In Iranian cities near the border including in Baneh, Sardasht and Mariwan there have been protests centred on the shooting of porters while they were on the job.
The porters are endangered by all kinds of hazards anyway, including land mines and being shot at by Iranian border patrols, including the infamous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC. But things have been getting worse recently.
We walk five kilometres at night and we deliver our goods to porters from Iranian cities, on that side of the border. But the whole time we worry we will be shot.
NIQASH spent two days in villages in the Bashdar district, north east of the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, near the Iranian centre of Sardasht, as well as paying a visit to the Haj Omran border crossing, northeast of the city of Erbil.
Kurdish businessmen start the process off by ordering and storing goods in their warehouses in the Bashdar and Soran districts, nearer the border. Often Iranians have made and paid for the orders, with the Kurdish sellers as middlemen.
“We agree with the Iranian traders to order the goods and then we transport them, according to the Iranian requests, in cars or on horses to porters waiting at the last point by the border, to carry them into Iran,” says Hawkar Ahmad, the owner of a store in Haj Omran.
At this point, there are no longer any paved roads. The route is even difficult for horses to follow, which is where the porters come in.
Arriving at the pick-up pint where porters were gathered, waiting for the day’s load, only a few of the workers were willing to speak to a journalist, and those who did, did so only under an assumed name.