To address the issue, they have called on the authorities to develop the border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan into free trade zones, where some of the kolbar can find sustainable employment. However, as noted by Mohsen Biglari, an Iranian member of parliament from Kurdistan province, one of the main challenges in the country’s Kurdish areas is the difficulty in attracting investment.
The main reason for why so many Kurdish men turn to smuggling is the high unemployment rate in the border areas. While the government says the official unemployment rate is 12.6% this year, Iranian Kurdish parliamentarians say the actual unemployment rate in their constituencies has reached somewhere between 40% and 50%.
In the absence of effective measures to tackle joblessness, the authorities have taken the step of extending social security coverage to the kolbar — albeit only those who are considered as “official” porters. Earlier this month, Rasul Khezri, a parliamentarian from Sardasht and Piranshahr where thousands of people are engaged in the smuggling trade, announced the signing of an agreement to extend insurance coverage to between 14,000 and 18,000 kolbar in these two towns.