On the Borders of Desperation tells the moving story about Tala, who recently lost her only son Shadman, and his friends, Rebuar and Shahoo. Extreme living conditions in Kurdistan, Iran, are forcing them into petrol smuggling over the border to Iraq at great risks. Tala is desperate to save her husband from going blind and Shahoo needs to earn his loved one.
Year after year, the daily struggle between the Iranian border patrols and the poor Kurds continues.
Millions of people in Kurdistan are living in extremely poor circumstances. The high unemployment and poverty
forces the Kurds to either move from Kurdistan to the larger cities in Iran or accept any job that comes their way.
The Kurds have always been repressed by the Iranian regime.
Our story takes us to the border area between Iran and Iraq , maybe the hardest place to make a living.
The Kurds here are trying to support their families by smuggling petrol from Iran to Iraq -
while the border patrols, without any warning, shoots at them.
This is taking place in two countries whose assets of oil are among the largest in the world.
Primarily, the story is about the lives of fifty-years old Laila and two teenagers, Rebowar and Shahoo,
all of them engaged in the illegal transporting of petrol over the border to Iraq .
Eighteen-year old Shahoo and seventeen-year old Rebowar are like brothers.
They are supporting Rebowar’s parents, who have been taking care of Shahoo since he became orphaned during the war.
Every day, they each tie a 60 liter petrol tank to their back and start a hazardous journey through the mountain paths.
The way alters depending on the location of the border patrols. They also have to avoid the mine fields,
which don’t always have warning signs. Hundreds of people have lost limbs here.
If the boys are chased by the border patrols, there’s a great risk that they might fall from the cliffs, as has happened to many.
During the harsh winter, the dangers are as greatest: If you are followed and have to hide, the risk of freezing to death is imminent.
The leaking petrol tanks provide another danger: Often you become soaking wet - and hypothermic.
When trying to warm yourself by the fire, soaked with petrol, you are at immense risk of catching fire.
Shahoo’s friend Shadman (Laila´s son) was recently burned to death, at just fifteen years of age.
Rebowar helplessly watched as his friend died in the brutal flames.
If the boys arrive safely to the other side of the border, they make about five dollars.
The boys are trying to save some of the money in order to buy a horse,
so that they can extend their businesses - but it will take them very long to afford such a luxury.
A horse costs between 600 and 1300 dollars. They could afford a donkey,but have been strongly advised not to buy one.
If they are chased by the border police, a donkey could, instead of galloping, stop entirely and refuse to move.
The boys were very happy when they heard that there was a man who hired out horses to petrol smugglers.
With a rented horse, their income won’t increase that much - but they won’t have to carry the petrol themselves.
Rebowar has worked as a smuggler since he was thirteen.
The only thing he dreams of is removing his parents from the extreme poverty in which they are now living.
For Shahoo, life is different. He is in love, and saves as much as he can to be able to marry Nahid, a seventeen-year old local girl.
Shahoo feels that God has meant for them to be together, and his greatest dream is to make her his wife.
Nahid’s father turned down the marriage proposal brought about by Shahoo’s step parents. But Shahoo is not willing to give up.
8 Months later
Shahoo is not smuggling petrol anymore. He had a nasty accident.Chased by the border police,he fell off the horse and broke his leg.
Rebowar is continuing the smuggling together with his own mother and Laila, 50 years.
Laila’s son Shadman was smuggling petrol with Shahoo and Rebowar, but recently he died while smuggling.
He carelessly sought he heat from the fire, still with the gasoline tanks on. Instantly,
he caught fire and immersed in flames he died. The role of family provider now falls on Laila.
Laila’s husband has a severe damaged sight and will soon become totally blind if he does not have an eye-operation.
The procedure, that can save him, is not affordable and with Shadman gone it all seems hopeless.
Shadman’s parents are mourning their son and remembering him by his frameless photo.
Laila sees no other possibility than carry on her son’s trade. She is aware of the risks,
but she realizes that this might be the only opportunity she has to earn money.
Her goal being, saving enough money for the eye-operation, to rescue her husband before it is too late.
Then he can start work again and provide for the family.
The fact is, Laila herself is not well. She has a large lump growing at her neck, which she is hiding with her veil.
The lump is not as important as the husband’s eyes, she argues.
15 Months later
Life on this border is like vicious circle. Shahoo doesn’t get his bride. Instead he goes back to smuggling petrol with Rebouar – as long as his legs can carry him.
And for Shadman’s family hope fades away with every day…