” .. we are faced with courier women and girls (in Kurdistan) having to appear in the role of a man or a boy to join the long line of couriers. Every day we hear the shocking news of couriers’ deaths for various reasons. … . Some of the teens are family breadwinners instead of their disabled father, but sometimes they fall on the steep slope of the mountain and their hopes freeze beneath the snow and avalanche forever.”
Courier Jobs for Food
These are the remarks of Ms. Halalah Amini, a government official, representing Kurdistan in the Supreme Council of Provinces at a meeting on Thursday October 10, 2019. She added: “In the cold and dark of the day, these couriers walk several miles on the mountainous roads in order to get their pay, and we do not find it appropriate to use the term smuggler instead of courier as some do, because courier means victim, in a way that bread has become a trap for their deaths and their lives are being auctioned for bread.”
Jobs such as “couriering,” “garbage-searching,” and “fuel couriering” are created under theocratic rule in 21st century Iran, which are the result of the collapsed economy, corruption and institutionalized embezzlement in the Iranian regime. Couriering is not a formal job, and it is one of the riskiest.
A regime based on medieval religious dogmas that is at odds with progress and development has taken Iranian society to hell. In a country that accounts for 1% of the world’s population and has a 7% share of the world’s mines, is the fourth-largest oil exporter and the third-largest gas exporter, two-thirds of Iran’s population is below the poverty line.
The Kurdish people, even Kurdish women, are led to the role of courier not by choice but because they are compelled to make a living by any available means. Couriering work becomes doubly difficult for women when they risk their lives in this way while also serving as the head of the family. Unemployment in the border areas of Kurdistan is rampant. Many couriers possess Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, but still have to pick up hard courier work. Seyyed Hassan Alawi, a member of the Mullahs’ parliament from Sanandaj (the capita of Kurdistan), said the official unemployment rate of 13.6% was incorrect and the actual rate was more than 45%.
Couriers travel nearly impassable roads with their heavy loads to escape detection and attack by government agents. Thus, they risk falling into the valley and dying. Facing the remaining landmines left over from the eight-year Iran-Iraq war is another problem. To date, a large number of couriers have been shot dead or wounded in border areas by regime suppressors.
Human Rights in Iran
Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran writes in his 2019 report to the United Nations: “The Special Rapporteur remains deeply concerned about the continuing use of excessive force against and extrajudicial killings of border couriers who often reside in the impoverished provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan and Western Azerbaijan … According to information received, 75 border couriers were killed and 177 injured in 2018. Among them, 42 individuals were victims of direct shootings by security forces and 6 of them fell from the mountains after being chased by the security forces.”
A government official, however, described the couriers as smugglers and said, “Those who cross outside the legal path and bring goods to the country are no longer couriers and their work is illegal.” Hossein Zolfaghari, Political and Security Deputy of the Interior Ministry denies the issue of couriers, shamelessly saying in an interview with the state-run Ilna News Agency: “We no longer have anything called courier; this word courier (Coulbar or porter) was a word I do not know where it was invented, [and it] created trouble both for the people themselves and for officials.” (ILNA News Agency, October 15, 2018)
Iran Kills Couriers
The excuse of the mullahs’ regime to shoot down these poor couriers is the fight against smuggling. Mohsen Safai Farahani, who is described as a reformist political activist, in an interview with ILNA News Agency implicitly admitted some of the behind-the-scene facts on the issue of smuggling goods: “You have seen government officials claiming one of their successes over the past few years as to reduce the amount of smuggled goods from $25 billion to $15 billion!” Farahani added: “Those who are behind this money are no longer ordering Kurdish couriers. The people behind the money cannot bring $15 billion in smuggled goods through couriers. They import this volume of smuggled goods with the containers…” (Economics News site, May 28, 2019)
Only institutions affiliated with the Vali-e-Faqih and the Revolutionary Guards control all the country’s official ports and customs, which import these billions of dollars at the expense of destroying a free and healthy economy. And that is where the costs of terrorism and transnational operations and astronomical embezzlement come from.
Courier: This term was equally used in UN documents as “load porter” or “coulbar.”
Courier Women story provided by Hamid Enayat, The Media Express