No fewer than eight people have self-immolated in public places in Iran – at least three of them fatally – in the last two and a half months, all seemingly over ill-treatment and the dire economic situation, the Tehran reformist paper Etemad reports.
The incidents are all understood to have occurred between late May and July 31 this year. On May 22, a seasonal truck driver with Golestan Tobacco Company in Gorgan poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire in front of the firm’s headquarters.
The 50-year-old was reported to have suffered burns to 60 percent of his body. Colleagues said he had worked intermittently for the company for 20 years but was subjected to disciplinary action after a workplace accident. Management then transferred him to a different unit, which, they said, had prompted the act of protest.
The following day a 40-year-old father-of-four who served refreshments at the offices of the local Water and Sewage Department in Qaleh Raisi city, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, carried out the same act. He later died in hospital in Shiraz. The district governor conceded he had done so due to unpaid wages and contractual uncertainty.
The next incident was reported on May 28. A middle-aged repairman self-immolated in front of the local branch of the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade in Bam, Kerman province. Staff there reported that the man had been sued by a private plaintiff over a work-related incident, and they had referred his case over his head to the Government Infractions Bureau, a body under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice.
Then on June 4, a worker in Yasuj, the capital of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, set himself on fire reportedly over a debt of 10 million tomans (US$315 on the open market exchange rate) that he could not afford to repay. He was married with three children, and died from severe burns.
On June 9, two employees of the Farabi Petrochemical Company of Mahshahr, Khuzestan set themselves on fire over having been laid off from the company after three years. On July 30, a 30-year-old man by the name of Jamil reportedly set himself on fire in Ilam due to livelihood problems. He, too, died in hospital in Ahvaz on August 2.
The final recorded case was that of a contract worker with the Water and Sewage Department in Lahijan, Gilan province, who self-immolated on July 31 in protest at having been suspended from work a full two months earlier.
The past 12 months in Iran have been marked by high levels of industrial unrest in a variety of sectors, from oil and gas to education to the Tehran bus network. Apart from contractual insecurity, public-sector workers of all disciplines report that wages and pension payments failing to keep pace with ballooning inflation, which is now pushing more and more households in Iran below the poverty line.
Other Iranians in dire financial straits have committed similar acts of desperation in the past year. Last October a man named Ruhollah Barazideh, the unemployed son of an Iranian war martyr, died after setting himself on fire in front of the offices of the Foundation for Martyrs and Veterans’ Affairs in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, where he had been seeking a loan.