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High unemployment forces Iranian Kurds into smuggling, with deadly consequences

A new wave of deadly violence targeting Iranian Kurdish smugglers in the country's mountainous border region has renewed focus on decades-long state neglect of the minority group.

The plight of Iran’s mountain couriers is once again under the spotlight after the Islamic Republic’s border guards shot dead at least 15 of them this summer, local officials said.

In Iranian Kurdistan, mountain couriers are relied on to carry commodities across the Iraqi border. They are locally known as a “kolbar,” a Kurdish word meaning someone carrying heavy loads over their shoulders. In recent years, the term has come to be used for young Kurds who cross the rugged mountains with essential goods in a region battered by unemployment, poverty and a host of other maladies.

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