Skip to main content

Iran’s Kurds voice frustrations, hopes heading into election

Security and the economy remain high on the list of priorities for Iranian Kurds who depend on the smuggling of goods into their country.
An Iranian Sunni Kurd couple is seen near Marivan in Kurdistan province, 512 km (320 miles) west of Tehran May 13, 2011. Iranian Shi'ite and Sunni Kurds live in harmony with each other in Marivan, although Sunni is the religion of the majority of the people. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN - Tags: SOCIETY RELIGION) - RTR2ME01

On the eve of Iran's presidential election, a group of poor Iranian Kurds who risk their lives every day to make ends meet on the border with Iraq spoke to Al-Monitor about what matters to them in deciding which candidate they will vote for — or why they plan to boycott the vote. Many hope for closer ties with the West so sanctions will be lifted and the economy will be revived. But while the economy is the main concern, almost all of the men who spoke to Al-Monitor praised the Iranian authorities for maintaining security within the country’s borders at a time when bombings and war bring chaos to neighboring countries.

These men are known as "kolbar" — they smuggle goods on their backs for a fee to make a living in the remote mountains between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. “I have no job. That is why I am doing this. Otherwise, this load is for a mule and not a human,” said Ali, a man in his mid-40s, while preparing his load of cigarettes to take back into Iran. Ali receives around $30 to carry the 24-kilogram load through the mountains for over six hours. Asked if he will vote on Friday, he pointed to his load and said, “Not really. This is my situation. Rouhani did not do anything for us for the last four years.”

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.