Today is exactly six years since our colleague and comrade Yadullah Khosroshahi passed away on Thursday February 4, 2010 in London, UK. Yadullah had a brain stroke on 2nd of February 2010. While hospitalized his condition began to deteriorate, and he had a second stroke.
Yadullah Khosroshahi was one of the most renowned activists and leaders of the Iranian workers’ movement in the past 50 years. He spent many years in prisons of both Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was an elected representative of Oil Workers, a former Secretary of Syndicate of Tehran Refinery Workers and former representative of All-Iran Council of Oil Workers. After suppression of workers’ councils and workers’ autonomous organizations by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and spending years incarcerated under this capitalist and anti-worker regime, he was forced to leave Iran. He remained an indefatigable advocate of the Iranian labour movement, and a thoroughly devoted socialist and anti-capitalist, to his last breath.
Yadullah was an enormously active colleague and representative of the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI) since its formation more than 16 years ago.
Yadullah Khosroshi had given many interviews and wrote numerous articles in Farsi on the situation of the workers’ and socialist movements. Unfortunately, his work in English was very limited. Below is a short article from Yadullah, some sympathy messages following his death as well as an article written about Yadullah by one of his comrades. You can find more about Yadullah Khosroshahi on our Farsi website and other online Farsi resources.
Workers Organizations in Iran Today
By Yadullah Khosroshahi*
The fundamental problem facing the Iranian labour movement at this conjecture is the obstacles to organization of independent labour organizations on the factory, industry and national levels.
The Labour Law explicitly bans any labour organizations in key industries such as oil, gas and petrochemicals, and metallic industries like steel and copper. Articles 2, 14 and 15 of the Labour Law recognise only Moslems who follow the Supreme Leader of the Islamic republic and are sanctioned by religious authorities as qualified to be elected to the Islamic Shoras of Labour. Article 128 allows the Supreme Leader (currently, Ayatollah Khamenei) to assign his representatives to all workers’ organizations with veto power over their decisions.
The existing Labour Law recognises four types of organizations in workplaces: Islamic Associations, Islamic Shoras of Labour, Trade Associations and workers’ representatives. But before dealing with each of these, a few words about the organization called the Workers’ House is necessary.
Workers’ House (Khaneh Kargar) was founded under the old monarchical regime. In the early 1970s, Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hovayda organized the only legal political party in Iran, called the Rasstakhiz (Resurgence) Party. Connected to this instrument of monarchical dictatorship was the Workers Organization of Iran headed by the chief of SAVAK (the secret police agency) general Parnianfar, Minister of Labour, one senator and two representatives of Majeles (the lower house of the monarchical parliament). After the February 1979 revolution, workers took over the offices of the Workers’ Organization of Iran and renamed it Workers’ House. This was a centre for activities of independent workers shoras (councils) and syndicates (trade unions). In September 1979, after the Friday prayer in Tehran a group armed with clubs attacked the Workers’ House and took it over from workers. Ali Rabbiei, Assistant Director of the Organization for Information and Security of the Islamic Republic, Hossein Kamali, an engineer and a representative in the Majles (Parliament), Sarhadizadeh, Minister of Labour, and Alireza Mahjoob, member of the pro-capitalist Islamic Republic Party, formed the central leadership of the “occupied” Workers’ House. They registered the Workers’ House based on a political constitution supporting the pro-capitalist agenda of the Islamic Republic regime.
Islamic Associations originated as instruments of the Islamic Republic regime to undermine and destroy factory committees called workers’ shoras in the aftermath of the February 1979 revolution that overthrow the US-backed dictatorship of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The pro-capitalist Islamic Republic Party (that was later dissolved into several contending factions within the Islamic regime) originated and organised these Islamic Associations. After the formation of the special Islamic courts in factories and industries in 1980-1981 (Iranian calendar year 1360), leading members of the Islamic Associations were assigned as judges and played a central role in identifying labour activists and leaders who were then called before the Islamic Revolution Courts. As a result, thousands of militant workers were fired from their jobs, some imprisoned and other executed. The Ministry of Labour finished up this wave of attacks on factory councils by outlawing them altogether.
