Hundreds of porters, locally known as ‘kolbars’ cross the mountainous border between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan carrying heavy loads on their back all year-round. In the light of the deepening economic crisis in Iran, more locals of all ages inhabiting Kurdistan province, where the unemployment level is among the highest in the country, are choosing this poorly paid and extremely dangerous job as the only way to make living and provide for their families. The goods that are being smuggled from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran like this are ranging from consumer electronics and clothes to cigarettes and alcoholic drinks, which are illegal in Iran. This market came into existence with the creation of Kurdistan Region in neighboring Iraq in 1992 due to the demand for Iranian goods and flourished in late 1990s. Due to the poverty and high unemployment rate reaching up to 50% in the Kurdish inhabited provinces of Iran, men of all ages ranging from 13 to 80 years are forced to do this job as the only way to survive. Moreover, Exposure to the mercy of the elements not the only risk for kolbars who are being regularly watched and frequently shot by the Iranian border patrol officers.



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