The number of women and youth working as porters (or back carriers) has increased dramatically in the Iranian border provinces of Kurdistan, West Azerbaijan, and Kermanshah.
This was reported by the state-run Hamshahri daily on January 22. Unemployment crisis in Iran is one of the reasons why women have been dragged into this job. Women have to carry heavy loads in difficult mountainous paths of western Iranian borders, to provide for part of their economic needs.
The number of women working as porters and carrying heavy loads on their backs has been rapidly growing so that this job is no longer a masculine job, and men have got used to women working as porters.
Porters face a plethora of dangers and threats in the border region. The threat becomes even more significant when you consider the presence of a growing number of women.
Halaleh Amini, representative of the Iranian Kurdistan Province in the Supreme Council of Provinces, said, “It is most regrettable that we face women and girls who have to disguise themselves as men and join the long line of porters.” (The state-run Tasnim news agency – October 10, 2019)
Many of these women fear losing their jobs, if they talk to the media and only a few of them talked about their sufferings.
A young woman with heavy Kurdish accent, introduced herself as Hiva. Her father was also a porter and she used to walk with him to the mountain foot.
Hiva says, “Every time my father went for work, I couldn’t sleep until morning. And when it was time for him to come back, I waited for him… We were five sisters and our father worked as a porter and did whatever he could to pay for our living.”
Hiva added, “One day, seven years ago, my father went to the mountain and never came back. We no longer had any breadwinner, so we had to do something to save our lives.”
“Regrettably, I’m not very strong and I cannot go (for work) very often. Every time I carry the cargoes and come back, I suffer from back pain for several days.”
Maryam is a young woman who works as a porter to earn her own and her daughter’s living. She has divorced her husband because he was an addict.
Maryam says, “I have no other option for paying the expenses of my daughter. In the eight years that I work as a porter, I have met many different people. Every one chooses this job out of some circumstances. Some have master’s degrees, but do not find jobs. Some people are old. At age 65, they have no insurance to help them in such days. So they have to go through difficult paths to provide for the expenses of their families. Their shoulders break so much that they have to walk through these mountains.”
An old woman cannot speak Farsi. She speaks of her pains over the years, and her daughter translates. She has seen a man walk on a mine right in front of her eyes. She and other porters abandon their loads and take the wounded man to the nearest village clinic by a mule. Their clothes were drenched in blood and they were weeping.
The old woman says, “Every time after saying goodbye to my children, I thought I would not come back and what would happen to my kids?”
She also spoke of the days when she saved her money to buy some goods, but in the middle of the way, security forces seized her goods and sent her back home with empty hands.