Islamic Shoras of Labour was organized in some factories after the Islamic Majles passed a law with the same name. The Workers’ House collaborated with the Islamic Associations to eventually organize Islamic Shoras of Labour in 2000 out of 7000 factories in Iran. These organizations, which are headed by individuals loyal to the Workers House and Islamic Associations, were organized to support state-appointed management. Article 1 of the Islamic Shoras of Labour states that they are to include all employees and the representatives of management and that they are “powerful arms of management.” The law stipulates that only Moslems who in practice are loyal to the Supreme Leader can run for the leadership of the Islamic Shoras of Labour. The Islamic Association, the Committee of the Islamic Revolution, the Workers’ House and the local Friday Prayer imam must approve the candidacy for a leadership position in the Islamic Shora of Labour. The Ministry of Labour makes the final decision, which will be based on such certifications and letters of support.
Trade Associations have been formed in recent years because the Islamic Shoras of Labour have lost their usefulness for the Workers’ House. After privatisation of the factories, nationalized in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, new owners and managers began a campaign to get rid of any organization that, however slightly, interfered with their decisions. At the same times, the Islamic Shoras of Labour have lost all credibility among workers. In order to continue their control over the workers’ movement and undermine independent currents within the labour movement, the Workers’ House has established “the Supreme Centre of Trade Associations of Iran”.
At the same time, political forces allied with Iranian president Khatami who are organized in the Cooperation Front, a pro-capitalist grouping of forces that are known as Reformists, have tried to organize a similar organization in workplaces to wield influence among workers. As a result of a clash between these two currents of the Islamic regime to establish their dominance over the labour movement, their plan to form Trade Associations has not met with much success.
Currently, the Workers’ House is working to reorganize its forces aligned with the Islamic Shoras of Labour into what they call Trade Unions. However, this attempt is limited to the textile and power industries, and even there, these are paper trade unions with no real membership among workers.
Still, in several trades such as among bakers, cobblers and bus drivers, there are trade associations dating back to before the 1979 revolution.
Workers’ Representatives are individuals selected by the Islamic Associations in some factories who are then introduced to the Ministry of Labour.
In the midst of their worst economic circumstances in over 50 years, the Iranian workers’ movement is engaged in daily battles with factory management, capitalists and the government. In these struggles, they require, and continually attempt to build their own forms of organization that are effective. Independent organizations of workers will emerge out of these daily struggles. They will be independent of the Islamic Republic regime and all government parties, and the organizations that they built since 1979, such as the Workers’ House, to undermine the workers’ movement. These struggles require and deserve support from workers and their organizations everywhere.
The Yadullah I Knew: A Tribute to an Iranian Working Class Leader
By Kamran Nayeri, March 7, 2010
Introduction to the English translation: Yadullah Khosroshahi was a central leader of the Iranian oil workers movement in the 1979 revolution. He died in exile in London of complications from stroke on February 4, 2010. The Farsi language socialist journal Arash published in Paris devoted a section of its 104th issue (March 2010) to celebrate Yaddulah’s life and contributions to the labor and socialist movements. The following essay is my contribution entitled “The Yadullah I Knew.” It is translated from Farsi with slight additions to make it accessible to the English reader unfamiliar with certain individuals, places or events. In the same spirit, the rest of this introduction offers a brief biography.
Yadullah Khosroshahi was born to a toiling family in Ahmad Abad neighborhood of Abadan known for its oil refinery in Khuzestan province in 1941. Not only the London-based Anglo-Iranian Oil Company that paid a flat royalty to the Iranian government controlled the oil, during the World War II British forces occupied southern parts of Iran (northern parts were occupied by the Red Army). Years later, Yaddulah described the conditions in Abadan as a form of apartheid. Workers could not go the the neighborhoods where the British employees of the oil company lived. Violators were arrested and jailed. While the British had air-conditioning, swimming pools and golf courses, Iranian workers lived in shacks with no running water or swage system and children had to bath in the water collected in the gutters. At work there was a similar hierarchy with Iranian employees being ranked below the Indian employees.
