President Ahmadinejad is intensifying his repression of labour activists.
The anti-worker dictatorship in Iran has stepped up its attacks on labour activists, with a new wave of arrests and jailings.
Among those recently jailed were two workers’ rights campaigners, Ms. Sousan Razani and Ms. Shiva Kheirabadi. They have been sentenced to 15 lashes and four months in prison for the “crime” (under Iran’s Islamic law) of participating in a May Day celebration in the city of Sanandaj earlier this year. The verdicts were issued by the Criminal Court of Sanandaj – branch 101.
On the same charges the same court sentenced Mr. Abdullah Khani to 91 days prison and 40 lashes and Mr. Seyed Qaleb Hosseini to six months imprisonment and 50 lashes.
In addition, Mr. Khaled Hosseini, a worker activist, was sentenced to 91 days suspended jail and 30 lashes because of his efforts to support the trade union leader, Mahmoud Salehi, who was imprisoned at the time and was being denied medical treatment. The charges against him include “disturbing public order and agitation.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Mansour Osanloo, leader of Tehran’s bus workers syndicate, remains in jail since he was sentenced to five years jail in July 2007 for his union activities.
Nine of his union members have recently had their dismissal from their jobs upheld by the Islamic courts, which do not recognise trade unions or workers rights. The sacked men were all bus drivers, who had suffered two years of harassment and victimisation for the ‘crime’ of establishing a free and independent trade union.
Another labour activist, Mr. Afshin Shams, was arrested in July 2008. He is a member of “Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organisations”, and a member of the “Committee in Defence of Mahmoud Salehi.”
These arrests and jailings coincide with a wave of strikes and demonstrations against profiteering, corruption and shady business dealings by the country’s political and religious elite, as reported in The Guardian last month.
Many of the strikes are in response to President Ahmadinejad’s collusion with employers who are pushing through redundancies, withholding pay and forcing down wages.
Alborz tire workers are owed two to five months pay. At the Shahryar Dam in Mianeh, the staff have not been paid for four months. More than 40 workers of Mahloran company in Broojerd city been unpaid for seven months. Last week, employees at the Sanandaj Textile Company were violently attacked when they held a rally in Farvardin Square in protest at the sudden shut down of plant operations and mass lay-offs.
The workforce at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company, which employs more than five thousand workers, have been on strike too. The last time they took industrial action, they won three months of unpaid wages.
The strikers have been buoyed by the success of the Khodro car workers who walked out in June to demand wage increases and an end to mandatory overtime – and won their demands.
The Tehran regime is increasingly hostile to rising working class militancy, which it fears could become political and turn into a mass movement against the government. The ruling Ayatollahs are particularly nervous of the possibility that the unions might link up with students, left-wingers, civic organisations and oppressed national minorities (like the Arabs, Kurds and Baluchs) to form a united front for a free and democratic federal state.
Information about the ethnic cleansing of Arab people in Iran can be read here:
The prospects for regime change from within are discussed in my TV interview with the Iranian activist Maryam Namazie.
Tehran’s crackdown on union activists is, in fact, part of a broader assault on civil society and campaign groups, as the right-wing Islamist regime in Tehran seeks to stifle dissent and tighten its grip on power.
This repression includes a rise in death sentences on opposition activists. In Iranian occupied Baluchistan, an estimated 700 nationalist and human rights campaigners are on death row.
Even small, peaceful and lawful protests by women are violently suppressed, which is more evidence of the regime’s insecurity and tyranny.
Typical is the persecution of Kurdish Iranians. On July 20 2008, Mr. Farzad Kamangar was sentenced to death in a seven minute show trial, where three minutes were taken up by the prosecutor reading the allegations and the defence was given a mere four minutes to state its case. Mr. Kamangar’s lawyer was never notified prior to the trial of the offence with which his client was charged.
Mr Kamangar, a young teacher, was originally incarcerated on 18 August 2006. He was tortured over allegations (probably trumped up) of collaborating with the Pejak Party, being a member of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), transporting explosives and various other doubtful accusations. Since then, he has been transferred from one jail to another, from one city to another and from one judicial and security jurisdiction to another. The Islamic Republic of Iran has ignored all Iranian and international pleas for clemency.
Thirty people were executed on 27 July 2008 in Tehran. Saeed Mortazavi, the attorney general, denounced them as “drug dealers, murders and insurgents”. A confidential source inside the public prosecutor’s office reported that some of them were people who had participated in the mass protests against gas price increases last year. “The execution of these people is in accordance with the new regulations called the Social Security Enhancement Plan,” Saeed Mortazavi is reported to have said. This plan is the regime’s hardline strategy to crush criticism, dissent and protest.
Mohammad Mostafaee, a defence attorney, seemed to cast doubt on official claims about the crimes of the executed men. He told Deutsche Welle Broadcasting: “My understanding is that these so-called insurgents are special people. The date of their execution is not a routine practice. Normally, every last Wednesday of each month, the Tehran criminal prosecutor’s office carries out the executions, but in this case they will be executed on Sunday. These are people who have had their trial in either Enghelab Islami (the Islamic Revolutionary) courts or in the special crimes’ courts.” This explanation implies that at least some of those who were executed were probably not common criminals, but deemed to be more serious and threatening political protesters.
While the people of Iran, including oppositionists, do not want a western military attack on their country, growing numbers do want democracy, human rights, social justice, trade union rights and an end to Tehran’s neo-colonial subjugation of ethnic minority peoples.
You can support Iran’s heroic trade union activists by signing this petition to the Tehran leaders,
and by supporting the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran.
You can also add your solidarity with the Iranian people by joining Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi), which campaigns both against a military attack on Iran and against the clerical and Tehran’s neo-liberal despotism.
Watch this online TV interview with the Hopi organisers.
Together, we can all do something to help our beleaguered sisters and brothers in Iran. Like us, they want freedom and equality. And they deserve it too.