Family of Man Shot by Iranian Border Guards: Authorities “Lying” About Victim’s Identity
The family member of one of two men shot to death by Iranian border guards near the city of Baneh in Kurdistan Province told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that the authorities are “lying” about what the victims were carrying before they were killed.
Heydar Faraji (21) and Ghader Bahrami (45) were killed by border guards near Iran’s border with Iraq on September 4, 2017, ostensibly for working as “kulbars,” the Persian word for border-crossing couriers carrying illegally trafficked goods.
However, a member of Faraji’s family told CHRI that the men, who worked as kulbars, were not on the job at the time of the shooting and were shot without warning.
“The authorities are lying,” said a relative who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They only had personal items, bread, cooking oil and water bottles in their backpacks. They were more than 500 to 600 yards away from the ‘Do Not Enter’ border sign in a cotton field.”
“There were five kulabrs who were shot at without being ordered to halt,” added the source. “The first bullet went through Heydar’s head. He was also shot in the stomach.”
“Ghader Bahrami’s borther, who was with the group, said the border guards started firing without any warning,” continued the source. “If they were trafficking illegal goods, or if they were at the border, we would not have been this upset. But they were not carrying any illegal goods and were not near the border. God knows we are extremely upset.”
“The families have filed complaints with the judiciary, but none of the authorities have contacted us,” the source told CHRI. “Only Mr. [Mohsen] Biglari, the parliamentary representative from Baneh, paid a visit to Ghader’s family.”
A day after the incident, Kurdistan’s Provincial Prosecutor Akbar Johari claimed that the victims were importing illegal “flammable goods.”
Thousands of kulbars in the economically-depressed Kurdish-populated border regions of northwest Iran make their meager living by transporting goods on their backs on foot, or on horses and mules, mainly between Iran and Iraq. The men, who do not have work permits, are often shot at by Iranian border guards when they try to avoid customs check points.
Of the 92 kulbars who died on the job in 2016, forty were shot by border guards, according to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN).
The latest killings led to protests in several cities in the region, including on September 5 when the families of the victims and dozens of other people gathered in front of the local governor’s office in Baneh.
Six Kurdish artists and social justice activists were detained between September 17-20 for organizing a rally in a park in the city of Kermanshah to protest the killings.
Biglari, the MP from Baneh, has also requested an investigation into the killings.
“I am seeking answers to this incident from every judicial official in the country,” he said in an interview with the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on September 5.
“I have asked the region’s security council to convene and called on the Judicial Branch and all other relevant authorities to investigate and make sure that justice is served in the case of these two innocent kulbars,” added Biglari.
The family member who spoke to CHRI said Faraji was trying to earn money to pay for his wedding expenses before he was killed.
“He had gotten his associate degree, but didn’t have a job. He lived with his parents and took care of them,” said the source. “He became a kulbar because he wanted to get married and get his life in order.”
“How much do you think a kulbar makes?” continued the source. “Only 150,000 tomans ($45 USD) to carry things like clothes and cosmetic goods across the border.”
“The other victim, Mr. Bahrami, was supporting his four children working as a kulbar,” added the source. “Now he is in the ground.”