I, Reza Shahabi Zakaria, a driver and a member of Bus Workers’ Syndicate, due to all the circumstances and conditions described above, in protesting against the illegal and irresponsible treatments I have received and against my illegal transfer to Rajaie Shahr prison, (Also the interrogator threatened to open a new case against me on June 1, 2014, after I was exiled to Rajaie Shahr prison), and in order to draw attention of the authorities and freedom-loving people and international bodies to my plight, have begun a hunger strike, endangering my only capital despite my physical conditions and illness.
From: Reza Shahabi Zakaria
To: Mr. Abbas Jafari-Dolatabbadi
Subject: Protesting illegal exile and hunger strike
Dr. Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Attorney General of Province of Tehran
Respectfully reporting to you that: I, Reza Shahabi Zakaria, son of Ali, occupation driver and a member of Board of Directors and Treasury Secretary of “Bus Workers Syndicate of Tehran and Suburbs”, have been illegally incarcerated for five years now. My imprisonment is in clear violation of all international Labour laws, including Conventions number 87 and 98 of International Labour Organization which Iran is also a member of and signatory to its conventions and must abide by them as such. These conventions guarantee workers’ rights to establish independent labour organizations and the rights to election and strike. I have been sentenced to six years of imprisonment, banned from all Syndicates and any other social activities and also a fine of seven and half million toman (about three thousand dollars). All the charges against me were sham and produced by the interrogators of the 15th district of Judiciary ordered from higher up. I was unjustly convicted by Judge Salavati on these sham charges.
Mr. Attorney General:
Since my arrest and incarceration I have repeatedly protested my conditions and the harsh treatment I have received from prison guards and interrogators by writing many letters addressed to head of the Judiciary and you. There’s no need to repeat them here. But as a reminder I will briefly mention only a part of all the oppression and pressures that I and my family have had to endure in these years in a condensed manner:
As a member of Board of Directors of the syndicate, elected by workers in a general assembly, I was obliged and responsible to defend my co-workers in all matters of work conditions, issues of health and safety and all other work related matters. I have been elected as an official representative of my co-workers with a notarized power of attorney to represent their cases in Tehran’s branch of Ministry of Labour. Defending workers’ rights and demand that we live a humane and dignified life, was a task that I have wholeheartedly and tirelessly pursued. As a result many expelled workers have got their jobs back, wages were improved and workers benefited in other cases.
Apparently such activities and achievements were not appreciated by many officials of the Tehran Bus Company and others; hence, on 1 June of 2009, in total disbelief I was arrested during work, in front of all passengers, accused of armed robbery. My entire house was violently searched by security agents and my whole family terrorized; with my young daughter and son crying and traumatized and my wife shocked. Security agents in civilian attire confiscated and took away all my hand writings and anything having to do with the Syndicate. I was transferred to ward 209 of Evin prison under extreme duress and psychological pressures and threats accompanied by insults, and beatings. I was held in solitary confinement for nineteen months with continuous physical and psychological pressures; As a result, the left side of my body is numb, I have had to go under surgery for my neck. At the present, I suffer from extreme back pain, displaced spinal disks, high blood pressure, non-stop nose bleeds, liver and stomach problems and chronic headaches.
My family has also been subjected to psychological and emotional hardships; my children have been feeling isolated and depressed; they had difficulties continuing their education. Meanwhile my wife has taken over all the financial responsibilities of our family. In my absence she has been acting as both father and the mother for our children, making sure all their educational needs are met, while taking care of the monthly rent and providing money needed for clothing, health etc. In addition, she has been providing my monetary needs in jail and financially supporting me while I’m incarcerated She has been able to overcome all these financial obstacle by working from home, earning an income by producing pickles for sell and also receiving helps from some of my co-workers and other honourable labour activists and freedom-loving friends.
Alas after four years of incarceration, in total disbelief, and unexpectedly, I have been illegally exiled from Evin prison in Tehran to Rajaie Shahr prison in the City of Karaj. This illegal transfer which occurred during my children’s’ final exams has caused them great harm. This illegal transfer completely disregards coroners’ report on my health and is causing great harm and distress to my family, co-workers and friends.
It should be noted that Rajaie Shahr prison which I have been exiled to is lacking facilities that usually exist in other prisons. The solitary confinement cells in here are barely five meters (4.70 m) instead of standard twelve to fifteen meters in all solitary confinement cells, with two to three people in one cell. The only outlet is a thirty centimetres window, covered with three layers of metal mesh, which makes breathing very difficult. There’s insufficient air in the cells and breathing becomes a problem. Our access to yard is limited to two and half hours to three hours maximum, instead of morning to the evening. There are no recreational facilities, no access to books or a library for political prisoners or prisoners of conscious. There’s a total lack of health standards and a constant parade of mice and roaches throughout the prison. Medical care to prisoners is very low-quality and there’s no resources for physiotherapy or expert health care. The lack of proper food in here and also other substandard materials are a far cry from what prison regulations stipulates.
On top of all these problems we face inside jails, our families outside have to face an array of economic and other problems because their main income earner is in jail. Travelling to Rajaie Shahr prison is a long trip from Tehran and costly, hence our weekly meetings have turned into bi-weekly or monthly meetings.
Mr. Attorney General:
I, Reza Shahabi Zakaria, a driver and a member of Bus Workers’ Syndicate, due to all the circumstances and conditions described above, in protesting against the illegal and irresponsible treatments I have received and against my illegal transfer to Rajaie Shahr prison, (Also the interrogator threatened to open a new case against me on June 1, 2014, after I was exiled to Rajaie Shahr prison), and in order to draw attention of the authorities and freedom-loving people and international bodies to my plight, have begun a hunger strike, endangering my only capital despite my physical conditions and illness. Today is the 14th day of my hunger strike, and my demands are as follows:
1) To be returned to the previous prison, Evin Prison, ward 350
2) A sick leave of absence in order to have the much needed operations on my disks and recuperation (away from stresses of prison guards which always causes problems and terrorizes the nurses and doctors and other medical professionals)
3) Implementation of the new Islamic penal code, article 134 (Aggregation Rule)
4) Enforcement of parole
With thanks; Seeking justice
Rajaie Shahr prison; Section 4; Hall 12
14, June 2014 *
*The link to the original letter in Farsi is below. The English translation was done by the IASWI.
* Prepared by International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)