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Iran: Workers Under Continued Political Repression

Violation of Worker’s Rights:

For more than four decades Iranian worker’s basic rights including ILO’s conventions on “Freedom of association and Protection of the Right to organize (no 87) and “Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining” (no 98) have been violated by the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). Independent workers’ organizations including Syndicate of Workers of Teheran and Suburbs and Haft Tapeh Sugarcane workers Syndicate have been systematically attacked by the IRI and many workers and albour activists have been arrested, tortured and sentenced to prison. Some aspects of violation of workers’ rights by the IRI has been documented in ILO’s Case no.2508. in 2017, this case (out of 176 cases) was identified by ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association as of “the two most serious and urgent cases that required special attention of ILO’s Government Body”. The case originally opened in 2006 and since then every year more instances of violation of workers’ rights by the government of Iran have been added to it. The labour movement in Iran has found it astonishing and a disgrace that after more than 12 years, ILO has not achieved meaningful and sustainable outcomes with regard to this case.

Nature of so called Iranian Workers’ Delegates at the ILC

Every year IRI sends some people to International Labour Conference (ILC) as Iranian Workers’ Delegates. The truth is that entire members of this delegate are selected by the government and are indeed representatives of so called state-sponsored organizations Such as Islamic Labour Councils which were set up by the IRI in order to control and suppress Iranian workers. Independent workers organizations and workers activist in Iran have been protesting against these sham delegates by sending letters of complaint to IlO’s Committee on Freedom of the Association, stating that this so called workers’ delegate are fake, and Iranian workers have been denied of being represented at ILO.

Instances of Violent Crackdown of Workers Protests

1. May Day 2019 Rally in Tehran:
The gathering was called by the Syndicate of workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company and supported by other independent labour and student organizations. Hundreds of people participated the ceremony which took place in front Majles (Parliament) in Tehran. It was not half an hour after people gathered that security and intelligence forces along with plain clothes agents attacked the participants in the rally and violently assaulted a number of people. More than 40 people were arrested and taken to different detention centers in Tehran. Many of them later was charged with “actions against national security” and only released on bail.

2- Mass Strike by Workers:
In November 2018 around ten thousand workers at Haft Tpapeh Sugarcane Complex and National Steel Company in Ahvaz ( in southern province of Khuzestan) simultaneously went on strike and marched in streets, demanding months of unpaid wages and an end to privatization of companies. The strikes and protests lasted for around one month. During the strike more than 50 of striking workers were arrested. It was reported than many of arrested workers violently assaulted by security forces during the arrest or by intelligence forces while in detention. Two of those arrested, namely Esmail Bakhshi a well-known representative of workers of Haft Tapeh and MS. Sepideh Gholian a free-lance journalist and workers activist, were forced to make confession in front of TV camera. On 19 January 2019, news sections of national TV broadcasted this so called “documentary” which was widely condemned in Iran and internationally by workers’ and human rights’ organizations. While released on bail, Sepideh Gholian and Esmail Bakhshi with great courage publicly announced that they were severely tortured and demanded a public enquiry and persecution of perpetrators. Following the announcement, both were rearrested and currently are detained in prison. Amnesty International on 29 January 2019 reported that Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian “are at grave risk of further torture” after being rearrested. (Amnesty international, index number: 13/9745/2019).

Continued Teachers Strikes
In the last twelve months Iranian teachers staged four separate national strikes demanding pay rise, release of all imprisoned teachers, right to set up independent teachers’ organizations, free education for all and an end to privatization of the education. Teachers’ protests and strikes have been an ongoing events in recent years. The IRI has responded to teachers’ demands by threats, intimidations, prosecutions and sentencing more teacher trade union activists to prison. Esmail Abdi a member of the board of the directors of Iranian Teachers’ Associations- Tehran, was arrested on 27 July 2015 because of his trade union activities and was sentence to 6 years in prison. He is currently detained in notorious Evin prison serving his jail term. Mohammad Habibi another member of the directors of the same organization was violently attacked and arrested by security forces on 20 May 2018 at a peaceful teachers gathering. Later on 4 August, 2018 the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Habibi to ten years and half in prison; his sentence also include 74 lashes. He is currently held in Tehran’s largest prison. Mahmoud Beheshti Langroody, spokesperson of the association, was sentenced to 5 years in prison in summer of 2015 and currently held in prison. Rohellah Mardani, another teachers activists was arrested on June 9, 2019 and later sentenced to 2 years in prison and currently serving his term. And the list continues.

