Arrest and Torture of Protesting Workers
Khuzestan: November 29, 2018
As protests by workers of Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Factory continue, it has been reported that union activist Ali Nejati has been arrested and Esmail Bakhshi, a workers’ representative, has been tortured and hospitalized. According to Farzaneh Zilabi, a lawyer for the workers, Nejati was arrested on the morning of November 29 at his home and without a warrant. Another report published by labor activists said that Esmail Bakhshi had been hospitalized after “his head was black and blue from repeated beatings” and he had suffered from internal bleeding.
The recent protests by Haft-Tappeh workers started in early November, largely in response to their unpaid wages. They have also called on authorities to ensure that retired workers receive their pensions and demanded that ongoing contracts for workers be based on fixed-term agreements.
Is Khamenei Against Internet Censorship?
Tabriz: November 29, 2018
Ayatollah Khamenei has always been against filtering internet content, but “certain gentlemen always insist on it,” announced Ezzatolah Zarghami, the former head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), during a speech he delivered to the “revolutionary activists of virtual networks.” Zarghami, who is well known for his application of harsh and often irrational censorship while at IRIB, and who has been sanctioned by the European Union for "for committing human rights abuses,” gave further explanation: “Many go to the Supreme Leader and say ‘Sir, we need to filter this or that app,’ but contrary to the propaganda, the Leadership has always opposed filtering.”
The Islamic Republic has a long history of banning social media, but the bans have not always worked. For example, on April 30, the Iranian judiciary ordered internet service providers to block access to Telegram, and not only have ordinary citizens found their way around the ban, but even hardliner conservatives have returned to using the app. Zarghami’s comments appear to be an effort to help Khamenei save face.
589 Villages in One Province Abandoned
Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad: November 30, 2018
Over the last few years, the residents of 25 percent of the villages in the southwestern province Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad have abandoned their villages, leaving them empty. Quoting a local official, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that of 2,232 villages in the province, 589 villages have been abandoned [Persian link].
The huge amount of migration from rural areas to towns has become a crisis across Iran. Experts, authorities and the villagers themselves have cited lack of facilities and infrastructure, low income and unemployment as the main reasons for the crisis. One example is the historical village of Tareb in Kohgiluyeh. Its 10 hectares of prime agricultural land supported 70 households, but within the last year and a half, all the residents migrated to cities. The villagers say that their main reason was the absence of a road.