Research on the situation of women in the families of porters
Women in the families of porters – “A bite of bread at the cost of life!”
Kolbari is a dangerous job that people in the western provinces of Iran have turned to for a living due to the spread of economic poverty and lack of job opportunities. Kolbari can be summed up by this adage: “A bite of bread at the cost of life!”
As part of the job, one must carry 40 kilos on their back and travel along difficult mountain paths. If they reach their destination safely, the maximum money they will receive is only 400,000 tomans. The salary of a porter is daily. The day they work, the money is given to them on that day. And the day they do not work, there is no money.
According to the Kurdpa News Agency, 1,731 porters were killed or wounded from 2011 to 2021 (557 killed, 1,166 wounded, 8 missing). This means 1,731 women and families have been affected by the problems of porters in the past 11 years. (Kurdistan Press Agency – Kurdpa – June 29, 2022)
A lawyer researching the subject of porters indicated, “There are more than 100,000 porters in Kurdistan. That means that the lives of 40,000 to 100,000 women and families are tied to porters’ problems and have a traumatic lifestyle.”
The Kurdistan Press Agency published a research on the situation of women in the families of porters, their traumatic lifestyle, and violations of their human rights.
The research includes examples of nine women who currently live or lived with porters. They include seven wives and two mothers of porters. The group comprised of three wives and a mother who lives with a disabled porter and four women and a mother whose spouses and son were killed during their job.
The interviews with these women in West Azerbaijan and Kurdistan provinces, reveals horrific realities about the lives of the women of the families of porters.
People become porters due to poverty and unemployment
According to all nine women in the families of porters, their poverty and deprivation left them with no choice but to do this work. They indicated that they would have taken a different job if they had other options.
Seven families are living in extreme poverty and unemployment, and two others are living with a sponsor’s help. The families of two porters with a disability had to ask for public assistance to cover their hospital expenses. Among them, two female heads of households, along with the daughter of one of the deceased porters, live on a small income from tailoring.
One of the women in the families of porters explained why her husband became a porter. “He had no choice. The only option he had was to become a worker, but there were no jobs. So he was left with no choice but to become a porter.”
Another woman in the families of porters said, “The rent, high prices, and debts forced him to become a porter.”
Another woman said, “If there was another job, it would have required a lot of money, which we couldn’t afford.”
Pain and long-term trauma, the share of women in the families of porters
In another part of talks with women in the families of porters, it was revealed that pain and long-term trauma have turned into their lifestyle.
Due to the lack of economic stability and security, long-term suffering and trauma have become a lifestyle for women in the families of porters. These women are in a constant state of distress, restlessness, mixed feeling of rejection, and abandonment – all of which have led to psychological, social, and mental exhaustion.
In addition, every night that their husband went to work, they could not sleep all night out of anxiety. They were waiting to hear bad news about their husband all night long.
One of the women of the families of porters told the researcher, “We really can’t live like normal people anymore, I don’t remember when we had fun, when we were together, and when went on a trip. I’m always stressed and worried that something will happen to my husband. Those nights that he goes to the border, I do not sleep until morning. I’m just waiting for that phone call to inform me that something bad has happened to him. Now my husband is sick and hospitalized. This is the meaning of a porter’s life: Stress, frustration, worry, lack, and poverty!”
Three women in the families of porters suffer from severe depression. They have lost hope of life. Four wives and a mother take care of a disabled porter. Six women take care of their young children.
No government support for women in the families of porters
Seven families have filed a complaint to receive compensation, but the government has not responded nor accepted responsibility. These types of cases have remained undecided and languished in the courts for years.
All nine women in the families of porters lacked insurance or any sort of legal protection. They do not receive unemployment, medical, or disability benefits.
Eight families have resorted to the Health and Welfare Department for a small monthly stipend of 350,000 to 750,000 Tomans. No single institution in the government takes responsibility for the lives and future of these women and their children, who are rejected by society for all intents and purposes.
Out of eight families with children, six face serious problems meeting their children’s expenses. For example, a woman lost her husband, and her 15- and 12-year-old sons had to drop out of school to maintain their living incomes.
“I wanted my children to get somewhere through studying, but they all dropped out of school due to poverty, and they felt so ashamed and low in front of others at school, that they could not return to their friends.”
Another woman in the families of porters said, “I always wished to buy suitable clothes for my child and myself. I once saw a nice jacket that I really liked in a store, but I couldn’t afford it due to living conditions. My dreams are to go on a trip with my husband and children, or go somewhere with nice clothes, and be in a gathering, but I’m nothing like a normal person.”
Women in the families of porters, rejected and isolated
The above-mentioned research is important because it sheds light on the wide-scale oppression of Kurdish people, especially Kurdish women. The cases studied in the analysis are actual examples of flagrant violations of human rights and the dimensions of this social and humanitarian crisis.
The women in the families of porters are deprived of their individual, social, educational, and cultural rights. Thus, this oppressed and deprived social class lacks the opportunity for growth and development. These women lack healthcare, hygiene, quality of life, psychological support, and social care.
In Kurdistan, due to the vicious cycle of deprivation and poverty caused by the mullahs’ regime, Kurdish women in the families of porters have sad and painful lives.