the visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to the city on the Iran-Iraq border on 3 November.
The Statistics and Documentation Centre of the Hengaw Organisation for Human Rights has compiled data indicating that three kolbars have lost their lives and 40 more have been injured since Raisi’s visit.
Sources from the organisation have asserted that Captain Mahdi Mohammadi, who commands two of the border posts in the region, allegedly issued orders for the systematic killings of kolbars in the area. Some reports suggest that Mohammadi personally opened fire on the traders in certain instances.
Kolbars have for generations carried goods on foot across the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. However, the livelihoods of those working the Iranian borders have been steadily eroded due to the impact of the Iranian government’s political and economic policies, plunging them into increasing poverty.
Every year dozens of kolbars face perilous conditions, encountering mines, armed drones and shootings along the borders.