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Iran: Upholding Human Rights & Dignity of the Kurdish Kulbar Community

8 July 2024

This resource was produced by MRG’s partner(s) with MRG. It remains the property of the organization(s) in question and does not necessarily reflect the views of MRG.

The Kurdish community engaged in kulbari confronts significant obstacles in accessing human rights protections and living with dignity. This report scrutinizes the predicament of those within the Kurdish kulbar community, emphasizing the critical need for elevated living standards, human rights protections and measures that preserve and enhance dignity. Kulbars, meaning ‘back-carriers’ in Persian and Kurdish, serve as cross-border couriers. They play a pivotal yet often overlooked role in regional economies, facilitating the movement of goods across the challenging terrains that lie between western Iran and its neighbouring countries. Their contributions support the living standards of marginalized border communities within Iran. Despite their importance, the kulbars’ informal work is plagued by numerous hurdles and precipitated by the scarcity of gainful employment in their regions. This scarcity is compounded by perilous landscapes, inadequate employment protections typically afforded to formal economy workers, state-led human rights abuses, including excessive and lethal force, and legal ambiguities, notably a lack of accountability.

This report highlights the complex interplay of socio-economic, legal and human rights factors that shape the lives of kulbars, shedding light on the adverse conditions and risks they encounter. It explores the implications for individuals, their communities and the broader regional context. By examining the challenges faced by kulbars, the report advocates for a new, decisive and comprehensive understanding of the kulbari phenomenon by both regional and national state representatives in Iran, alongside regional and international stakeholders. It asserts that informal workers, too, are entitled to the same rights as those in the formal sector. The report calls for targeted, practical and legal interventions to tackle the systemic issues affecting kulbars, aiming to enhance their well-being and safeguard their rights in the western border regions of Iran.

This content is part of a collaboration between MRG and the Human Rights Centre Clinic of the University of Essex. Its content reflects the views of the author(s).

Hawraman Montains, Western Iran/ Feb 2019. Credit: Fazel Hawramy.

Download (English, PDF)


The Centre for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR)

The Kurdistan Human Rights Association – Geneva (KMMK-G)