However, the crisis that weakened the central government provided a democratic opening for mass movement of the Iranian people, oppressed nationalities (Azarbijanis and Kurds who briefly established their own autonomous governments), and workers, especially oil workers, that lasted for a dozen years. In 1950 in response to popular demand the Iranian parliament (Majlis) voted for nationalization of the oil industry. In April 1951, the Majlis nominated Mohammad Mossadegh, who led the nationalist Jebeh-ye Meli (National Front) representatives to become prime minster. The young Mohammad Rezah Shah Pahlavi who was crowned in 1941, after his father Reza Shah Pahlavi was forced by the Allies to abdicate because of his pro-Nazi sympathies, was forced to appoint Moosadegh to the post. However, a power struggle ensured Mossadegh and the Shah. On August 19, 1953, the CIA in collaboration with the M16 staged a coup that brought down the Mossadegh government and returned the Shah who had fled Iran in an earlier coup attempt to power.
During the next quarter of century, Iran witnessed state-directed capitalist development and industrialization combined with increasing autocratic rule of the Shah. As a result, social dislocations of vast proportion occurred. Population grew and many displaced peasants circled large urban centers, especially Tehran, with shanty towns. The middle class and the intelligencia grew as modernization and tradition clashed. The industrial working class more than doubled in size to 3 million. Meanwhile, due to its disastrous political course during the 1941-53 period and the bloody repression that followed the coup, the pro-Moscow Tudeh Party’s influence in the labor movement dwindled. A new generation of workers began to learn from its own experiences and develop its own leaders. Yadullah Khosroshahi is a prime example of the leadership that emerged outside of the Stalinist orbit in the Iranian labor movement. And this reality explains the key role oil workers general strike played in the 1979 revolution and the emergence of workers shoras (factory councils) in the aftermath of overthrow of the monarchy.
Yaddulah worked for 13 years at the Abadan refinery where he was gradually recognized for his leadership qualities among oil workers was elected as a union delegate in 1967. In 1968, he was forced to relocated to the Tehran refinery to keep him away from his base and to keep a closer watch on him. However, Yadullah was quickly integrated among the fighting layer of the workers who soon took over the exiting management run-union and was elected as one of their leaders in 1969. In 1972, Yadullah together with other worker-activists establish the Syndicate of Tehran Oil Refinery Workers and he was elected as it Secretary. In 1973, after brief strike in Tehran refinery oil workers were able to win important benefits including 40 hour week and 25% pay increase.
Yadullah was arrested three by the Shah’s secret police the SAVAK. The second time SAVAK claimed to have found “banned books” in his possession and tortured Yadullah severely. They demanded that Yadullah go before the oil workers and read a “confessionary note” prepared by the regime. Yaddulah agreed. But when he was reading the SAVAK prepared speech he took off his shoes and placed his bloody feet on the table for the workers to see. The infuriated the SAVAK. He was arrested and after a number of failed attempts to buy him off the regime sentenced him to a 10 years in jail.
Under the pressure of the mooting mass movement in 1978 Yadullah was freed from jail. He immediately joined the leadership of the oil workers who organized secret strike committees. Oil workers played a central role in the general strike that brought down the military state of siege government and forced the Shah to leave Iran in January. On February 11, 1979 an wave of urban insurrections centered in Tehran brought down the monarchy.
After the February revolution strike committees in large workplaces were reorganized as factory committees (shoras) as most owners and managers either went into hiding or left the country and a wave of nationalization ensued. One of the central goals of the newly established capitalist Islamic Republic was to re-establish capitalist authority in workplaces. For this, it pursued a two-pronged tactic. First, it encouraged emergence and establishment of Islamic Associations in workplaces to compete with shoras. Later, when the Islamic Associations failed to attract enough support, the regime aimed at establishing Islamic shoras or pressuring existing shoras to into serving as Islamic shoras. When that happened, pro-regime workers demanded Islamic shoras to followed management and government dictates in the name of “Islam.”
