Kurdish kolbar recalls detention and torture in Turkey

CHALDERAN, Iran — A kolbar detained by Turkish guards has told Rudaw of the torture he experienced after being arrested on the border with his friend, who died shortly after their release.

Behnam Samadi, 17, and Hassan Kachkanlu, 48, left their hometown of Chalderan, nearly 15 km from the Turkish border, in mid-April, crossing the border into Van province.

Samadi said they were detained by Turkish soldiers, before being brutally tortured.

“We were going to sleep when Turkish soldiers arrested us. They tortured us, hurt us, beat us up,” Samadi told a Rudaw reporter. “They then took us to the Iranian border, where they beat us up again and poured cold water on us – when they released us, we fainted.”

“When I woke up, I found out that my friend was dead,” Samadi said from his home in Chalderan. He is still recovering from injuries he sustained while in detention.

“These people are workers, however they cross the border due to poverty, they risk their lives in order to get some money and provide for their families,” Hassan’s brother Behrouz told Rudaw.

Kolbars are semi-legal porters who transport untaxed goods across the Kurdistan Region-Iran border and sometimes Iran-Turkey border. They are constantly being targeted by Iranian border guards as well as being victims of natural disasters. Many are pushed into the profession by poverty and a lack of alternative employment, particularly in Iran’s Kurdish provinces.

Hassan’s family have yet to receive his body, which is being held by Turkey “for investigation.”

Amensty International addressed the brutal treatment kolbars face in their 2020 human rights report released earlier this month.

“Iran’s border guards continued to unlawfully shoot scores of unarmed Kurdish kolbars who work, under cruel and inhumane conditions, as cross-border porters between the Kurdistan regions of Iran and Iraq, killing at least 40 men and injuring dozens of others,” the human rights watchdog said, sourcing Kurdish human rights organizations.

“The kolbar situation remains extremely distressing every year,” Raha Bahreini, Amnesty International’s Iran researcher and lawyer told Rudaw English on April 7. “The culture of impunity means the perpetrators do not have any fear of facing consequences for their actions.”

An estimated 52 kolbars were killed and 147 injured in 2020, according to data given to Rudaw English by the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN). Forty-six of those killed were shot by Iranian or Turkish border guards.

Source: Rudaw