Iran bans horses on the border

  • - By Kamal Chomani
  • 28/11/2008 00:00:00

Iranian government cracks down on opposition.

London ( 27 November 2008:Horse owners in the border region are given less than two weeks to get rid of their horses before they are fined.

In an attempt to narrow the activities of Iranian-Kurdish opposition, the Islamic Republic of Iran has informed all villagers on Kurdistan Region's border with Iran not to keep horses.

The Iranian government believes that smugglers on the borders are assisting Kurdish opposition.

"Any person who keeps horses will be fined by three million tuman (US$4,000) and will also be arrested," read the warning released by the Iranian government to border villagers.

Iran has first warned two villages, Zewa and Kona Lajan, but other border villages are expected to receive cautions soon.

Kona Lajan village is three kilometers from Kurdistan Region's border. The people of Kona Lajan told the that, despite the official warning, the Iranian government's messengers throw warning letters into their houses and hang them on the gates at night.

"It is stated in the letter that we have only 10 days to sell our horses; after 10 days, the government will fine us and seize our horses. If we buy a horse again we will be arrested," Kona Lajan villagers told the Globe.

Horses are part of villagers' lives on the border; they are a beloved source of their income. Between the 350 families living in both villages are 300 horses.

Most of the villagers are smugglers. They smuggle between Iraqi Kurdistan Region and Iran; it is a deadly job, but it is also the only source of income for many families.

The villagers blame the Iranian government for giving them no alternate employment opportunities. They say there are no jobs for Kurds in Iran other than to become mercenaries and carry weapons to defend the Iranian government.

"The Iranian government pressures us to become mercenaries and fight Kurdish opposition groups, and the government knows very well that as long as we have horses, we will never become mercenaries," said the villagers, who were afraid to give their names.

One of the smugglers said Iranian authorities want to tighten the borders because they have noticed an increase in Kurdish opposition activity.

Ahmed Muhammadi, a villager, expressed his love for his horse. "It is impossible for me to get rid of my horse; it is more valuable than an Iranian-made car. I will hide my horse, even if I have to hide it in my own bedroom," he added emotionally.

Smugglers take a very narrow, difficult path loaded with mines left behind from decades of regional wars. According to the smugglers, 30 smugglers were shot dead by Iranian soldiers last summer.

Whisky, vodka, and champagne are most often smuggled into Iran and sold for twice the original price. For cities further from the border, prices progressively increase. Smuggled goods like alcohol and foreign cigarettes, including Winston, Easton, and others, are strictly prohibited by Iranian authorities. Alcohol sellers and even users may face sentences of whipping or at least a fine. Nevertheless, people, especially youths, buy it.

Kamal Chomani is a freelance based in Kurdistan:

  • - By Kamal Chomani
  • 28/11/2008 00:00:00