Again, because of strategic and historical reasons oil workers shoras were central to the shore movement. When Saddam Hussein’s army invaded oil rich Khozestan province, one its early targets were shoras, they executed leaders of village shoras and by severely damaging the oil facilities, including the Abadan refinery, they in effect undermined the oil workers shoras. The Islamic Republic used this opportunity to disperse oil workers across Iran as war refugees significantly weakening the oil workers shoras.
The final blow came after the massive waves of repression in the summer of 1981 and late 1982 and early 1983. Many shora leaders and activists were arrested and some tortured and executed. On November 26, 1981, the agents of the Islamic republic stormed Yadullah’s home in Tehran. They arrested Yadullah, his son and some of his guests including a pregnant woman. Yadullah spent four years and three months in Evin prison and was routinely tortured. Unable to link Yadullah to political groups that were in conflict with the Islamic Republic, they released him on February 10, 1986 after posting a hefty bail. However, soon the Islamic Republic agents were after Yadullah again. He escaped to Pakistan. He found political asylum in England after he arrived in London on August 24, 1988.
However, Yadullah continued his campaign for the working class and the socialist cause. In early 1990, he helped organized Iranian working class leaders and fighters in exile in the Association of Exiled and Immigrant Workers” that published Kargar Tabeidi (Exiled Worker). In 1999, he helped organize a conference around the theme “Review of the Iranian Labor Movement in the Past 20 Years and Our Tasks.” Based on agreements reached with a majority of those who attended this conference, Yadullah helped establish Bonyad Kar (Labor Foudnation) that was active for eight years. Later he helped establish Labor Links, a English language newsletter of information and activities in solidarity with the Iranian labor movement and International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran. In his last years of life, Yadullah witnessed and campaigned for the independent unions of Tehran bus transit workers and of Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers. He told his friends that “I wish to live long enough to see the formation of an independent labor organization in Iran.” He died in London of complications from stroke on February 4, 2010. He was 69 years old….
· Below are xcerpts of some of the messages and tributes we received following the death of Yadullah Khosroshahi from Iranian labour and political organizations as well as internationally. A more comprehensive list and full texts can be found online especially on our Farsi website.
Following of the death of Yadullah Khosroshahi, one of the veteran and leading figures in Iranian working class movement on early morning of Thursday 4 of February 2010, many Iranian labour organizations and activists and political parties as well as international labour and left organizations and activists issued various sympathy messages, statements and articles regarding his sudden and untimely death. Yadullah’s outstanding Struggle in nearly five decades has made him a prominent figure in Iranian labour and socialist movement. The IASWI issued a special edition on Yadullah’s life and his passing. Below are some highlights. ____________________________________________________________________________
MESSAGE FROM THE CGT FOR THE TRIBUTE TO YADOLLHAH
The Grenada Technical & Allied Workers’ Union:
Please accept the profound sympathies of the Grenada Technical & Allied Workers’ Union. Convey our sentiments to his family.
Chester A. A. Humphrey,
The Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations-Iran:
The untimely death of Yadullah Khosroshahi, a tireless and honest activist of labour movement: condolences to the Working class and his beloved family….
….Yadullah Khosroshahi spent more than four decades of his life struggling for achievement of the labour movement’s goals and aspirations. He was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in 1975 during a strike by Tehran Refinery workers. He was released from prison after people’s 1979 revolution. He also became a member of All Iran Council of Oil Industry Employees.
Khosroshahi was incarcerated again after workers’ councils were crushed in 1980s. In exile, he put all of his efforts to unite the labour movement in Iran and did not stop until the last moments of his life.
He spent many years of his life against capital’s exploitation and for workers’ emancipation and did whatever he could do for this goal. He never retreated from struggles even in the worst conditions and circumstances.
The Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations cherishes all the efforts and struggles by this honorable labour activist and share the sorrow for his loss with the labour movement and his precious family. Let’s cherish his memory.
