Skip to main content

Mountain couriers brave bullets along Iran-Iraq border

As the economic crisis deepens in Iran, more people are risking their lives to earn money by transporting goods through the mountains of the Kurdistan region on the Iraq-Iran border.
ZAGROS, IRAQ - JULY 27: A Kurdish-Iranian smuggler packs his horse in preparation to carry goods over the Iraq border into Iran on July 27, 2017 in the Zagros Mountains, northern Iraq. (Photo by Martyn Aim/Corbis via Getty Images)

Work can be dangerous for the Kurds hired to carry goods across the Iran-Iraq border. “Facing harsh weather, topographic conditions and gunfire, we risk our lives to barely provide our family’s daily bread,” an Iranian Kurd recently told Al-Monitor via a messaging app. Many of these couriers, called kolbars, feel they have little choice.

The couriers traverse snow-covered mountainous routes while wary of Iranian border guards’ bullets and schlepping giant loads on their backs, or guiding animals, to make a few dollars a night. On Feb. 16 in Nowsud, guards opened fire on a group of kolbars, killing three and seriously wounding six. Another shooting incident, on Feb. 28, left two kolbars injured

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.