Paiman who has applied for political asylum in Turkey through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that even before the sanctions, the Kurdish people were working in this dangerous trade. He said, "Before the sanctions, the situation was bad for us, but since these sanctions have intensified, it has gone from bad to worse and our economic situation is critical."
It is not clear how many people have died on the border smuggling goods in and out of Iran. Shaheed's report to the United Nations General Assembly states, "At least 70 border couriers were killed and 68 wounded by government forces between March 2011 and April 2012."
According to Gissou Nia, the executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the penalties for smuggling have significantly increased in recent years. She said, "In January 2012, a new law was passed that penalizes smuggling, the transport of smuggled goods within borders and the possession of smuggled goods equally — and triples the fines on those convicted of these crimes."
Nia added, "Perhaps most concerning is that the law allows for the confiscation of the goods to the benefit of the state, which provides little incentive for border police not to take harsh action against those engaging in these activities.
At its most extreme, the current system of enforcement can result in violations of the Iranian state's international obligations, and in particular, an individual's right to life as provided by Article 6 of the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], which Iran is a signatory to."
As for the future of Mohammad's young family, his mother said, "Their life is destroyed. Only God may help them. We are all distraught at this loss."
Fazel Hawramy is the editor of kurdishblogger.com and an independent journalist currently based in Iraqi Kurdistan. On Twitter: @Kurdishblogger
(Smuggling image via Shutterstock)