Mahmoud Salehi and Family:
….Very sadly we have been informed that Yadullah Khosroshahi the militant worker and one of the leaders of the union movement in Iran who for years fought tirelessly for the freedom of the working class died in England…. We cherish the efforts of this revolutionary man for the emancipation of the working class and share the sorrow for the loss of this honorable and tireless defender of the working class.
Mahmoud Salehi and Family
Tribute to the militant worker Yadullah Khosroshahi
Unfortunately, I was informed that Yadullah Khosroshahi, a worker who fought for decades for workers’ rights died a few weeks ago. I express my condolences for this big loss to his family and all workers, and I hope we can learn from such pioneers of workers’ rights in our struggles.
Cherish Yadullah’s memory!
Chair of the Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane
Dezful Prison – Bahman 88 (Feb 2010)
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company:
….With ultimate regrets and sadness we were informed that Yadullah Khosroshahi, one of the members of the Iran’s Oil Workers’ Syndicate had died of stroke. The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company would like to express condolences to his respected family and the Labour movement…
The Free Union of Workers in Iran:
Sadly, Yadullah Khosroshahi, a former activist of All Iran Council of Oil Workers, and an exiled labour activist died in London, England. His efforts and fights before and after 1979 revolution are an important part of the history of the working class struggle to establish a world without repression and exploitation.
We express our condolence to family and friends and allies on the passing of Yadullah Khosroshahi. We always remember and cherish the role of Yadullah Khosroshahi.
The Council of Women-Iran:
….It is very regretful that we no longer see an informed worker and a militant leader amongst ourselves. We have been shocked by the news of Yadullah’s sudden death, but comrade Yadullah will endure forever as his resistance and perseverance in prisons of two regimes of monarchy and Islamic Republic have made him eternal. Until the end of sexual apartheid and the abolition of private ownership we will see Yadullah among us at every rally and demonstration. In every protest we will see this leader of the working class beside us…
The Iran Khodro Workers-Iran:
….Yadullah Khosroshahi never abandoned the class struggle. He suffered from jails and tortures of two different regimes n his struggles against capitalist repression. Yadullah was one of the most persistent fighters of the Iranian labour movement who wholeheartedly struggled for more than four decades….
Reza Shahabi, Executive Board Member, Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company
….The news of the passing of Mr. Yadullah Khosroshahi a pioneer of the Iranian labour movement made me and my colleagues grievously sad…. Yadullah Khosroshahi honorably spent 40 years of his life for his fellow workers. I am hoping that we can learn lessons from the experiences and the praiseworthy life of this magnanimous human being. …
Reza Rakhshan, Public Relations, Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Company
….Yadullah Khosroshahi played a very important role in organizing the momentous oil workers’ strikes during the Pahlavi ruling. Although the Iranian labour movement has taken important steps in recent years in terms of producing new generation of progressive activists, we however need the experience of long time activists like Yadullah. The new generation of labour activists, by preserving their autonomy, do not contain themselves in various ideologies of non-working class parties. We express our condolences on the passing of Yadullah to his respected family and all union activists….
Mohammad Abdipour and family,
…We have very sadly been informed that Yadullah Khosroshahi the representative of the oil workers of Iran has died of stroke in London England On February 4, 2010. Yadullah, who had been incarcerated numerous times during the Pahlavi regime and only was released after the 1979 people’s uprising, was again put in jail in 1982 for few more years. Although he had to leave in exile he never stopped his commitment to his principles and goals. We would like to sincerely express our condolences to his esteem family and all workers….
Mohammad Abdipour and family,
Solidarity Committee with the Iranian Workers Movement-Australia
….The friend of all workers and toilers, Uncle Yadi (That’s how we called him) has gone amongst us. Yadullah has broad and persistent working relationship with labour organizations in Iran. He, irrespective of all arguments and the existing intellectual conflicts, worked unreservedly in defence of workers and toilers of Iran….
