A relative of an Iranian Kurdish porter carrying goods into Iran from Iraq says Iranian security forces shot and killed him as he was crossing a mountain footpath near the border on Wednesday.
The family member who spoke to VOA Persian said Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops shot Shwaneh Mahmoudzadeh, 19, on the Iranian side of the border, west of the town of Sardasht. The relative said Mahmoudzadeh was carrying goods from Iraqi Kurdistan to sell in northwestern Iran's predominantly Kurdish region.
Iranian Kurdish porters, known locally as kolbars, have carried goods across mountain footpaths between the two countries for years. The practice is one of the only sources of income in the region, which is among Iran's most impoverished.
The family member also sent VOA Persian an image of a memorial poster containing a photo of Mahmoudzadeh and details of memorial events scheduled for Thursday and Friday in the town of Piranshahr, where he was from.
The poster did not specify what caused his death. Family members have been reluctant to publicize such information, fearing reprisals from Iranian security forces who they say warn them against speaking out about the shootings of kolbars.
Kolbars have told VOA Persian that IRGC forces 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 transferred to other locations.
Iranian security forces began to block the footpaths used by kolbars in 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 residents have rejected that explanation because of what they see as Tehran's deep influence over Iraqi affairs.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian service. Michael Lipin reported from Washington.