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Baneh: Where life has come to a standstill

Considering the economic turmoil in Iran, working as a porter is the last sources of income for these locals.
Considering the economic turmoil in Iran, working as a porter is the last sources of income for these locals.

Reported by the PMOI/MEK

 

April 29,2018-- They call it an anti-smuggling agenda, while the entire burden bears on the shoulders of porters and bazaar merchants in Iran’s western border provinces.

 

 

Reporter filming the closed storse on both sides of the street

 

 

These Baneh residents are holding placards saying "our father cannot feed us" portraying empty food tables in their households.

 

 

Today marks the 15th day of a general strike launched by store-owners and bazaar merchants in the city of Baneh in Kurdistan Province bordering Iraq. Those on strike are protesting Iranian authorities’ closure of the Iran-Iraq border from February 9th onward and skyrocketing customs rates demanded from porters crossing into Iraqi Kurdistan, returning with goods for sale. Considering the economic turmoil the mullahs’ regime has brought about for the majority of this 80 million populace, work as a porter is one of the sole remaining sources of income for these locals.

 

People of Baneh camp in front of governor's office to protest the closer of border routes and increased in tariffs.

 

With borders closed all merchants and porters are in limbo and life has come to a standstill. Porters in the city of Sardasht, Baneh, and Piranshahr are now left hopeless and desperate to make ends meet.

 

People are gathering around a long and empty tablecloth representing lack of food on their tables.

 

Economic opportunities have been distributed unequally in Iran’s western provinces, poor agricultural produce and the absence of permanent jobs are all pushing people into risking their lives and becoming porters. Most of the individuals involved in this line of work are forced to trek the borders of Kermanshah, Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces, transferring a variety of goods such as home appliances, clothing, tea, vehicle tires and … They carry these heavy loads on their backs for as long as 20 kilometers in the toughest of terrains and harshest climates.

 

Iran’s parliament has recently voted to close the Iran-Iraq border in the three mentioned provinces, claiming to be taking measures in a wider anti-smuggling campaign. Authorities are now demanding merchants pay 5 million rials as customs fees for each porter ($120). At the end of the day, this leaves nothing for the merchants, let alone porters.

If Iran’s authorities and government officials are actually serious in their “anti-smuggling” campaign, they should be targeting those dealers – mostly enjoying links with local or state officials – who continue to smuggle goods through containers from the country’s southern ports. The truth is that the goods smuggled from Iran’s borders is a needle in the haystack in comparison to the mentioned state-linked dealers.

The government should have first launched an employment agenda in border cities. There are also claims of Iranian officials saying their Iraqi Kurdistan counterparts are blocking border passages.

 

A local reporter is filming closed stores on the 15th day of Baneh general strike.

 

Each porter receives 40,000 rials (not even $1) for each kilo they carry. All the while, government authorities are demanding 150,000 rials (nearly $4) customs fee for each kilo brought through the borders.

Such rates will lead to the poor locals becoming poorer and no bazaar merchant has any hope of making a profit. All individuals involved in this chain will be left sleeping hungry and engulfed in poverty.

 

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