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Comrades,
Please accept our sincere condolensces on the loss of Yadullah Khosroshahi, a veteran and leading figure in the Iranian working class movement who passed away early on the morning of Thursday, February 4, 2010 in London.
The life long work of dedicated militants such as he ensures that the struggle for social justice continues.
Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste, Canadian state
Fadaian Minority Organization:
….Yadullah Khosroshahi was one of the most vanguard and class-conscious workers of Iran’s oil company who strived for workers’ awareness raising and organizing. He had been elected as the representative of Tehran Refinery workers and as its secretary. During the 1979 revolution he increased his efforts after being released from prison and was one of the activists of the underground strike committee of oil workers and later became a member of All Iran Council of Oil Industry Employees….
The Communist Party of Iran-Executive Committee
….Yadullah Khosroshahi was among the most renowned leaders of Iranian labour movement who spent years in prisons of the Shah and Islamic Republic regimes. The loss of Yadullah is an injury to the rising Iranian labour movement, a loss that can only be replaced through learning from the commitment and tirelessness of Yadullah Khosroshahi. …
Worker-communist Party of Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan):
To our comrades at the IASWI and Yadullah Khosroshahi’s family
….We are well aware of the struggles of comrade Yadullah and his role in defence of oil workers and generally within the Iranian working class movement. …. On behalf of the Worker-communist Party of the Iraqi Kurdistan- Organization Abroad express our condolences for the passing of this renowned and caring leader of the working class….
On behalf of the Worker-communist party of Kurdistan- Organization Abroad
Worker- communist Party of Iran- Hekmatist:
….Yadullah started working at Abadan oil refinery when he was only 14 years old in 1955. His role during workers’ protests and his never-ending effort for uniting oil workers made him a popular figure and a committed leader. Yadullah never gave up his struggle against exploitation. He stood up for freedom, equality and socialism. His life is the history of the working class’s struggle for better life. Yadullah’s death is a major loss for Iranian working class….
Komala Party of Kurdistan:
…Yadullah Khosroshahi was amongst the most well-known and distinguished leaders of the Iranian labour movement and oil workers who spend years struggling against exploitation, injustice and anti-workers laws during both Monarchy and Islamic regimes. Komala shares the loss of this remarkable figure of the Iranian labour movement. …
Worker-communism Unity Party:
Communist Party of Iran (MLM):
Etehade Fadian: Organisation of Communist Fadaian Unity:
…Yadullah Khosroshahi was one of the most well Known activists in Iranian labour movement, particularly among Iranian oil industry workers. He was in prison for many years during Shah’s regime due to his efforts for organizing labour movement. Finally he was released from prison with the rest of political prisoners during the 1979 revolution.
Following his release he played a major role in the Foundation of the Strike Committees and the Syndicate of joint Oil and Gas Workers….
On the passing of our beloved comrade Yadullah Khosroshahi
Most regretfully, today, Thursday February 4, 2010 comrade Yadullah Khosroshahi passed away. Yadullah had a brain stroke on 2nd of February. While hospitalized his condition began to deteriorate. After conducting tests on him, specialists told his family members and friends attending to his bedside that he had a second stroke. Comrade Yadullah passed away this morning at 5:00 am in London, UK.
Yadullah Khosroshahi was one of the most renowned Iranian labour activists and leaders, a toiler of Iranian labour movement who spent many years incarcerated in jails of both Monarchy and Islamic Republic. He was an elected representative of Oil Workers; a former Secretary of Syndicate of Tehran Refinery Workers and former representative of All-Iran Council of Oil Workers. After suppression of workers’ councils and workers’ autonomous organizations by Islamic Republic, and spending years incarcerated, he was forced to leave Iran. He remained an indefatigable advocate of Iranian labour movement to his last breath. Yadullah was an enormously active colleague and representative of the IASWI since its formation more than 10 years ago. He was a tireless worker and labour activist who never stopped fighting for the self-emancipation of the working class.
Yadullah’s loving memory will always be with us; he will be greatly missed by all friends, family members, labour activists and all of those whose lives were touched by him.