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Kolbar (Persian: کول‌بر‎) or Kolber (Kurdish: کۆڵبەر‎) is a worker who is employed to carry goods on his/her back across the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey legally or illegally.[1] Most kolbars live in Iranian Kurdistan, where the Kurdish provinces are among the poorest in the country. However, kolbars also live in Turkish Kurdistan and to a smaller extent Iraqi Kurdistan. Since kolbar work is mostly considered illegal, kolbar workers have no insurance, retirement plans and unions. Among the kolbars are highly educated young people, who have no job because of small rate of employment in Kurdish provinces.[2] According to Iranian statistics, only in the Kurdistan Province more than twenty thousand people depend on being a kolbar for sustenance.[3]


The word kolbar is a Kurdish word, which literally means one who carries load.[4]

Killing kolbars[edit]

In both Iran and Turkey many young male and female kolbars have been shot dead by government forces.[5] In many cases crossing the border is against the laws, and the kolbars are shot.[6][7]


  1. ^ Kurdistan human Rights Network: Who are Kolbars?
  2. ^ Fars News: A kolbar that has a MSc degree (in Persian)
  3. ^ Fars News:The situation of kolbars vaguer than ever
  4. ^ "Foreign Policy: For Kurdish Smugglers, Iran Sanctions Are Starting to Bite".
  5. ^ ANF News:Another Kolbar was shot dead
  6. ^ Iran Observer: Reopening of KRG-Iran Border Crossings Does Not Include Kolbar Routes
  7. ^ ANF:Roboski, six years ago