Women Workers
Utilizing the Islamic rule of law, the IRI has adopted and implemented all the discriminatory measures against women and has in deed legalized sexual apartheid in country; women are severely discriminated on issues such as divorce cases, the custody of children and inheritance. A woman can not enter employment without permission of her husband. Women are deprived of the right to govern their own bodies and are obliged to observe the Islamic dress code by law, and if they choose to bend the law they will be beaten and prosecuted. As a result of such discriminatory measures against women the share of women employment in the country is under 15 percent and has not increase since 1966. The rate of women participation in work forces in Iran is lowest among all other countries in the Middle East. The rate of unemployment among women is twice as high as that of men. In many industries women received less wages compared to their male colleagues and in some section of economy especially in service sector, women are paid much lower wages than the national minimum wage.

Economic Hardship
The IRI is a staunch advocate of capitalism, and since the late 1980s it has pursued and implemented the neoliberal economic policies in Iran. As elsewhere, the advancement of these policies has greatly enhanced the class division in Iran and had a detrimental impact on lives of workers and majority of the people, and lavishly benefited the so called 1% of country; the capitalist class, and the regime’s gangs in charge of economic resources. The national minimum wage for current year set up by the government was increases to $120 per month while current official figure for inflation is 50%, and according to independent sources, real rate of inflation running as high as 100% to 150%. In addition, there are big segments of working class who have continually faced problem of wage arrears, and their wages have not been paid for months and in some cases for more than one year. Job security has become thing of past, more than 90% of workers in Iran have no job security and are employed based on the temporary contracts with the mediation of the contractual companies. According to official statistics more than half of workers and their families are living in absolute poverty. Moreover official figure for child labour is around 2 million while according to other independent sources the number is more that 4 million children.

Widespread Political Suppressions
The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the world. The Iranian people are deprived of their most basic rights, such as freedom of speech, opinion, assembly, strike, and the formation of the independent workers’ organizations, trade unions or political parties. Imprisonments, tortures, executions, and expulsions have been the only consistent responses to those who have been dared to act against the status quo or fight for what they believe.

Fighting Back
Workers, teachers, nurses, women, students, retirees, and intellectuals, despite the socio-economic devastations imposed on them by the IRI, have not been the silent victims of the ongoing miseries. These layers of the Iranian working class have courageously fought and poured into the streets of Iran again and again. These struggles have become widespread and intensified, especially in recent years. In the past few years, on average, about three strikes, rallies, and demonstrations have been carried out by workers throughout the country on daily basis. In the last twelve months at least 1700 instances of such protests took place in different parts of the country. The greatest of these protests took place in late December 2017/early January 2018 which widely named as “Day” uprising. In this period, the masses; workers, toilers, students and women young and old, simultaneously organized and joined the street demonstrations in more than hundred cities across the country in month of Day. The synchronized launch of the economic and political slogans was a prominent feature of these demonstrations. The IRI only by resorting to use of brutal force, was able to suppress the protests: 20 demonstrators were killed by the security forces, and over 4000 demonstrators were arrested and imprisoned. However workers’ struggles in the shapes of strikes, rallies and street protests have since been continued.

Economic Sanctions by the U.S.A
Under these circumstances, the U.S. Government, under reign of Donald Trump, has imposed additional economic sanctions on Iran which has worsened the economic hardship that the people of Iran were already experienced in daily basic. Economic sanctions have contributed to sharp increases to the price of foods and essential goods. Meanwhile many industries especially in production sector which were struggling and running at much lower than their full capacities even before sanctions are on verge of collapse and the employers put the burden of sanctions on shoulder of workers by mass sacking and nonpayment of wages. The US sanctions which is supported by the reactionary regimes of the region, in particular Saudi Arabia and the racist regime of Israel, aimed at promoting their anti-popular and reactionary policies and objectives in the region. Such interference only bring more misery for ordinary people and cause more destruction in the region and must be strongly condemned.

International Solidarity
The Iranian workers and toilers have repeatedly shown that they have a dignifying power to determine their own political destiny. The real allies of the working class in Iran are workers and progressive organizations around the world and not other capitalist states. In the spirit of the international solidarity, we call on all the global workers’ organizations, progressive forces and organizations to continue to support the workers’ struggles in Iran and put more pressure on the Islamic regime of Iran to release all jailed workers and political prisoners in Iran.

For more information see the links below and follow the IASWI via our contact details below.
International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)
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