Kurdish rights activists say Iranian security forces have shot and killed an Iranian Kurdish man working as a porter importing goods from neighboring Iraq, in the latest report of porters being shot dead this year.
Reports from the Center of Democracy and Human Rights in Kurdistan and Kolbarnews said Ghalib Kuik was killed on Sunday near the northwestern town of Marivan in Iran’s Kurdistan province, adjacent to Iraq. The reports did not provide other details of the shooting or identify which branch of the security forces was responsible.
A family member of Kuik confirmed his killing in a message sent to VOA Persian on Monday. The relative, who attached a photo of Kuik to the message, said Iranian authorities told the family to collect his body.
Iranian Kurdish porters, known locally as kolbars, have carried goods across mountain footpaths from Iraq to Iran for years. The practice is one of the only sources of income in Iran’s predominantly Kurdish northwestern regions, which are among the nation’s most impoverished.
The state-run Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) published a report Monday confirming Kuik’s death, but not that he was shot by security forces. It said he died of “unnatural” causes while carrying a load of goods along with other kolbars near Marivan. ILNA said Kuik was married with two children.
Relatives of kolbars have reported several other fatal shootings of the porters by Iranian security forces this year, including two killings in June. VOA Persian has withheld the identities of the family members after they said the security forces warned them against speaking out about the shootings.
Kolbars have told VOA Persian that members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have defended such shootings by saying they mistook the porters for Iranian Kurdish militants who are active in the region. But the kolbars have said there is no accountability for the shootings, with the IRGC forces involved in the incidents being reassigned to other locations rather than being punished.
Iranian security forces began to block the footpaths used by kolbars last December, with local officials saying they acted at the request of Iraq to bring order to border trade and preserve security in border areas. Many Iranian Kurds have rejected that explanation because of what they see as Tehran's deep influence over Iraqi affairs.
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.