Iran security forces employ lethal force against Kurdish border couriers: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch reported on Monday that Iranian security forces employed lethal force against predominantly Kurdish border couriers that passed rugged terrain to transport goods between Iraq and Iran.

Kurdish border couriers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that Iranian security forces shot them and killed their relatives, and beat them in detention. A border courier also allegedly lost a leg upon stepping on a landmine. Interviewees said that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and FARAJA Border Guard force were involved in using lethal force against the border couriers.

According to acting Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch Nahid Naghshbandi, Iranian security forces used lethal force against Kurdish border couriers to “repress socially and economically marginalized Kurdish communities”. Naghshbandi said, “Iranian authorities should develop sustainable economic opportunities in border regions to reduce dependency on border courier work for these communities to economically survive.”

Kurdish border couriers, also known as Kulbars, work as border couriers legally or illegally due to poverty and unemployment. While Iranian authorities allege that they wish to broadly regulate the border couriers’ economic activities instead of repressing them, Iranian authorities have been called out for repressing and marginalizing Kurdish communities.

Iran allegedly executed at least eight Kurdish political prisoners this year over “corruption on earth” and waging war on God. The UN Watch also found Iran responsible for “physical violence” that caused the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman, in September 2022. Amini was arrested for allegedly violating laws that mandate women to wear a hijab. The UN Watch said that physical violence imposed on Amini when she was held in custody resulted in her death. Her death triggered street protests in Iran. On the other hand, Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Nasser Kanaani said that European and American political leaders exploited the death of Amini and supported people who sought to undermine Iran’s national security.

Human Rights Watch stated that the Kurdish border couriers have limited access to justice or remedies.